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Who is fooling who?

Published on April 5, 2008, 12:00 am

New twist: Kenya awaits new Cabinet on Sunday as another firestorm builds up around PNU and ODM just hours to the nation’s turning point.

By Saturday Standard Team

The clock ticked towards release of an expanded coalition Cabinet Sunday as another firestorm appeared to build up around the sharing of 40 ministries.

It was the day the Party of National Unity and the Orange Democratic Movement played a ping-pong game with each other over the twin sensitive issues of portfolio balance and new ministries.

President Kibaki declared in the day he was happy with the deal struck with Prime Minister-designate Raila Odinga on Thursday and was waiting for Sunday afternoon to unveil the new list.

Later the Government spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua denounced a ‘power sharing’ list in the day’s dailies, saying it was, “inaccurate, misleading and speculative.”

He added: “The lists published in various newspapers are fake. The Government considers whoever supplied the fake information to the media to be mischievous and one who intends to damage the agreement between President Kibaki and Prime Minister-designate Raila Odinga with the aim of causing disharmony.”

Making clear he was speaking on the authority of the President Mutua, added: “It is also important to clarify that in yesterday’s meeting between President Kibaki and Hon Raila Odinga, the names of who would be included in the Cabinet were not discussed. It should also be noted that the agreement is for formation of 40 ministries and an equal number of Assistant Ministers.”

Then ODM, through its director of communication Mr Salim Lone joined in the catfight, saying in the meeting between Kibaki and Raila, “agreement was reached on the constitution of a new Cabinet compromising 40 ministers, as well as allocation of each ministry between PNU and ODM.”

Mr Lone attached the list of 20 ministries, the old and the yet to be created, and the manner of sharing, again in his word on the basis of what the two principals agreed.

President Mwai Kibaki inspects a guard of Honour mounted by General Service Unit recruits during their pass-out parade at GSU Training School,Embakasi, Nairobi Friday. Picture by Stafford Ondego

He then talked of another bi-party meeting, which failed to take off Friday, to work on the finer details of the Thursday deal.

“A number of additional steps still needed to be taken to complete all the formalities for Sunday’s planned announcement of the Cabinet. These formalities, as agreed, include the organisational structure and physical location of the Office of the Prime Minister, the finalisation of the functions and responsibilities of each ministry, the appointment of Permanent Secretaries and redefining the role of the Head of the Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet.”
He added: “However, as of 6pm today, the expected meeting between Amb Francis Muthaura and Mr Mohammed Isahakia, representing the President and the Prime minister-designate, to finalise these outstanding matters as well as the arrangements for Sunday’s announcement of the Cabinet, had still not been convened by Amb Muthaura.”

It was after Lone circulated the new list that Mutua issued the second statement of the day denouncing it, and telling off ODM with the line, “Cabinet is never formed through the media”.

“The Government wishes to reiterate the statement it issued this morning and insist that the list of Cabinet Portfolio balance that is being circulated is speculative and totally inaccurate.”

Mutua went on: “The President requests Kenyans to remain patient until he announces the real structure of the ministries and the list of the members of the Cabinet on Sunday, April 6.’’

For emphasis, in this paragraph Mutua capitalised the word ‘real’, and in the one before, ‘totally’.

Curiously whereas Mutua said the agreement on 40 ministers and an equal number of assistant ministers, and though Lone’s list bore 40 ministries, the ODM spokesman gave a different account of what was agreed upon on the junior ministers.

“The two principals on Thursday also agreed that assistant ministers would be limited to 50, with the assistant minister in each ministry coming from a party other than the minister’s,’’ he said.

Mutua fought criticism the new Cabinet would be both bloated and wasteful, arguing, “in this time of healing, there is no price that is too high for our country to ensure peace, harmony, reconciliation, healing and stability that will spur and grow the economy and create even more wealth.”

He added: “In actual fact, the time some of these critics have spent holding media conferences to criticise whatever the President and Prime Minister-designate decide, would be better spent visiting and assisting internally displaced Kenyans. Let our actions speak louder than our voices.”

Lone’s list showed President’s side retaining the high-profile dockets of Finance, Justice, Defence, Internal Security, Lands, Public Works, and Information and Communications.

Raila’s ODM would walk away with Local Government, Foreign Affairs, Roads, Health, Planning, Energy, Water, Transport, Tourism, Agriculture and Immigration.

It would, according to Lone also have the new Ministry of Northern Kenya and Arid Lands, which featured in its manifesto.

Other ministries expected to be created and which are lined for ODM in the list are Public Service, and Cabinet Affairs.

Other than the other traditional portfolios both PNU and ODM would share, the President’s side would get four newly-created ministries; Nairobi Metropolitan Development, Provincial Administration, and both Basic and Higher Education.

The two leaders now bound by the Constitution to share power in line with the Annan Deal, held separate meetings with their backers as the attention of the nation turned to the three critical dates. First, is Saturday when the new list must be completed, Sunday when the new ministers are to be named, and next Saturday when they are expected to be sworn-in at Uhuru Park.

The President spoke in Embakasi then went to meet his key ministers at the Harambee House. Raila was at Pentagon House where among others, he met Mvita MP Najib Balala. Saturday, ODM leaders said it was brave of Raila to have pulled off the deal. But the official said it was the party’s wish that the swearing-in would come earlier than next week so that resettlement of the internally displaced can begin.

Separately, our enquiries revealed lobbying for Cabinet slots and other senior government positions dominated the agenda of ODM’s meeting.

Sources revealed all the remaining five Pentagon members would automatically join the new Cabinet. They are Mr William Ruto (Eldoret North), Mrs Charity Ngilu (Kitui Central), Joseph Nyagah (ODM, nominated), and Balala.

The ministers Kibaki met were: Mr Moses Wetangula, Prof George Saitoti, Ms Martha Karua and Mr Asman Kamama.

“The Pentagon team will be with the Prime Minister-designate Raila Odinga in the Government. We do not want to disturb him (Raila) because he is busy working on the list of Cabinet appointments,” said Balala.

ODM has already settled on Sabatia MP Mr Musalia Mudavadi as the party’s deputy Prime minister. Ngilu, Ruto and Balala have endorsed Mudavadi for the seat.

PNU is yet to decide on their deputy PM though the names of Kanu chairman Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, Saitoti and Karua, keep popping up in PNU corridors.


About SG

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

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