Hostile reception for Kibaki and Raila
Published on April 23, 2008, 12:00 am
By David Ohito And Patrick Wachira
Hostility greeted President Kibaki and Prime Minister, Mr Raila Odinga, at a meeting with Rift Valley MPs called to fast-track resettlement of displaced people.
Vice-President, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, and a host of Cabinet ministers watched in disbelief as Kibaki and Raila found themselves in unfamiliar waters at the stormy meeting at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) on Tuesday. A Party of National Unity MP, Mr John Mututho of Naivasha, raised the tempo when he told the President that tension in the Rift Valley began shortly after the 2002 election when the Kalenjin felt that they were being eased out of the Civil Service.
|Rift Valley MPs and State officials wait for President Kibaki and the Prime Minister, Mr Raila Odinga, to address them at kicc, Nairobi, on Tuesday.
Picture by George Mulala
So hot were the questions fired that Raila asked for time out and left the meeting early. No explanation was offered for his early exit.
The meeting, called to attempt to resolve the thorny issue of resettling people displaced during post-election violence, ran into hurdles even as President Kibaki sent out a passionate appeal to the MPs to accompany him and Raila on a tour of the province beginning on Thursday.
More than 1,500 were killed and 350,000 others displaced in the post-election violence that rocked the country after the announcement of the presidential elections last December.
Raila set the tempo of the meeting when he said the Grand Coalition Cabinet and the united leadership had been working intensely to lay the basis of a lasting solution.
Sources at the meeting said MPs fired salvos at the two leaders over appointments to the Cabinet and permanent secretaries.
“We expected the Government to reflect the face of Kenya and the appointments of permanent secretaries to reflect the 50-50 power sharing agreement. But we were disappointed,” one MP told President Kibaki and Raila to their face.
Mututho also told the Head of State to his face that the Kalenjin community was angered by what they regarded as “victimisation” and “purge” targeted at their community.
The more than 40 MPs at the meeting cheered Mututho as Laikipia East MP, Mr Mwangi Kiunjuri, who is also the Water Assistant minister, supported him.
The meeting began at 11am, shortly after President Kibaki was ushered into the hall by Kalonzo, Raila, Internal Security minister, Prof George Saitoti, and Head of the Civil Service, Mr Francis Muthaura.
Ministers at the meeting were Mr William Ruto, Mr Henry Kosgey, Dr Sally Kosgei, Mr Kipkalya Kones, Prof Hellen Sambili, Dr Noah Wekesa, Mr James Orengo and Deputy Prime ministers, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Musalia Mudavadi.
President Kibaki emerged from the meeting shortly after 2pm, although it was billed to end at 1pm.ODM legislators non-committal
Immediately they left the venue at the executive suite, Cabinet ministers and MPs congregated in small groups and from their faces and agitated gestures, it was clear that all was not well.
The MPs demanded that President Kibaki and Raila’s visit be shelved until pending issues were resolved. They argued that a census of IDPs be done to ascertain their numbers, those willing and unwilling to resettle and those living with relatives and families outside the camps.
They also demanded a halt to the military operation in Mt Elgon District and eviction of residents from the Mau Forest, claiming that the operations were merely creating another category of IDPs whose plight should also be addressed.
President Kibaki’s problems began when differences emerged over the planned tour of the region. As the MPs argued over the visit, Raila asked how many MPs would accompany him and the Head of State in the tour of Rift Valley.
Only MPs from PNU and two ministers raised their hands, while the rest of ODM legislators remained non-committal, throwing the meeting into a division.
But the President insisted that he had scheduled the visit for Thursday, beginning in Eldoret town and proceeding to Cherangany in the afternoon.
Naivasha, Molo and Kuresoi would be next on Friday and on Saturday, Kipkelion, Sotik and Chebilat.
But the MPs insisted that those displaced in Mt Elgon District and Mau Forest be included in the resettlement programme as well.
The Presidential Press Service later issued a statement on the meeting in which the media were barred.
The meeting was the first to consult and seek ways of resolving problems affecting wananchi in various parts of the country. President Kibaki cited peace, security and resettlement of IDPs as some of the issues that were given priority by the National Accord and Reconciliation Committee.
“The Government has deployed adequate security personnel and constructed 34 police stations to provide security to those returning to their farms,” the President said.
He challenged the MPs to support the resettlement of IDPs and urged communities to respect the sanctity of life and property.
“There should be no boundaries for a Kenyan as to where he or she can live, work or own property in the country,” Kibaki said.IDPs in deplorable conditions
Kalonzo struck a middle ground during the meeting, saying the resettlement of IDPs should be urgent as they were living in deplorable conditions.
The VP lamented that the IDPs’ living conditions had gone from bad to worse with rainy season and intervention must be quick.
“As leaders, we should be mindful of the welfare of the citizens, some of whom are suffering,” Kalonzo said.
Earlier Raila had explained that Sh30 billion was needed for the long-term solution to the resettlement of IDPs.
Special Programmes minister, Dr Naomi Shaban, briefed the meeting on the progress of resettlement.
Shaban said 140,000 people were still in various camps, mainly in the Rift Valley, while others were living with relatives.
Agriculture minister and Eldoret North MP, Mr William Ruto, curiously talked of his docket and avoided the issue at hand.
By the time the meeting ended, ODM and PNU said they would address press conferences at Parliament Buildings, and express their different views on the issue.
PNU MPs insisted that IDPs be resettled without conditions.
“Political leaders must not play politics with the plight of the IDPs or use them as pawns. We are dismayed by veiled messages aimed at creating the impression that the IDPs in Rift Valley had occupied land that was not theirs,” said Kiunjuri, who read the statement on behalf of party MPs.
He said most of the displaced people had lived on their land since the 19th Century and had title deeds.
“Their evictions were grossly unlawful and done in an inhumane manner. Return to their land and settlement cannot and must not be seen as a favour,” he said.
He described demands by the ODM group as blackmail.
Laikipia West MP, Mr Nderitu Mureithi, said it was unacceptable for IDPs to continue to suffer while MPs postponed their resettlement on flimsy grounds such as “further discussions”.
Nakuru Town MP, Mr Lee Kinyanjui, who is also an Assistant minister, called for the immediate resettlement of IDPs, saying the right to live and work anywhere in the country “was not a gift from politicians”.