More pressure on Kibaki, Raila over new Cabinet
Published on March 24, 2008, 12:00 am
By Standard Team
Pressure continued to pile on President Kibaki and the prime minister-designate ahead of their meeting tomorrow, adding to doubt if they will come up with the face of the eagerly awaited Cabinet.
Reactions to the pending appointment of the new Cabinet were spurred by reports that the process may have hit a stalemate caused by intense back-stage fighting, vested interests and intrigue.
Both Kibaki and Raila spent a quiet Easter Sunday in different locations, none commenting on calls on what criteria to use in forming the new Government, even as it became evident that the puzzle awaiting their meeting at Harambee House on Tuesday was becoming more complicated.
President Kibaki spent Easter Sunday with his family at State House, Nairobi, while Raila and close family members were at the exclusive African Safari Club in the North Coast, Mombasa.
Failure to meet or to name the Cabinet on Tuesday will most likely give credence to reports that backroom intrigue and tussles have made it near impossible for the two leaders to name a Cabinet due to vested interests involved.
A report in our sister paper, The Sunday Standard, indicated that despite a display of friendship and a working arrangement between the partners in the grand coalition, a silent struggle over the formation of a new government is brewing between ODM and PNU.
But sentiments expressed by leaders on Sunday make it clear that Kibaki and Raila will contend with, among other hurdles, regional balance, gender parity, party balance, youth versus the old guard, size of Cabinet and distribution of plum ministries.
Suggestions how to form the new Cabinet mainly came from the National Assembly Speaker, Mr Francis Marende, religious leaders and politicians.
Marende urged President Kibaki to form a dynamic Cabinet with youthful faces. He said it would be wrong for the President and Raila to recycle regulars from past Cabinets in the new government.
“It is my expectation that the new Cabinet will be dynamic, visionary and with new faces; not those Kenyans have seen for years,” said Marende.
Talking to journalists soon after attending Easter prayers at the All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi, the Speaker said the new crop of MPs deserved slots in the Cabinet.
And in his sermon at the All Saint’s Cathedral, head of the ACK Church, Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, said President Kibaki should form a Government that can deliver, not a bloated one to reward communities and individuals.
Nzimbi said the country needed leaders who would deliver and not a group of people who wanted fame and riches.
He said the new look-government must comprise leaders who would heal the country from the effects of the contested election.
“We want a new Kenya for all Kenyans where we will be talking to each other, but not at each other… where trust will be the order of the day across the political divide,” Nzimbi said.
At the Holy Family Basilica, Nairobi, head of Catholic Church, John Cardinal Njue, appealed to President Kibaki to appoint people of integrity to the Cabinet.
The prelate also said the appointments should be done fast to stop speculation of a stalemate, adding that posts should not be used to reward loyalists.
“We need selfless leaders who are going to extend the peace accord signed between President Kibaki and Raila,” he said.
He urged Christians to pray that President Kibaki appoints a Cabinet that reflects the wishes and expectations of all Kenyans.
Leave out hardliners
Elsewhere, Roads minister, Mr John Michuki, apparently reacting to reports of intrigue over Cabinet positions, asked the two coalition partners to respect each other and avoid making demands that would put the newfound unity into jeopardy.
Speaking in his Kangema constituency, Michuki said no side should be seen pushing the other to the sidelines since the grand coalition was formed with the mission of uniting Kenyans.
“The PNU side should not be pushed to the wall by their ODM colleagues in the coalition Government and vice-versa,” said Michuki.
But former Cabinet minister and Malava MP, Mr Soita Shitanda, insisted that regional balance be considered in forming the new Cabinet.
Shitanda said the coalition was formed to give representation to all regions and none should, therefore, be ignored.
On her part, former MP, Prof Wangari Maathai, called for a lean Government, saying the country could not afford a bloated Cabinet.
“Government is expensive. In an ideal situation, 15 Cabinet ministers would be enough to run the country effectively,” she said.
Maathai was speaking to journalists at Njoro PCEA Church, Nakuru, after a Sunday service. She appealed to President Kibaki and Raila to leave out hardliners from the new Cabinet.
“The grand coalition is aimed at healing and uniting the country. The hardliners would be a stumbling block,” she said.
Maathai said the Cabinet should also ensure regional and gender balance, but should not compromise on merit.
Cotu Secretary-General, Mr Francis Atwoli, backed this view. In a statement, he said: “It is sheer selfishness and utter wickedness for taxpayers, who are already overburdened, to be asked to support a bloated Cabinet.”
Creating more ministries, Atwoli said, would only benefit the political class, while ordinary Kenyans continued to live in abject poverty.
Tinderet MP, Mr Henry Kosgey, expressed hope that a new Cabinet would be in place soon.
“Very soon, you will see the face of the new government,” he said.
Kosgey was speaking during the burial of former Aldai MP, Jim Choge, in Kaspengere, Nandi South District.
ODM-Kenya Secretary-General, Mr Mutula Kilonzo, said Cabinet appointments should be based on merit, not ethnicity.
“There should be no lobbying for the posts. They should be given on merit and not on tribal basis,” said Mutula.
However, it remains to be seen what recipe the meeting between Kibaki and Raila today would cook for a political scene that is becoming restless.