Obama’s Lessons to be Learned: Odinga Yields in Kenya, Positions Himself for Next Election

In a previous post, I discussed the link between Obama and Raila Odinga and the almost eerie demands by Odinga for a 50-50 split of cabinet posts in Kenya. It now appears that a compromise has been worked out…

According to the BBC, a power-sharing agreement was reached on Saturday. Odinga, apparently, is more willing to compromise than his cousin (?) Obama.

Mr Odinga and his party, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), insisted an equal share of power included not just numerical parity in the cabinet, but also “portfolio parity”.

At issue were the foreign affairs, cabinet affairs, energy, roads and local government portfolios.

President Kibaki and his Party of National Unity (PNU) appeared unwilling to yield anything and, with talks deadlocked Mr Odinga announced that the ODM would take no further part in any negotiations.

Getting the five cabinet posts represented “our irreducible minimum”, he said.

So, when word came through that a deal had been done, the assumption was that the ODM had secured what they were after.

Three of the five cabinet positions did not go to Odinga’s party and one was eliminated. So, Odinga clearly made concessions that resulted in dropping below his “irreducible mininum” of cabinet posts.

However, as expected, Odinga has been named to be the new prime minster and a supporter is now the minister of land.

Bitter historical arguments over land lay at the heart of much of the violence which broke out earlier this year and the ODM’s influence here could be crucial.

It is also widely believed that the current administration will not make it through a five-year term and that ODM will be using the positions they have been allocated to plan for the next election.

Probably most important of all is what Mr Odinga makes of his new role as prime minister.

He insists it carries genuine executive power. How he wields that power and how skilful he is at making his mark right across the administration will be vital.

So, Odinga has made a strategic decision to yield on his demands for a 50-50 split of cabinet posts with an eye on the future. Meanwhile, here in the U.S., Obama refuses to budge on the FL and MI delegate issue. With his inexperience showing through a string of gaffes that does not bode well if he is the nominee, not to mention a campaign that has helped split the Democratic party along racial lines, Obama presses forward with the help of party poo-bahs towards a Pyhrric victory in the primaries.

Are the party “leaders” are so intent on ridding themselves of the Clintons that they are willing to tear the party to shreds? It there some pathological mindset in every one of them? Is there no consideration of the long-term consequences of this lemming-like behavior?

If Obama had more political sense he might be looking at Odinga and thinking more strategically. He could pull back and live to fight another day when he is more seasoned and has more distance between himself and albatrosses like Rev. Wright and Rezko. He could run a truly inspiring campaign without playing on race. He’s just starting his Washington career…why the rush? The bitterness he is leaving in his wake may come back to bite him if he loses the nomination or if he wins it by disenfranchising voters and then loses the general election. While Obama preaches hope, it seems the forces pushing him are operating from a place of irrational hostility toward a former President who, with all his faults, managed to leave office with sky-hight approval marks.

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