Key people to watch in 2009

Top from left: President Mwai Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Justice minister Martha Karua and Agriculture minister William Ruto. Bottom from left: US President-elect Barack Obama, Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Speaker Kenneth Marende and Attorney General Amos Wako. Photos/FILE

President Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Cabinet minister Martha Karua top a list of key politicians and public officials whose decisions, conduct and performance will shape the country’s destiny this year.

As the country moves to implement Agenda Four of the peace deal agreed between President Kibaki and Mr Odinga last year, the three will have a major impact on whether the country carries out crucial legal, land and other reforms, among other things.

Other leaders whose performance will be closely watched this year include Cabinet ministers William Ruto and Kiraitu Murungi, Attorney General Amos Wako, National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende, and Mandera Central MP Mohamed Abdikadir.

They will be charged with the responsibility of ensuring that Kenya finally gets a new constitution, the tribunal to try post election violence suspects is set up, a truth, justice and reconciliation commission starts work, citizens get affordable energy and food.

Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (Supkem) Director General Latiff Shabaan said it was gratifying that President Kibaki and Mr Odinga had taken leadership on the country’s reform agenda.

Therefore, he said, Kenyans must help them by ensuring that those given various responsibilities do deliver on their mandates.

Mr Shabaan added that the country’s leadership must realise that Kenyans are demanding their human rights in terms of an affordable livelihood. He noted that the country was in need of policies that will keep issues such as housing, energy and food prices under check.

He also said that the country cannot “keep running around whenever these issues arise searching for solutions”.

Deplorable

“The issue of IDPs is also another issue that we as a country must solve once and for all. It was very sad that as Kenyans celebrated the New Year there were some of us still in camps living in deplorable conditions,” Mr Shabaan said.

National Civil Society Congress member Harun Ndumbi said that the issue of a new constitution was key but should not be dealt with in isolation.

He noted that reconstruction of the country through the truth, justice and reconciliation commission and making sure that those responsible for what was unearthed by the Kriegler and Waki commissions are held responsible were also key in 2009.

“In terms who should lead in these matters, I believe it is must be corporate where the government, Parliament, the civil society and the public work together to ensure that all these objectives are met,” Mr Ndumbi told the Nation.

Mr Ndumbi noted that issues relating to the cost of living must be addressed, noting that the government had the responsibility to protect consumers against exploitation. It was possible to make the market profitable but also fair to the consumers, he noted.

“Treating unequal people equally is an injustice,” Mr Ndumbi added. President Kibaki, Mr Odinga and Ms Karua will be particularly watched because of the roles they are expected to play in the reforms that the Grand Coalition Government is expected to implement in its second year and place the country firmly on the path of political stability and economic revival.

Recent polls have shown that Kenyans expect a new Constitution to be delivered this year, prices of basic commodities to come down, leaders to exercise greater political responsibility and internally displaced people to be resettled.

Other issues that rank highly in the public agenda are improved security, heightened fight against corruption and justice for suspects behind the post-election violence.

In their New Year messages, President Kibaki and Mr Odinga appeared to resonate with the public when they identified a new constitution, national healing and reconciliation, electoral reforms, high prices of basic commodities and fuel, justice, equality and land reforms as the challenges facing the country.

After bidding bye to a year that saw the fabric of the Kenya nation come under the severest test, it is expected that the two leaders who have the onerous task of steering the country back to stability and economic prosperity, will step forward and guide the public towards the desired goals.

The expected setting up of a special tribunal to try post-election violence suspects; confessions from the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission on past misdeeds; the review process and reduction of prices of food and fuel will test the political will of the President and the PM.

At the end of the year, the two principals will either receive accolades from Kenyans for the successful accomplishment of the goals or face criticism for failing to meet their goals.

This is because it has always been argued that the reason behind the failure to meet those challenges is the lack of political will by the Government.

The President and the PM will, however, not be alone. They will depend heavily on the decisions of Cabinet ministers Karua, Ruto, Murungi, Attorney General Wako, Speaker Marende, and MP Abdikadir, among other key officials.

Ms Karua, the Justice minister, has the daunting task of presiding over the implementation of the reforms that were outlined in the National Accord, among them a new constitution.

Her ministry will determine the pace of the review process; it has already worked on the time-table for the establishment of the Special Tribunal for Kenya; and implementation of reports of commissions that were set up after the post-election violence.

Mr Ruto, the Agriculture minister, will be the man to ensure that food prices are affordable to Kenyans. The decisions he and his team at Kilimo House make this year in terms of investment in food production, farm input prices, credit facilities, food storage and distribution will either make the Government the pride of its citizens or erode it credibility.

Kenyans will be looking up to Mr Murungi, the Energy minister, to address the issue of high fuel and electricity prices that gripped the country last year.

He has already promised to enforce price controls in the oil industry starting this month to contain consumer exploitation.

Indeed the high fuel prices was one of the issues that President Kibaki promised to tackle this year in his address to the nation on New Year’s eve.

All the legislations for key reforms will take place in Parliament and Speaker Marende will have the onerous task of making rulings that will pave the way for the changes.

On the other hand, Mr Wako, is expected to provide sound legal advice to the reform process while Mr Abdikadir, as chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution, will be looked upon to firmly guide the pace of the review process.

Prosperity

Others closely linked to the reforms will be former UN secretary general Kofi Annan who has a key role in ensuring that targets of the National Accord are met by the Government while US President-elect Barrack Obama is expected to inspire the Kenyan leadership to the next level of political and economic prosperity.

It is widely expected that the new American leader, whose father was Kenyan, will have more than passing interest in events in Nairobi.

Indeed this was demonstrated during the post-election violence when Mr Obama disclosed that he had spoken to President Kibaki and Mr Odinga over the chaos.

In terms of business, Kenyans will be watching closely the performance of the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) and the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE). The two are key institutions in investment and wealth creation.

More glory is also expected to come from our sports men and women especially the performance of 800 metres track queen Pamela Jelimo.

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