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Bigwigs scramble for deputy premier

NEWS

Bigwigs scramble for deputy premier

Story by BERNARD NAMUNANE and MUCHEMI WACHIRA
Publication Date: 3/8/2008

Jostling for the post of deputy prime minister intensified on Friday as politicians across the parties positioned themselves for possible new roles in the expected unity Cabinet.

PNU and ODM leaders wait for President Kibaki to arrive for the State Opening of Parliament on Thursday. MPs from both parties have been jostling for appointments to the Cabinet and to fill the two seats of deputy prime minister. ODM leader Raila Odinga is widely expected to be named Prime Minister once Parliament passes the relevant laws. Photo/STEPHEN MUDIARI

On the Government side, four Cabinet ministers are lobbying for the position expected to be created next week when Parliament meets to amend the Constitution and create the post of Prime Minister. The position is widely expected to be filled by ODM leader Raila Odinga.

Key leaders from both sides of the political divide have quietly been staking their claim to the two posts of deputy premier which are to be shared between the Government and ODM. The post is attractive as the holders will rank higher than Cabinet ministers and one of them will be assigned to sit in for the premier whenever he is not available.

Lobbying for slots

Similar lobbying has been going on for ministerial slots and those of assistant ministers. Sources indicated that President Kibaki is set to increase the number of Cabinet slots to 36 when he names the new Government.

The quest for the deputy premier’s seat has brought into focus intra-party rivalry, heightened the political ambitions of women MPs and stirred the hopes of youthful leaders in the 10th Parliament.

Names of Cabinet ministers Martha Karua, Kiraitu Murungi, Uhuru Kenyatta and George Saitoti have been mentioned in lobbying sessions on the PNU side while those of MPs Musalia Mudavadi and William Ruto are on the lips of their supporters in ODM.

The PNU affiliate parties — Narc Kenya, Kanu, Ford Kenya, Safina and Democratic Party — have been caucusing in the week with a view to laying claim to the one slot awarded to their side in the power-sharing agreement signed by President Kibaki and Mr Odinga on Thursday last week.

On Friday, a Kanu parliamentary group meeting at the Panafric Hotel resolved to lobby for Mr Kenyatta, the party’s chairman, to be appointed the deputy premier.

“After ODM, PNU and ODM Kenya, we are the senior-most party in Parliament with 15 MPs,” Igembe South MP Mithuka Rinturi said.

He argued that President Kibaki is a PNU member, ODM was set to land the seats of prime minister and deputy premier while Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka is the ODM-K leader. “So Kanu deserves the deputy PM post,” the MP said.

Across the road at Milimani Hotel, Ministers Kenyatta (Local Government), Karua (Justice and Constitutional Affairs), Amos Kimunya (Finance) and Murungi (Energy) were meeting over what was believed to be part of lobbying for the deputy PM’s post.

Sources close to the leaders said the real battle may end up being between Mr Murungi and Ms Karua, on grounds that Mr Murungi represents the wider Meru region while the Constitutional Affairs minister represents women.

Women representation

Speaking separately, Dagoretti MP Beth Mugo said women were gunning for one of their own to be named the deputy premier. This, she argued, will be in line with the policy of one-third of women representation in leadership.

“We are claiming the position of deputy prime minister. There are five top positions — the President, Vice President, Prime Minister and two deputy premiers –  and one must go to a woman. This is the time to look the leaders in the eye so that they live up to  their pledges,” she said.

It is also understood that Narc Kenya held a meeting on Tuesday under the chairmanship of former vice-president Moody Awori during which the party MPs demanded the deputy PM’s post. They argued that they were short-changed in the naming of Cabinet positions despite being the biggest partner in PNU with 25 MPs.

Over in ODM, the decision by Mr Ruto’s supporters to push the Eldoret North MP into the fray for the position has added a new twist to the arrangement in the party. As the presidential running mate, Sabatia MP Mudavadi was slated for the seat.

Aware of the entry of Mr Ruto, ODM legislators from Western Province met on Monday at a hotel in Kileleshwa where they resolved that Mr Mudavadi was entitled to the seat given his rank in the party.

Deputy captain

Said Nambale MP Chris Okemo: “We agreed on a number of things, among them that Mr Mudavadi as the deputy captain must become the deputy PM. There is no compromise on that issue.” The MPs, it is understood, agreed on the number of ministerial seats, slots for permanent secretaries and other key positions in parastatals that they deserve.

However, Rift Valley MPs who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the scenario has since changed and Mr Ruto deserves the seat. They argued that Mr Odinga was enjoying the fruits of political leadership that was won by votes from the Rift Valley and it was only fair that one of their sons be given a top position. “This war was won by the Rift Valley and Mr Ruto has done all it takes to be a deputy prime minister,” said one of the MPs.

