Storm as Kibaki, Raila meet Rift Valley MPs
Published on April 22, 2008, 12:00 am
The bad news is that the three issues appear intertwined and if badly handled, the potent mixture could torpedo the fragile coalition Government cobbled together to haul the country out of a crippling post-election crisis.
If discontent over the manner in which the Cabinet was picked causes a fallout in sections of the Rift Valley — where the loudest rumbles were felt in the South Rift at the weekend — this could directly affect the resettlement of IDPs, who are mostly in camps in the expansive province.
President Kibaki and Raila need the goodwill of Rift Valley leaders and residents if resettling IDPs is to be tackled.
But both have been at the centre of sustained attacks over the manner in which they picked the Cabinet, with claims that they sidelined certain regions, which voted for them overwhelmingly in the last General Election.
However, the presidential vote became the subject of a dispute that plunged the country into a crisis that necessitated international intervention and mediation efforts to reach a political settlement.
The messages of discontent could further deepen suspicion and mistrust and transfer hostilities to a meeting that will today bring together President Kibaki, Raila and Rift Valley leaders at the Kenyatta International Conference Center (KICC) today to try and break the ice over the IDPs crisis.
Sources told The Standard that the meeting, which will be attended by the region’s MPs, would discuss “security matters”, post-election violence, which rocked the Rift Valley, and IDPs. Agriculture minister and Eldoret North MP, Mr William Ruto, had hinted at the meeting — expected to start at 10am — at the weekend.
The President and the Prime Minister held a two-hour meeting at Harambee House yesterday to chart the agenda of today’s meeting whose invitations were made by Government Chief Whip and Juja MP, Mr George Thuo.
But today’s meeting is likely to be mired in difficulties because President Kibaki and Raila will be seeking the co-operation and goodwill of dissatisfied MPs to push the reconciliation and resettlement agenda.
On his part, Raila underlined his commitment in resolving the IDP issue. But even as he articulated this position, Keiyo leaders in the North Rift, a region seen to have taken the lion’s share of ODM’s Cabinet slots compared to the South Rift, also grumbled that they had been given a raw deal.
Keiyo North MP, Mr Lukas Chepkitony of ODM, warned that the community would withdraw its support, saying: “We are giving Raila two conditions to meet urgently — more slots in the Cabinet and key positions in the Civil Service.”
He said the community had previously been used to at least one Cabinet slot and felt left out of the coalition Government as none of the community’s leaders was appointed.
“We had Hon. Nicholas Biwott in the Cabinet throughout his stay in Parliament. When a wind of change swept him aside, at least somebody from the community should have been appointed to replace him. We have been reduced to mere passengers in the Government,” lamented Chepkitony.
In picking the Cabinet, Kibaki and Raila appeared to have been more inclined to political expediency in the hope that this would satisfy most — if not all — of the diverse political interests that supported them in last year’s General Election.
The result was a bloated Cabinet of 40, an additional burden to already overstretched taxpayers. And the two leaders still seem to have failed to satisfy everyone.
Yesterday, backbenchers added to the storm when they opened another front that could see Parliament become another battlefield on a year that constitutional review and other far-reaching reforms are expected to top Government agenda.
Seventy-five MPs drawn across the parties signed a petition to the Speaker of the National Assembly asking him to recognise them as the Grand Official Opposition.