Breach of protocol attempt to belittle PM’s office’
Published on April 26, 2008, 12:00 am
By Juma Kwayera
Attempts to belittle the office the Prime Minister has been criticised.
They said the tussle over seniority in Government would undermine national reconciliation and resettlement of the internally displaced.
Constitutional lawyer, Mr Harun Ndubi and former Kabete MP, Mr Paul Muite, termed as “irresponsible” and “nonsensical” last Thursday’s breach of protocol at a peace rally in Eldoret when Prime Minister Raila Odinga was forced to explain to the public that the VP is his junior.
Muite and Ndubi said there should be no controversy about who is senior between Raila and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka.
In separate interviews, the two said executive powers are vested in the office of the President and that of the Prime Minister.
“In the Constitution, the Vice- President is named as the principal assistant without executive powers. Any powers he wields are in his ministerial position, not as Vice- President,” Ndubi said.
Muite said an attempt to place the VP above the PM would further sow seeds of discord and precipitate the collapse of the Grand Coalition Government.
“The National Accord and Reconciliation Act is a product of very special circumstances. The accord is about ‘real’ power sharing between ODM and the PNU. The accord from which the National Accord and Reconciliation Act is predicated says power is to be shared between the executive President and the executive Prime Minister,” Muite said.
The former legislator said that constitutionally, the VP does not wield executive powers.
“It therefore follows logically that the Prime Minister ranks higher than the non-executive Vice-President,” he said.
The differences over seniority between the PM and VP played out in public during the Government peace tour of Rift Valley Province, which was the epicentre of post-election violence.
A similar incident occurred during the burial of former minister Jeremiah Nyaga. The master of ceremonies, Mr Sammy Lui, asked the VP to lay wreath on the grave after President Kibaki.
In Eldoret, Raila was forced to explain to the public the pecking order in the Government in which he is second to the President. Ndubi said the impression created was that there was no commitment to national reconciliation.
Kalonzo was booed and heckled at the meeting following the incident.
“The leaders should not create a bad situation out of nothing. Government officials are infuriating the public for nothing. The public is likely to suspect that there was nothing in the deal between PNU and ODM,” he said.
The two lawyers said the confusion is likely to persist in Parliament where the VP is Leader of Government Business.
“The circumstances that created the Grand Coalition were special. Therefore, Parliament should unite in amending the law and Standing Orders to make the premier answerable to Parliament,” Muite said.
He added: “We are being treated to power games. The games will destroy our expectation that the Grand Coalition Government will work. If they want to respect the accord, then the executive Prime Minister should rank higher.
“There should never be a debate on the role of the Vice-President. He is a shadow of the President and any attempt to place him above the Prime Minister is unconstitutional and an attempt to distract the country from the reform agenda.”
The controversy over the pecking order in the Government was touched off in March when Head of Civil Service, Mr Francis Mutahura, placed the PM’s office a rung lower than the VP’s in the Grand Coalition Government.
The announcement elicited angry reaction from ODM, which accused its partners in the coalition of attempting to belittle the PM’s office.
ODM Secretary-General, Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o, accused Muthaura of mischief and attempting to water down the national accord in which PNU and ODM would share power equally.