Topical debates — Kenya

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 1:37 pm on 17th January 2008.

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Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation 1:37 pm, 17th January 2008

I agree with my hon. Friend, who makes an important point. We should stand with the African leaders and support their efforts.

I do not want to be prescriptive. I support mediation, but I have to say to the Minister that I doubt that a power-sharing deal would work. Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga are both strong men with enormous egos. Ten years ago, at the request of the Labour party, I went on an exercise funded by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy to see the then opposition candidates who intended to stand against President Moi in the election before last and to ask them whether they would unite around a single candidate, to make defeat of the KANU party, which had been the ruling party of Kenya since independence, more likely.

The candidates, including Odinga, all agreed that there should be one candidate; the problem was that they all said, "It should be me." Five years ago, however, a deal was struck among the opposition parties. Raila Odinga stood back, Mwai Kibaki went forward as a rainbow coalition candidate and the KANU presidential candidate was defeated. Raila Odinga entered Kibaki's rainbow coalition cabinet, but did not stay long. He fell out with President Kibaki over the President's constitutional reform programme fairly soon—two years, I think—after the election. He left the Government and formed an opposition party, now known as the Orange Democratic Movement.

I am certain that what Kenya needs is not a political fix between Kibaki and Odinga, or between Mwai Kibaki and the minority parties in Parliament. Kibaki has already done a deal with Kalonzo Musyoka, who broke from Raila Odinga's ODM last year to form the ODM-Kenya. Mr. Musyoka has been rewarded with the vice-presidency, which delivers 16 parliamentary votes—the 16 members of Mr. Musyoka's party who were elected to Parliament—to the Government coalition. What Kenya needs is not a fix between leaders. What Kenya needs is the rule of law and democracy. I believe firmly that it needs fresh elections—at least, fresh presidential elections—this year. We know that such elections cannot happen immediately, because so many people have been driven from their homes and would be unable to vote. A period of calm is needed to enable people to return home, but the elections need to take place this year, not in two, three, four or five years' time.

What can our Government do? First, we should advocate good policies, but recognise our limitations. We can advocate such policies, but we cannot enforce them. Secondly, we should press for and provide technical assistance for a forensic investigation of the ballot, if such an investigation is possible. In that way, we and the world would know whether the election was stolen and what went wrong, so that lessons could be learned for the future. That was proposed at yesterday's meeting in Parliament by Gladwell Otieno, who is an extremely well respected Kenyan anti-corruption and human rights campaigner and founder of Transparency International-Kenya. She flew in yesterday to speak to our group on behalf of a coalition of voluntary bodies, Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice.

Our Government should continue to refrain from recognising the election as free and fair and from recognising Mr. Kibaki's election as President. We should discuss with other African countries whether Kenya, in the present circumstances, should be suspended from the Commonwealth. I agree with my hon. Friend Mr. Reed that we should not cut aid—certainly not humanitarian aid. I have seen the work that DFID money funds for people with HIV/AIDS in Kisumu and Kibera—one of the worst slums in Nairobi—and that work should not stop. However, DFID should do what we did in Ethiopia after that country's President jailed some opposition MPs and politicians, which is reroute the money through channels other than the Government of Kenya.

We should work to strengthen the democratic institutions in Kenya, especially the electoral commission. The present commission must stand down—it is wholly discredited. The chairman of the commission who announced that Mr. Kibaki had been elected President said later that he did so under duress; the commission cannot be allowed to remain as it is. Through the mediation process, we need to broker talks on how members of the electoral commission in future will be elected or appointed on the basis of all-party support.

We also need to work to strengthen the judiciary and to work with the Kenyan Parliament. Parliament is especially important because Mr. Kibaki's party, the Party of National Unity, has only 43 seats. Mr. Odinga's ODM party has 105, but not an overall majority. Although the presidential election—whatever the true outcome—was extremely close, the parliamentary elections were not. The small parties in the Parliament hold the balance of power, which provides an opportunity for negotiation and compromise between the parties. We should do whatever we can to foster that process.

We must recognise that Kenyan parties are not the same as UK parties. They are, if I may say so, less tribal than British parties. They are much more fluid: members of parties and Members of Parliament move from party to party, almost in pursuit of the best offer from a party leader. To be blunt, people are swayed by offers of office or of money. Parliament voted against MPs being able to switch parties last year, but it has not implemented that rule. As I mentioned, President Kibaki's decision to make Mr. Musyoka Vice-President delivered an additional 16 parliamentary votes to his parliamentary camp. We have to enter into dialogue with various parliamentary parties in Kenya to discuss the basis on which they can work together and whether a compromise between the parties in Parliament, at least, is possible.

Many of Kenya's MPs are new. That was bound to happen, given the ruling party's loss of so many seats. Many of them have little experience of how Parliament works and what it can do to hold the Executive to account. I should declare an interest as chair of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. I know that one of our trustees, Myles Wickstead, who was the secretary of the Commission for Africa set up by our former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and who was formerly our ambassador in Ethiopia, has spoken to our high commissioner in Kenya, Adam Wood, to explore whether the Westminster Foundation for Democracy can help. The foundation has a history of work with political parties and Parliaments in east Africa. If we can help, I hope that the Foreign Office will get in touch with the foundation. We would be only too pleased to do what we can to help.

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