No deal yet’ in ODM camp
Published on April 27, 2008, 12:00 am
By Oscar Obonyo
The “small warning” by Environment minister John Michuki about the proverbial camel that displaced its host from his hut, might have persuaded the ODM brigade to drop its initial power-sharing demands.
“Our ODM partners should not be like the proverbial camel which was allowed to put its head into a hut only to push the whole body in, displacing the occupant,” said Michuki at the height of the Cabinet composition impasse.
ODM later dropped its “unrealistic demands” over portfolio balance and a 50-50 sharing of civil service and ambassadorial appointments. Maybe this compromise was weighty enough and the recent appointments of Permanent Secretaries could just be the final straw that broke the camel’s back.
President Kibaki’s choice of permanent secretaries, made public last Monday, immediately met furious reactions from the ODM wing of Government.
Some party leaders now lament that they were not consulted. They were enraged that as in the sharing of Cabinet slots, they were outwitted again.
Tension in the Orange camp was heightened by this week’s developments in the Rift Valley during the tour by President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga of camps for the displaced.
During the three-day tour, PNU allied ministers and the Provincial Administration lined up Raila to address rallies ahead of Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and President Kibaki. ODM MPs view the apparent breach of protocol as a direct affront on ODM, and a scheme to belittle the Premier’s Office.
All these factors cast a dark shadow on the future of the Grand Coalition Government.
While Kibaki’s PNU is convinced a deal was struck with the reconstitution of the Cabinet and appointment of PSs, Raila’s side believes it has been short-changed and there is “no deal yet”.
With the numerous challenges ahead, including cracking the thorny issue of IDPs and delivering a new constitution by next February, it is unlikely much will be achieved under the present atmosphere.
Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, Ms Martha Karua, who has been handed the additional docket of “national cohesion” is equally concerned about the state of affairs.
“We can only make the necessary progress as a Government if we read from the same Hymn book,” she says.
The Gichugu MP argues that since the two principals made the power-sharing deal and appointments together, those dissatisfied should treat it as an in-house matter in their respective parties as PNU or ODM.
It is probably on this basis that ODM is auditing itself. One source partly blames newly appointed PS to the Prime Minister’s Office, Dr Mohammed Isakhakia, for the debacle. He claims that the ODM official, whom the party mandated to discuss ODM’s list of PSs with Head of Civil Service, Francis Muthaura, returned empty-handed.
“Eventually, Isakhakia told us Muthaura had dropped some of our nominees on grounds of pending graft charges, among other excuses.
“But all these could have been cooked up, and what is curious is that the sole person who ended up appointed from ODM was Isakhakia himself,” laments the party official.
The Sunday Standard has since established that among those ODM had wanted appointed were varsity dons, Prof Peter Wanyande, Prof Jacqueline Oduol, Canada-based lawyer Miguna Miguna, the party’s senior communications official, Kibisu Kabatesi, and former provincial administrator Andrew Mondoh. ODM is reported to have negotiated for 17 slots.
Nonetheless, the party officials maintain that PNU cheated them in the appointments. They claim some of the PSs purported to have been nominated by ODM are “strangers” to the party.
“Judging from their names, one would imagine they are allied to ODM since they hail from our strongholds. The truth is that they are heavily PNU-friendly,” said a source. The case of Dr Ludeki Chweya, thought to have eaten up an ODM PS slot, features prominently. Chweya, who hails from Western Kenya, that heavily supported ODM in the elections, was an operative of Kalonzo’s ODM-Kenya party.
“Although others like Sammy Kirui hail from the ODM strongholds in the Rift Valley, the party had nothing to do with their appointments,” says another official.
Yet another case is Attorney-General, Amos Wako. Despite being in Government for the last 22 years and perceived to be on the PNU side, Wako was used as a ploy to lock out ODM from several appointments including the Cabinet slot that eluded Nambale MP, Mr Chris Okemo. Both Okemo and Wako hail from Nambale.
But the exclusion of Okemo, who has previously served in the Finance and Energy portfolios, is not isolated. In the wider Meru and Embu PNU zones, leaders are equally crying foul over what they consider an imbalance in the sharing out of Cabinet slots among PNU legislators.
Barely two days before the naming of the Cabinet, Energy minister, Mr Kiraitu Murungi, warned that it would not be “business as usual” if Kibaki did not accord the community an additional Cabinet slot. And in Rift Valley, PNU politicians sent out a similar message. Laikipia East MP Maina Kiunjuri even became emotional. He scoffed at certain ministries like Gender and Children, saying he was better off serving in the Water and Irrigation ministry in an assistant capacity.
“Sasa ukinipatia Gender and Children, watoto nitafanya nao nini (If you appoint me Gender and Children’s Affairs minister, just what will I do with the children)?” he posed sarcastically in an apparent swipe at the newly elected Nyeri Town MP, Mrs Esther Murugi, who holds the docket.
A three-term MP, Kiunjuri who has been a strong Kibaki ally, is one of the Central MPs irked by the composition of the Cabinet.
Kiunjuri is among those who believed they deserved a Cabinet slot. Little wonder, Murugi, a first-term MP, has become an easy target of attack by some unhappy legislators.
The other principal in the Grand Coalition, Raila, faces an even more difficult task, particularly from South Rift MPs. At least five MPs from the Kipsigis community recently held a meeting in Kericho, during which they announced that they might get an alternative party to seek future coalitions. Dr Julius Kones (Konoin), Mr Isaac Ruto (Chepalungu), Mr Franklin Bett (Bureti), Mr Magerer Lang’at (Kipkelion) and Mr Zakayo Cheruiyot (Kuresoi) are furious that their counterparts in the North Rift got the lion’s share of the five ministries allocated to ODM in the region.
To stem an eminent fallout in their respective camps, Kibaki and Raila have resorted to the “mkate nusu (half loaf)” argument. They state that there is not enough room for all because they were compelled to share the spoils.
In the midst of the two principals, who shared between themselves close to nine million votes, is Kalonzo who hardly managed a million votes. But true to his campaign “prophecy” of nitapitia katikati yao (I will pass between Kibaki and Raila), he is reaping from the political impasse with no mkate nusu headache.