Raila gets taste of power
Published on March 5, 2008, 12:00 am
By Patrick Wachira And Martin Mutua Mr Raila Odinga sampled what would come with the Office of the Prime Minister in terms of real power, on a day that appeared to be his first on duty— albeit unofficially. Already being touted as Prime Minister-Designate, Raila emerged — as exclusively reported in The Standard on Tuesday— complete with a motorcade and State security while heading for his first appointment with President Kibaki. The Act creating the PM post will have a clause of “supervising and coordinating” the Cabinet, which will give the holder clout and a hugely enhanced profile. This was a dramatic transformation for Raila on a day all stops appeared to have been pulled to hasten the enactment of the historic deal after a team of lawyers assigned the task announced substantial progress. The National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008 will be gazetted on Friday, setting the stage for its debate by Parliament and entrenchment in the Constitution.
|President Kibaki with ODM leader Mr Raila Odinga at the Office of the President at Harambee House, Nairobi on Tuesday. Picture by PPS|
On Tuesday, Attorney-General Amos Wako and four other lawyers — Ugenya MP Mr James Orengo, Mr Caroli Omondi (ODM), Mbooni MP Mr Mutula Kilonzo and Dr Gichira Kibaara (PNU) — met at the AG’s Chambers to draft the necessary Bills to amend the Constitution and accommodate the Act.The team assured Kenyans that an Act of Parliament to entrench the power-sharing deal in the Constitution would be passed by Parliament within 14 days. Meanwhile, signs that the deal was as good as done were already evident, almost a week to the day the two leaders signed the historic power accord expected to usher a new dawn in governance. New status Raila’s limousine was sandwiched in a 10-vehicle convoy, complete with a police lead car in which sat his head of security, who ensured ordinary traffic was edged from the streets. For a man who has over the years fought for change, it was a major transformation. Perhaps the only item missing from his state-of-the-art Toyota Lexus was the pendant, on which his flag will be flown when the logistics of his position are finally in place. Indeed, when this comes to pass, his official car will most likely a Mercedes Benz limousine not radically different from that used by President Kibaki. But the feel of power is already there, what with the hawk-eyed security officers drawn from the Recce Unit of the General Service Unit, which now forms his detail and who dangled from their chase cars in the typical antics they perform when the President arrives for functions. Conspicuously missing from Raila’s entourage were the usual hangers-on posing as security officials, who would normally push and shove whoever gets in the way. Instead of a retinue of vehicles carrying his minders, yesterday was radically different as his convoy was led by a police Mercedes Benz with a blaring siren and consisted of another six cars, including his, all of them stately imposing and oozing power and substance. Raila’s motorcade arrived at Harambee House at 10.34am, half an hour after his boss, Kibaki. Mvita MP Mr Najib Balala — who rode with him — carried his folder and hurried along with aides and security officials to the foyer of Harambee House. The Head of the Civil Service, Mr Francis Muthaura, Internal Security minister Prof George Saitoti and Police Commissioner Maj-Gen Hussein Ali had earlier received Kibaki. Later, at 11.41am, the Chief of General Staff, General Jeremiah Kianga also arrived in a nondescript, white Peugeot 406 and proceeded into the offices. AG Wako was already inside. Raila emerged two hours later, at 12.23am, resisted a move to usher him into his car by his new and overzealous security men and walked to where journalists had been waiting, with the officers in tow. He then proceeded to announce that he had had a one-on-one talk with Kibaki and described the meeting as having been “productive”. Raila did not appear to mind the large number of journalists, to whom he had grown accustomed to for many years, who jostled for vantage position and made a small forest of microphones around him. The press corps consisted mostly of local journalists as opposed to the situation a month ago when foreign journalists would outnumber local ones on functions like yesterday’s. Raila answered questions from journalists, completely at ease, before repeating his address in Kiswahili then walked back to his car at 12.33pm. His boss, apparently having unfinished business with the CGS and the Police Commissioner, remained behind as Raila’s motorcade drove out of the precincts under the guard of the very men who, only weeks ago, would have lobbed teargas at him. His men cleared the road for him in the surging midday traffic and his motorcade sped away, signaling the start of another, perhaps eventful phase, of his life as Mr Prime Minister. Joint unity rallies to be held Earlier while briefing the Press, Raila announced that they had agreed on a series of joint rallies countrywide to help the nation heal from the effects of post-poll chaos. “We have agreed to heal the wounds that were inflicted in the last two months. We shall be holding meetings with elders from various ethnic communities to bring harmony,” said the Lang’ata MP. Raila, however, admitted that President Kibaki and himself faced a daunting task of uniting Kenyans “so that the wounds created by the violence that erupted just after the polls are healed”. Towards this end, he announced, a joint PNU-ODM parliamentary group meeting will be held Thursday morning ahead of the official opening of Parliament by President Kibaki in the afternoon. ODM will hold its PG meeting Wednesday to ratify its position in readiness for this development aimed at directing synergies towards a common front and lifting Kenyans from the depths of ethnic antagonism. The two leaders also agreed that a joint committee of six be named to help integrate the aspirations and objectives of the two parties, which will from now on, work as one. Each party will nominate three representatives to the committee. The team will also prepare both the agenda and joint programme for the rallies and integration. At the same time, Raila denied a suggestion that his entering a grand coalition with PNU was effectively the death of the Opposition in the country, saying there were several other smaller parties that would still constitute the Opposition in Parliament. “The grand coalition does not mean the end of the Opposition. The backbench is still there and it will check on the excesses of the Executive. There is no risk of Executive excesses,” said Raila. The major challenge facing the Government, he said, was to integrate the two parties and teams to function as one.