Straight talking Karua tells it as it is
Published on April 27, 2008, 12:00 am
By Oscar Obonyo
Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister talks about the deputy premier’s slot, pecking order between the PM and the VP and on her presidential ambitions
Sunday Standard: You looked like the favourite for the slot of Deputy Prime Minister from the PNU side, with advantage in terms of political experience, your role in the Kofi Annan-led talks and on the gender aspect. How did it slip through your fingers and do you feel defrauded?
KARUA: My credentials notwithstanding, the appointment of the DPM was at the discretion of the President and he made his choice. For me, serving as a DPM is not an entitlement and I would rather not worry about it, but serve my people as MP for Gichugu and in any other capacity the President deems fit.
SS: President Kibaki seems to have taken you by surprise when he signed the National Accord and Reconciliation Act with the Prime Minister, contrary to the information that had been filtering through from the PNU negotiating team. Did you see it coming?
KARUA: There were areas we could not negotiate on. Albeit the push. We refused to guess the size of the Cabinet and how the slots would be shared. We had no mandate on certain areas and that is why we referred the matter to the two principals and I am glad they resolved the issue.
SS: You have an additional docket of national cohesion. What does it entail and what challenges do you anticipate?
KARUA: The wordings “national cohesion” are self-explanatory and we are developing mechanism and programmes to move forward as a united nation. We can only move together and make the necessary progress as a Government if we read from the same hymnbook.
SS: This does not seem to be the case, at least going by the tension between the PM and VP, revolving around protocol.
KARUA: What this shows is that as MPs, we have not read and internalised the Constitution. While enacting the National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008, we must interpret it in harmony with existing statutes. Whatever positions we hold, we must learn to appreciate and accommodate one another. I can only say the start has been bumpy, but we need to accelerate our speed to deliver as a team on the promises we the electorate.
SS: Even as you resettle the displaced, do you plan to address the case of those languishing in jail for allegedly participating in post-election violence?
KARUA: ODM has demanded their release, but we cannot allow a situation where suspects are released on the demands of politicians. This is tantamount to abrogating the rule of law. The much we can do is to quicken the hearing of pending cases.
SS: Separately, ODM claims to have been short-changed in the power-sharing deal. Do you agree and does PNU feel the same?
KARUA: It is not fair to apportion blames on the issue. Since it is the two principals who made the Cabinet appointments, those dissatisfied with the way their leaders negotiated should treat it as an in-house matter. Even then, is it logical that anytime I disagree with a decision my leader makes, I throw tantrums? We must learn to respect the chain of command.
SS: What are your views on the proposed Grand Opposition?
KARUA: You cannot have a grand coalition government and a grand opposition at the same time. This negates the spirit and the statutes of the National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008.
In creating the Office of Prime Minister it is clear that, that the holder of the office will be leader of a political party that has the majority MPs. If we allow an opposition arrangement then no single party will have a clear majority in Parliament, yet this accord is the very threshold of the new political dispensation.
SS: Is your quest for the presidency still on?
KARUA: Of course, and most serious. But for now, I am busy serving my constituents and other Kenyans. And I must add that everything I choose to do, I give it my full attention.
SS: Finally, mheshimiwa, are you tough, firm and non-compromising? If not, why do you think some Kenyans perceive you so?
KARUA: Those of us who have the courage to voice our stand for what we believe in are perceived wrongly and criticised for all manner of things. I will not be hypocritical because in leadership one must stand for what they believe in. I am what I am today because of my principles.