Deal in the making
Published on February 22, 2008, 12:00 am
By Ben Agina
The Office of the Prime minister is to be assigned a supervisory role in addition to co-ordinating affairs of the envisaged coalition Government.
But this appeared far short of ODM’s expectations, The Standard has learnt. Vague in its very nature, the offer is not anything close to what is in the Bomas Draft, which proposes radical changes to share executive power and forms the basis of ODM’s bargain document at the mediation talks.
On Thursday, on a day spent navigating the tricky stretch on separation of powers after the two negotiating teams agreed in principle to the creation of the PM’s post, ODM sought certain assurances.
This development in the talks meant Mr Raila Odinga, the ODM leader, could be edging closer to becoming Kenya’s second prime minister after Mr Jomo Kenyatta, who briefly held the position between 1963 and1964 soon after independence.
Kenyatta abolished the PM’s post in 1964, became President and reigned until his death in 1978.
Of importance, ODM wants to be insulated against arbitrary dismissal of the Prime Minister, the deputies and its members in the Cabinet by the President, sources close to the talks said.
This raised pertinent security of tenure issues, particularly for the PM.
On Cabinet ministers, ODM is understood to have acknowledged that while it was inevitable that a minister may sometimes have to be sacked, the party should first be consulted.
Another issue agreed on was that the PM would be the Leader of Government Business in Parliament. Finer details on the number of Cabinet ministers and what proportion ODM would be entitled to will be worked out on Friday morning when talks resume following an early adjournment yesterday.
Lead mediator, Dr Kofi Annan, through his Press Secretary, Mr Nasser Ega-Musa, said the Legal Working Group facilitator, Mr Hans Corell, described progress made as considerable, and outlined a joint proposal of the governance structure that had been largely agreed on.
This is the only outstanding issue under Agenda Three on the political crisis.
Annan, who chairs the Panel of Eminent African Persons at the talks, is understood to have been pleased with the result. He said: “I’m beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.”
The negotiating teams suspended the afternoon session to allow time for consultation on the proposals.
The Legal Working Group of Ms Martha Karua, Mr Mutula Kilonzo (Government) and Mr James Orengo and Mr William Ruto (ODM) will meet on Friday morning to conclude their work and report to the negotiating team at 10 am.
The progress was made after the Legal Working Group worked late into the light on Wednesday.
The Bomas Draft, on which the ODM has pegged its proposals, vests executive authority in the President, deputy president, prime minister and ministers.
But PNU is understood to be opposed to this and reportedly favours a non-executive prime minister with the President as Head of State and Government.
Under the Constitution, it is the President who exercises such power.
Instructively, the Bomas Draft denies the President powers to fire the PM and other ministers, a concern the ODM team at the talks is also understood to have raised.
This could explain the deadlock on Thursday between PNU and ODM representatives on the issue of security of tenure as well as the appointing and firing authority.
PM tenure of office
The Bomas Draft says the President may propose the dismissal of the Prime Minister to Parliament and he can only sack him if the proposal is approved by 50 per cent of the MPs.
The Cabinet, which is approved by the President but constituted by the prime minister, consists of the premier, two deputy prime ministers and ministers, the draft proposes.
In addition, members of the Cabinet must be MPs, it suggests.
In a parliamentary system of government like Britain, Australia, Israel or India, the prime minister is the most senior minister in government. The PM is the head of government and the executive. But the Head of State holds a ceremonial position.
The prime minister is often, but not always, an MP and is expected to passage of Bills in Parliament. The PM appoints and can dismiss other members of the Cabinet. The PM presides over and chairs the Cabinet.
The PM is normally chosen from the political party with the majority of seats in Parliament.
In parliamentary systems, governments are required to have the confidence of Parliament. When they lose it, they resign or seek dissolution of Parliament.
In some presidential systems such as France and Tanzania, the prime minister is appointed by the President, but usually approved by the legislature and responsible for carrying out the directives of the President and managing the civil service.
Meanwhile, the country remained on the international spotlight with the Commonwealth and the African Union calling for a speedy conclusion to the talks and the formalisation of a political settlement.
Commonwealth Secretary-General, Mr Don McKinnon, said: “Kenyan leaders must rise to the challenge of nation building, display the spirit of compromise needed to secure national accommodation and peace.”
In a statement, McKinnon, however, acknowledged that good progress had been made and an agreement on the reforms was needed and violence stopped. The African Union (AU) Commission Chairman, Mr Jean Ping, who jetted into the country early yesterday to support the mediation talks, told journalists at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport: “We have no choice, but to find a political solution to this crisis.”
Ping, who was to meet President Kibaki and Raila, warned both sides against scuttling the talks, saying brinkmanship would exacerbate the crisis.
“I’m here to encourage the Kofi Annan Panel of Eminent African Persons to continue with the mediation process,” he said.
Israel Ambassador to Kenya, Mr Jacob Keider, who visited an IDP camp with more than 19,000 victims in Eldoret, described the situation as tragic and called for a speedy resolution to the crisis.
And speaking at the burial of former Director of Intelligence, James Kanyotu, in Kirinyaga, President Kibaki sought divine intervention and termed the state of affairs as “challenges of humanity”.
“God will give us a way out of the challenges. The way He will give us is the one we will follow,” said the President at the ACK St Thomas Cathedral, Kerugoya, where the funeral service was held.
– Additional reporting by Abiya Ochola, Lucianne Limo, Stephen Makabila and Moses Njagih