Cabinet: MPs say ODM was tricked
Published on April 15, 2008, 12:00 am
By David Ohito And Susan Anyangu
The new Cabinet President Kibaki unveiled on Sunday was greeted with mixed feelings, with some leaders crying foul that they were short-changed.
Some politicians claimed that the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) lost the plum positions, where ‘real power’ lies, to Party of National Unity (PNU).
An MP who sought anonymity said: “It may reflect the face of Kenya, but Mt Kenya received the big ministries compared to ODM.”
No celebration was reported in the ODM strongholds of Nyanza, Rift Valley, Western and Coast provinces after President Kibaki announced the coalition Cabinet.
Another group of fresh MPs said those appointed ministers were the old guard and only five per cent of new MPs made it to the Cabinet. Seventy per cent of MPs are first time legislators.
Back home, ODM received its share of battering for accepting a bloated Cabinet contrary to its manifesto that stands for a maximum of 25 ministers.
On the streets of Kisumu, residents spoke in low tones, saying ODM got a raw deal after missing out on the key ministries of Finance, Internal Security and Provincial Administration, Energy, Justice, Defence and Foreign Affairs.
Veteran politician, Mr Martin Shikuku, accused President Kibaki, and Prime Minister, Mr Raila Odinga, of ignoring the wishes of Kenyans.
Shikuku said contrary to the public call for a lean Cabinet, the two principals had picked a bloated one of 42 ministers.
The politician also said the line up lacked equitable distribution, saying the Mt Kenya region still got the key positions and dominated the Civil Service.
He said a real power balance would only have been achieved if ODM had been given the Internal Security and Defence portfolios.
Meanwhile, Raila has spoken of how he and President Kibaki settled on the final Cabinet list. He said proposed names were dropped and new names picked in delicate regional balancing.
Raila recalled that he and the President were under pressure from partisan interests in the Cabinet appointments.
“It was a delicate balancing act. I know some will be happy and some will be disappointed, but that is the name of the game,” Raila said.
He, however, allayed fears that the new Cabinet would be split down the middle along partisan lines.
Raila denied claims that ODM had been shortchanged and ceded grounds over five key ministries at the centre of the standoff on the Cabinet formation.
“We sorted them out. Look at the new Cabinet with a microscope and you will find that nobody got the better of the other,” Raila said.
He added: “Development is my first priority. Resettlement of IDPs and the process of healing the nation will be a priority. I am happy that reconciliation has already started with the formation of the Cabinet.”
Meanwhile, some new ministers were upbeat that the coalition would hold and deliver services to Kenyans.
Agriculture minister, Mr William Ruto, asked Kenyans to start demanding services and pressure the Government to create the jobs it promised.
“We will work together with our brothers in PNU to deliver services to all Kenyans without discrimination,” Ruto said at the homecoming party of Nairobi Mayor, Mr Godfrey Majiwa.
Minister for Lands, Mr James Orengo, appealed for support, saying the task ahead of him was difficult and at the core of deep-seated historical injustices.
“We can all work together to overcome the challenges and ensure we resettle all those displaced from their homes,” Orengo said.
Key donor countries welcomed the Cabinet, but the civil society dismissed it as bloated.
Goodwill messages signaled a new chapter that may see donor taps flow again after many bilateral funding contracts were withheld to await the Cabinet.
The messages, however, urged the country to embark on key institutional, electoral and constitutional reforms, and to speed up the resettlement of IDPs.
A statement from the Japanese Embassy said: “Japan congratulates the new Cabinet in Kenya based on the agreement on the principles of partnership of the coalition Government.”
Japan said it would continue supporting Kenya in its effort to restore stability.
And in a press statement from the Public Affairs section in Washington DC, the US government commended President Kibaki and Raila for their courageous decision.
“Formation of the Cabinet is an important step along the road to full implementation of the political accord,” a statement signed by Sean McCormak of the Public Affairs Department said.
He urged President Kibaki and Raila to maintain their momentum “and move quickly to carry out institutional reforms”.