Kenyans cry foul over size of Cabinet in waiting
Published on April 5, 2008, 12:00 am
By Saturday Standard Team
President Kibaki was buoyant and optimistic that the 40-ministry Cabinet he had crafted with Prime Minister-designate Raila Odinga was the best in the circumstances.
But as the President prepared to unveil the new government, sections of trade unions, civil society and religious organisations continued to unleash a volley of protests that the bloated Cabinet was wasteful.
A group of religious leaders termed the proposed Cabinet “immoral, exploitative and unacceptable”.
The inter-religious forum threatened to mobilise Kenyans to revolt against the Government if it continues to ignore popular demands for a lean Cabinet.
The religious leaders led by the National Council of the Churches of Kenya (NCCK) Secretary General Canon Peter Karanja, demanded that President Kibaki and the PM-designate review the proposed number to about 25 ministers.
“Should the political leaders persist in ignoring the wishes of Kenyans, then religious leaders would take it upon themselves to mobilise wananchi for peaceful non-co-operation in government activities,” said Karanja, who read the statement from the religious forum.
The churches also said any MP mentioned adversely in corruption or linked to post-election violence should be excluded from the Cabinet.
“Those mentioned in cases of corruption and violence should be allowed time to search their hearts and heal, before they can be appointed to the Cabinet,” said Karanja at Ufungamano House.
Karanja said the names of those linked to past corruption and post-election violence were in the public domain.
But in a separate statement the NCCK chairman Bishop Eliud Wabukala urged Kenyans to accept the 40-member Cabinet and give it a chance to heal the country.
Wabukala said there was need for those opposed to the size of the Cabinet to know that the country has been in a crisis and it needs an all- inclusive Cabinet that caters for disparate interests.
“We know the number of ministers is high, but we have no option but to support the Cabinet for the sake of the country’s stability and future,” said Wabukala.
The head of the Anglican Church Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, however, said an enlarged Cabinet is expected to ease tension between ODM and the PNU.
The clergyman urged the two principals to appoint men and women of integrity.
But Bishop Julius Kalu of Anglican Church of Kenya, Mombasa, regretted that Kenya was going to have a blotted Cabinet.
In telling the country that they had agreed on the Cabinet composition, Kibaki said unveiling of the grand coalition Cabinet was the culmination of fruitful consultations with Raila.
“I am happy that I will be naming the Cabinet this Sunday afternoon,” he said.
The Head of State urged Kenyans to unite in one common bond to ensure that the agreement under implementation is adhered to.
Government spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua was quick to defend the bloated Cabinet explaining that it was the only option for proper regional representation for the country that nearly sunk under ethnic hatred over disputed presidential election.
Mutua said the 40 ministries were necessary if all parts of the country were to achieve peace, reconciliation and healing.
“In this time of healing, there is no price too high for our country to ensure peace, healing and stability that will spur the economy and create more wealth,” said Mutua, when he briefed journalists at KICC offices.
The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) termed the 40-member Cabinet a major economic letdown and a burden to taxpayers.
LSK chairman Mr Okong’o Omogeni said the principals to the Cabinet deal had failed to read the mood of Kenyans and their expectations of a grand coalition.
“Given the unusual times the country is in, the 40-member deal is a disappointment to what Kenyans expected,” said Omogeni.
He added: “But we are asking the two principals to evaluate the importance of the new ministries they will create with a view to doing away with them.”
Omogeni’s views were echoed by the East Africa Law Society, which termed a 40-member Cabinet as bloated and a disappointment to Kenyans who anticipated a lean government.
Mr Tom Ojienda, East Africa Law Society president, said the bloated Cabinet was a badly informed decision given that the grand coalition might last for only one year.
Minister for Science and Technology, Dr Noah Wekesa attributed the formation of the bloated Cabinet to pressure from loyalists on both sides of the political divide.
“I know there must have been pressure for Kibaki and Raila to agree on the bloated Cabinet and that is politics,” he said.
The minister, however, said the country cannot have sustained development with a bloated Cabinet.
“I have held my conviction that we should have a lean Cabinet even if it meant that I step down from my position to reduce the number,” he said.
East Africa Co-operation Affairs Minister, Dr Wilfred Machage described the 40-member Cabinet as critical to peace building.
He said the number was arrived at to accommodate regional interests.
“The 40-member Cabinet will be formed with intentions of satisfying all political parties to avoid some regions feeling they have been given a raw deal,” said Machage, who is also the Kuria MP.
Former Vice-President Mr Moody Awori, however, told Kenyans to stop quarrelling over numbers but focus on healing.
“We have undergone hardships over the past four months and hope that now we shall reconstruct our lives,” Awori said.
The former Funyula MP said the size of the Cabinet to be announced by President Kibaki tomorrow should not create tension.
“The size of the Cabinet does not matter … we should focus on the future and how the Internally Displaced Persons will be resettled,” Awori said.
The Kenya National Union of Teachers said the issue was not about numbers but service delivery and an assurance that the country returns to full normalcy.
Knut Secretary General Mr Francis Ng’ang’a also underlined the need to have credible, honest and competent ministers who can deliver quality leadership to Kenyans.
“We will not be drawn to debate on the composition of the Cabinet, but we want to see the government address pertinent issues that affect the people,” he said.
Central Organisation of Trade Unions also called for credible and reputable Kenyans to fill the 40-member Cabinet.
“We want to see people who are mindful of the people’s welfare appointed as ministers and move with speed to address the plight of IDPs,” said Cotu Secretary General Mr Francis Atwoli.
But the National Convention Executive Council (Ncec) termed as wasteful the proposal to have a Cabinet of 40 ministers.
Ncec programme manager Mr Ndung’u Wainaina said this was done against the wishes of the majority who wanted a lean, clean and cost effective Cabinet.
Reports by Cyrus Ombati, Caroline Mango, Elizabeth Mwai, Beauttah Omanga, Harold Ayodo, Maseme Machuka, Stephen Makabila, Maureen Mudi, Samuel Otieno, Evelyne Ogutu, Marion Wambugu and Elizabeth Awuor.