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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Shocker As Devolution Makes It In To Kibaki’s PNU Manifesto

It is now clear that devolution (Usamabazaji wa mamlaka or majimbo or whatever you want to call it) is an idea whose time has come. The concept sneaked in, albeit at No 10 (the last item), in the PNU Manifesto.

But here’s the comedy; speaker after speaker at the PNU manifesto launch spoke against ODM’s Majimbo plan apparently oblivious of the fact that PNU had now sneaked in the exact same idea into their own elections “contract with Kenyans” as president Kibaki referred to his manifesto.

Of course the president pointed out quite clearly that the devolution they had in mind was “very” different from the ODM one. But then let us be honest here. This is like saying the multi party democracy Kanu was planning to introduce in 1991 was quite different from what the opposition then had in mind. Pure meaningless semantics, if you ask me.

So what has happened to change the president’s mind? What has caused this about turn from the same man who called those pushing for devolution “dreamers” barely 2 weeks ago?

The first very noticeable thing any analyst will tell you is that the president is now listening a lot more to some of the brilliant minds surrounding him. It is also apparent that he is making much more use of the excellent intelligence information he is receiving every week via the State-run but highly efficient NSIS. This information comes in from every corner of the country and is bound to be much more accurate than any Steadman poll in terms of measuring the pulse of the country and the likely way Kenyans will vote.

In one sentence, things in the PNU camp have changed and they have changed a lot. To be honest I am quite relieved because now we have a real contest in our hands—a little late in the game but better late than never.

No doubt this change was inevitable. After spending most of his presidency locked away in the luxury of State House and shielded from reality, the president has over the last few weeks gotten out a lot and has on many occasions come face to face with Kenyans and the reality on the ground. The truth is that he now has a much better “feel” of the country than he did when he launched his campaign without a clear message or even direction a few weeks ago. Some hostile encounters from ODM die hard supporters have no doubt helped his reality check to some alive quite a lot.

If the ODM brigade does not re-group fast, then chances are that they could be staring defeat in the face.

Actually President Kibaki’s strategy for victory is very clear and is based on playing the numbers game that Moi became quite good at in 1992 and 1997.

The president’s handlers are already aware that the near fanatical support he has in his Mount Kenya stronghold is intact and will give him a couple of million votes. So what the president is focusing on now is putting all his effort in areas where voters are still undecided and where the vote can easily swing in his direction. This includes areas like Coast province, Nairobi, certain pockets in the Rift valley and Western Kenya. Calculations have shown that just a few million votes in those key areas added to the voluminous Mount Kenya vote, would carry the President comfortably back into the comfort of State House.

Still the good news for all Kenyans whatever side of the divide you fall is that now it is clear that whoever wins the elections, devolution is coming to Kenya. So far the devolution debate has been carried out very emotionally and without clarity or solid points in support or against because people on both sides of the debate are talking out of a lot of ignorance. It is hoped that now that there is no debate on who is for or against devolution (since all major political parties have embraced it) that we will finally start to carefully look at the details of a devolved system that will take into account the current weaknesses of Kenyans.

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