They further argued that Western province has under its wraps a powerful seat in National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende. “It is only being fair to Rift Valley and the votes that Mr Ruto commands,” the MP added.

Although it has been understood that Mr Odinga has assured Mr Mudavadi that he will respect the party hierarchy, sources said the matter is likely to be discussed by the ODM parliamentary group.

A similar battle, albeit at a lower level, is being fought by MPs from PNU, ODM and ODM-K for the yet to be named expanded Cabinet. Although matters appear to be easier for President Kibaki since he already has 17 ministers, sources said he is now in a dilemma over who to drop and who to pick.

At hand are the expectations of affiliate parties such as Safina and Ford Kenya, women MPs and the youthful politicians. Safina lawmakers held a meeting last Saturday where they declared that they must get a slot in the Cabinet with names of MPs Lenny Kivuti (Siakago) and Kabando wa Kabando (Mukurwe-ini) being mentioned.

Ford-K are expecting their chairman, Mr Musikari Kombo, who was nominated to the House on a PNU ticket to be given a Cabinet slot in the new government. Said Kimilili MP David Eseli Simiyu: “Our party delivered many votes to the President in spite of the wave of ODM in Western province and it is only logical that our chairman gets a Cabinet seat. That is the least we expect.”

Youthful politicians Mwangi Kiunjuri, Danson Mungatana, Metito ole Katoo, Aden Sugow and Cecily Mbarire are also expecting that one of them will get a full ministerial position. Their argument is that the half cabinet that was named by the President after the elections excluded them yet their contribution to the PNU vote was enormous.

Agenda for youth

Said Mr Katoo: “We are really expecting the youth to be represented in the expanded Cabinet. Since all the parties are harmonising their manifestos which had a clear agenda for the youth, we expect to be recognised.” The four MPs were assistant ministers in the previous government.

Things are a little thicker in ODM as Mr Odinga prepares to forward names of his nominees to President Kibaki for appointment. MPs from eight regions have been holding caucuses to stake their claim on the seats.

In the Rift Valley, those at the fore-front are MPs Ruto, Henry Kosgey (Tinderet), Sally Kosgei (Aldai) and Charles Keter (Belgut). While Mr Ruto deserves the seat for his role and status in the region, Mr Kosgey is a senior politician who is also the ODM chairman.

Ms Kosgei, who is also a Nandi like Mr Kosgey, carries the hat of women and national stature to stake claim.

Mr Keter, the only MP to successfully defend his seat in the larger Kericho, represents the bigger Kipsigis community. He embodies youth, political experience and professionalism that ODM stated in its rallying mantra of real change.

On the fringes are veteran MPs Kipkalya Kones (Bomet) , Franklin Bett (Buret) and new comers Margaret Kamar (Eldoret East) and Lorna Laboso (Sotik). However, a delicate balancing act must be performed act among the sub-ethnic groups in the community. It is likely that the region will get five slots.

But their Nyanza counterparts argue that Rift Valley province should not be given five slots because they are already represented in government. Ndhiwa MP Orwa Ojode said that it is Nyanza—in fact Luo Nyanza—that deserves at least six ministerial positions.

Left out

“Nyanza deserves about six seats in order to get fair representation in the new coalition government. For instance, if Rift Valley has to get five slots, they will add to those they have in Ministers John Munyes, Poghisio, Asman Kamama, Noah Wekesa and George Saitoti. Kisii has (Sam) Ongeri. It is only Luo Nyanza that was completely left out of Kibaki’s government,” he said.

Those being lined up for ministerial positions are Mr Ojode, Anyang Nyong’o, Omingo Magara, Dalmas Otieno and Chris Obure.

In the neighbouring Western Province, they have identified Mr Mudavadi, Mr Okemo—because of their seniority and past experience in politics— and Butere MP Wycliffe Oparanya for ministerial positions. Others who may be considered are Webuye’s Alfred Sambu and Funyula’s Paul Otuoma.

From Coast Province, those who are likely to fly ministerial flags are Mvita MP Najib Balala—a member of the ODM Pentagon— and Mwatate’s Calist Mwatela. In Eastern, Narc chairperson Charity Ngilu is slated for a post as is Nominated MP Joseph Nyagah while Nairobi has on its list Mr Odinga and Westlands MP Fred Gumo.

In North Eastern Province, former district commissioner Aden Duale who is now the Dujis MP stands high chances.

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About SG

Secretary general of Chama Cha Mwananchi. This blog www.chamachamwananchi.wordpress.com, is based in Sweden.

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