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News & Analysis

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Parliamentary rows threaten coalition

The political impasse has become serious enough to prompt the US’s new Africa chief Johnnie Carson to make Nairobi his first port of call on 12 May and to provoke Kenyan women to go on a sex strike until the predominantly male politicians put the national good ahead of personal interests.?


The parliamentary rows over the speaker’s position, electoral reform and the trial of those accused of political violence have threatened to break asunder the power-sharing coalition. Many Kenyans have come to regard politicians from the two main parties – their MPs are among the best paid in the world – as dangerous parasites on the public purse. In late April, there was an unseemly jostling over the position of leader of government business and appointments for the agenda-setting House Business Committee. A week before parliament re-opened, prime minister Raila Odinga wrote to the President saying that it was he, not vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka, who should assume these positions. Eventually the speaker, Kenneth Marende, found a way to forestall the crisis.?


Relations between President Mwai Kibaki and Odinga have steadily deteriorated after parliament’s post-National Accord agenda failed to take off last year. MPs, rebelling against what they regarded as impositions by the executive, rejected bills tabled to institute post-Accord reforms.?


This state of affairs is not helped by the fact that the militia, many of whom are said to have been sponsored by politicians, have never been disarmed. In the week that parliament reconvened, suspected members of the notorious Mungiki sect brutally murdered 29 people in a village in Nyeri East, Central Province.?


But it is the swirling animus among the political elite that is most worrying. When talks between the two parties failed to take off at a meeting in Kilaguni at the end of March, political temperatures rose almost instantly. The country appeared to be returning to a war footing, forcing the main media houses to make a high-pitched appeal for calm. Even though recent opinion polls show the extent to which the coalition government has fallen in the public’s eye (from approval ratings of 70%, less than a year ago, to just over 30%), it is quite evident that this is still a nation in the grips of two rival political camps. And while prime minister Odinga remains the most popular politician in the country, he only mustered a 19% approval rating, while President Kibaki’s popularity plunged to a mere 6%.


Back to Unhealed rifts haunt Kenya's Rift Valley

Peacekeeping keeps military off politics


As Congo descended into chaos immediately after its independence from Belgium in 1960, Ghana’s first involvement in peacekeeping was a traumatic but important experience for the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF), according to retired General Emmanuel A. Erskine, who held senior command positions with UN peacekeeping missions in Sinai and South Lebanon between 1974 and 1986. Peacekeeping duties enhanced the GAF’s professional expertise and gave soldiers an improved standard of living.?


Although he did not see action in Congo himself, Erskine recalls being envious of fellow officers who were posted there. The Ghanaian battalion attached to the UN force served from 15 July 1960 to 25 September 1963. When a shortage of troops forced the UN to look for new contributing countries in 1973, Erskine as Chief of Defence Staff was more than happy to accept on behalf of the GAF, as he recalls in his memoirs (‘Mission with UNIFIL’, St Martin’s Press, New York, 1989). The first troops to serve in the Middle East were sent there in January 1974.


?“Ghana’s performance in ‘Op[eration] Sunrise’, especially with UNIFIL (UN Interim Force in Lebanon) in South Lebanon where I kept an eagle eye on the troops, was commendable. Like other units they had their ups and downs, but on the whole, taking the entire difficult and confusing situation of Lebanon into consideration, they did well. Part of their good performance could be attributed to the financial incentives from UN headquarters, through the government,” Lieutenant-General Erskine wrote.?


“‘Op Sunrise’ undoubtedly helped to improve the living standards of our troops. For once they could afford freezers, cookers, hi-fi systems, television sets and all sorts of household items normally too expensive for them. A corn-milling machine – known to the Ghanaian troops as a ‘knicker-knicker’ – became the status symbol for all troops on ‘Op Sunrise’. Almost every soldier bought one, either to use commercially himself or to sell.”


Back to Ghana's Military, From khaki to democracy

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