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Kenya, cabinet formation fiasco

Why new Cabinet could be delayed

Story by BERNARD NAMUNANE
Publication Date: 3/22/2008

The eagerly-awaited announcement of a new Cabinet may take longer than expected.

President Kibaki and PM-designate Raila Odinga are still working on the final list to find a proper coalition needed for reforms.

Sources close to President Kibaki and Prime Minister-designate Raila Odinga told the Saturday Nation that the two leaders were yet to come up with the final lists of people to be appointed to key positions in government.

The new team from President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) and Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) will be expected to drive the reform agenda agreed on by the two leaders.

Signs that they two principals were yet to complete the delicate task of government-making were clear when a meeting between them that had been scheduled for State House, Nairobi on Friday afternoon was postponed to Tuesday as the two seek to put together a Cabinet that will satisfy the expectations of Kenyans.

Similar meetings that had been scheduled between the two on Thursday morning and afternoon were postponed for the same reasons. Asked about the meeting on Friday, the head of the Presidential Press Services, Mr Isaiyah Kabira, said: “The meeting will be held on Tuesday morning.”

Mr Odinga’s press secretary, Mr Salim Lone, had earlier in the day stated that there was no scheduled meeting between the two leaders who signed an agreement that brought the post-election political crisis to an end.

“As far as we are concerned, there is no meeting that will take place between the President and Hon Odinga. In fact, we are at Pentagon House,” said Mr Lone.

Public expectations were high on Thursday that President Kibaki would name the full Cabinet. That, however, was not to be. ODM secretary general Anyang’ Nyong’o gave the clearest hint of the intricate negotiations going into the talks.

According to him, ODM has envisaged a 34-member Cabinet and has clustered the positions into five categories.

The President has so far appointed 17 ministers while ODM is expected to nominate MPs to fill the other 17.

According to ODM, the first cluster of service ministries includes Finance, Foreign Affairs, National Planning and Internal Security while the infrastructure cluster has Transport, Information and Communications, and Water and Irrigation.

The third group are service providers including Education, Health, and Gender and Sports while those in the public service cluster are Public Service and Immigration. The ministries of Agriculture, Trade and Industry, Environment and Labour were categorised under productive ministries.

Prof Nyong’o said that budgets of individual ministries, their impact in policy formulation and implementation, and the role they play in the development of the country should be considered in the sharing of positions.

The peace deal signed between President Kibaki and Mr Odinga on February 28 provided that portfolio balance be considered in the sharing of power. The deal was signed into law earlier this week. Prof Nyong’o said dividing the ministries into cluster as his party had done would facilitate portfolio balance.

“That is a task that you cannot do in two hours and I would appeal to President Kibaki and Hon. Raila to take their time to agree,” he said.

It also emerged that there had been some unease among PNU MPs who felt that the President was making too many concessions to ODM.

News that a new Cabinet could be named before Easter emerged after MPs unanimously voted to pass a constitutional amendment Bill entrenching the power-sharing deal between ODM and PNU and the National Reconciliation Bill on Thursday. The Bills were speedily assented to by President Kibaki.

On Friday, leaders from PNU and ODM rallied behind President Kibaki and Mr Odinga over the delayed naming of the list of minister and asked Kenyans to give the two leaders time to consult and constitute the new unity government.

Cabinet ministers Amos Kimunya, Noah Wekesa and Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri spoke on behalf of their PNU colleagues while MPs Musalia Musalia Mudavadi, Najib Balala, Anyang Nyong’o and Chris Okemo spoke on behalf of ODM.

They were unanimous that since the law came into force on Thursday, President Kibaki and Mr Odinga should be allowed to hold adequate consultations before a new Cabinet is named.

Mr Kimunya, the Finance minister, said: “The law only came into effect yesterday (Thursday) and the two gentlemen could not work without it. Everything is in their hands and all of us are waiting for the implementation of the law,” he said in a telephone interview.

However, Mr Balala said the new Cabinet could be named by Friday after a series of consultations between the President and the PM-designate. He described the high expectations of Kenyans over the naming of the Cabinet as “not a major issue” and said that the two leaders were negotiating over matters of sharing seats and portfolio balance.

“There is nothing extra-ordinary to be expected but the idea is to ensure that there is portfolio balance… Justice and fairness will prevail at the end,” he said.

Dr Wekesa, the Science and Technology minister, stated that the consultations were meant to come out with a credible Cabinet that will work in the interest of Kenyans and enact the required reforms.

“We all know that consultations over the full Cabinet will take some time. This is not a matter to be rushed through because those taking up positions will be required to serve the interests of Kenyans and it is the appointing authority that will face the wrath of the public if ministers do not work,” the minister.

Prof Nyong’o, the Kisumu Rural MP,  gave the example of Germany where it took a month for former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his successor Angela Merkel to name a Cabinet.

He said that the quality of the Cabinet will be determined by the efforts expended in drawing up the line-up and not the speed with which ministers are named. Mr Mudavadi said the peace accord had a provision that gave the President and the Prime Minister powers to decide who should be included in the grand coalition Cabinet.

The ODM Pentagon member was answering questions from journalists at the Serena beach hotel in Mombasa where he was on Easter holiday with his family.

Mr Mudavadi dismissed the list of MPs who are said to have been short-listed for the Cabinet posts circulated via SMS and e-mails as illegal and unreliable. “I urge politicians and Kenyans to be patient and give a chance to President Kibaki and Mr Odinga to decide about the lists of Cabinet ministers,” he said.

Outside interference

Mr Okemo, the Nambale MP, said consultations between the two leaders should be without outside interference to ensure that they craft a Cabinet that achieves both portfolio and regional balance.

Mr Kiunjuri, the Laikipia East MP, asked the two leaders to consider the generation that was driving the country’s economy. “It is our expectations that the percentage of the youth in the Cabinet will be high this time round,” he said.

It is understood that ODM has been angling for the seat of Local Government minister because the party’s councillor’s control a large number of local authorities.

The high profile ministry is one of the two ministries whose holders wield executive powers. The other is the Finance Ministry.

Sources said President Kibaki wanted PNU to get the Ministry of Agriculture to balance the affiliate parties in PNU. If the party gets the seat, nominated MP Musikari Kombo is likely to occupy it to satisfy Ford Kenya.

However, ODM is also after the seat and is seeking to have Eldoret North MP William Ruto given the ministry because of its high profile. The ministry has over 22 parastatals.

Matters are more complicated in ODM where it is said that Mr Odinga is yet to choose who between MPs Henry Kosgey (Tinderet) and Sally Kosgei (Aldai) to join his Cabinet. They are both from the Nandi sub-tribe and only one seat is slotted for them.

It also emerged that President Kibaki and Mr Odinga were each seeking to agree on the distribution of seats with indications that PNU could retain the Internal Security and Finance dockets.

ODM Kenya which has Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Information minister Samuel Poghisio on board, also expects another seat and at least two assistant ministerial positions.

Additional reporting by Mathias Ringa

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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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