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PARTIES IN COALITION LOSE GROUND SUPPORT, HEADING FOR A CRASH

Fallout looms over Cabinet positions

Published on April 21, 2008, 12:00 am

By Standard Team

The likelihood of internal rebellion in ODM and PNU over dissatisfaction with the distribution of ministerial positions took a new turn at the weekend, with MPs threatening to form new political parties.

President Kibaki (PNU) and the Prime Minister, Mr Raila Odinga (ODM), could face major fallouts in their parties over regional balance in Cabinet appointments.

This emerged even as the two leaders prepared for a crucial meeting on Tuesday to address the plight of thousands of displaced people still marooned in camps in various parts of the country.

The grumbling went a decibel higher at the weekend with an outpouring of anger in the South Rift. This painted a worrying picture of what lay ahead of the historic coalition Government.

Outbursts

On Saturday, five MPs from the Kipsigis community held a second meeting in Kericho within a week and announced that they were considering an alternative party through which they would seek future coalitions.

MPs, Dr Julius Kones (Konoin), Mr Isaac Ruto (Chepalungu), Mr Franklin Bett (Bureti), Mr Magerer Lang’at (Kipkelion) and Mr Zakayo Cheruiyot (Kuresoi), and former MPs, Mr Paul Sang and Mr John Terer, also attended the meeting.

But the protests were not restricted in the Rift Valley — they were loud, too, in parts of Nyanza and Western, where leaders said their communities had been short-changed by PNU and ODM in the distribution of Cabinet slots.

In Kisii, MPs, led by Mr Walter Nyambati (Kitutu Masaba) and Dr Richard Monda (Nyaribari Chache), let fly another round of outbursts, this time directed at President Kibaki with accusations that he had short-charged the community.

They argued that having defended and remained loyal to the party during the hotly contested presidential elections, the Kisii deserved at least two Cabinet slots from PNU.

Monda said ODM was also to blame for sidelining the community, even after the party got a huge chunk of the region’s 700,000 votes in Kisii.

Budalang’i MP, Mr Ababu Namwamba, told Raila to get in touch with grumbling ODM MPs who missed out on Cabinet appointments and assure them that all was not lost and that their grievances would soon be addressed.

“We have many other opportunities and all is not lost for the MPs who missed Cabinet appointments. That is what our PM should tell them now,” said Namwamba.

In western Kenya, MPs took stock of the benefits they had got by seeking pre-election partnership with the PNU.

A major split emerged in Ford-Kenya as well, with party MPs failing to agree on whether they should continue supporting President Kibaki or not.

MPs, Mr Eugene Wamalwa (Saboti) and Dr Eseli Simiyu (Kimilili), lashed out at the President, accusing him of giving Western Province a raw deal even after the region made huge sacrifices to support PNU.

Eseli said Kibaki had committed a “serious crime” against Ford-Kenya, adding that “someone like Eugene Wamalwa should not have missed from the list of PNU ministers or Assistant ministers”.

On his part Wamalwa, noted: “Ford-Kenya has stood by Kibaki since the time the late Vice-President Michael Wamalwa decided to shelve his ambition and support him for the presidency but he (Kibaki) has not reciprocated.”

But Ford-Kenya Chairman, Mr Musikari Kombo, Foreign Affairs minister, Mr Moses Wetangula, and Assistant minister, Mr Bifwoli Wakoli, however, defended President Kibaki, saying PNU had rewarded Western Province much more than ODM had done.

“Ford-Kenya received three Cabinet ministers and an Assistant minister, while the province received only five ministerial positions from ODM although it gave the party 19 MPs,” said Wetangula.

Individual MPs from other parts of the country, while acknowledging that there was no regional balance in the picking of the coalition Cabinet, attempted to interpret the meaning of the coalition and what it portends for the future.

Fisheries minister, Dr Paul Otuoma, claimed that ODM’s decision to share the spoils with PNU in the grand coalition was only “a tactical retreat”.

The first-term Funyula MP, who floored former Vice-President, Mr Moody Awori, in last year’s elections, said ODM’s decision to join Government was not cowardly, but a gesture to avert anarchy in the country. “Who in this country doesn’t know the truth about the presidential polls? Our party boss, Raila Odinga, won the elections outright and the logical thing would have been for ODM supporters to demand the presidency,” said Otuoma.

Stop the talk

Meanwhile, the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) joined the debate and called on MPs who failed to get Cabinet appointments to stop complaining and work for the people.

Cotu Secretary-General, Mr Francis Atwoli, said not all MPs could be appointed to the Cabinet, and that some had to remain ordinary MPs.

He said trade unionists “fully supported” the Grand Coalition Cabinet.

“We are ready to work with it. Those who were not appointed should stop complaining and concentrate on development issues,” said Atwoli.

The Catholic Church also added its voice, saying although the coalition Government had restored peace, a lot more needed to be done to seek lasting solutions.

They said the focus should shift from who was left out of Government to what the Government needs to do to move the country forward.

The bishops demanded the involvement of religious leaders in mediated talks as the country tries to get its footing after the post-election chaos that nearly tipped the country into the abyss.

“Let our political leaders come out, involve us and let us look for solutions together,” said retired Nairobi Archbishop, Ndingi Mwana a’ Nzeki.

The bishops, who were drawn from 25 countries and congregated at the Holy Family Basilica, Nairobi, said the coalition Government did not mark the end of problems.

“Problems in this country are known to everybody. Let us join hands together and solve them once and for all,” said Ndingi.

The clergymen agreed with former UN Secretary-General, Dr Kofi Annan’s sentiments that a lot remained to be done in seeking solutions for problems bedeviling the country.

The bishops were drawn from South Africa, Kenya and the US, among other countries.

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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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