Grand plot to undermine PM
Published on April 28, 2008, 12:00 am
Claims of a “grand plot” to undermine Prime Minister Raila Odinga in Parliament touched off bitter exchanges within ODM on a day PNU also had its missiles trained on the Orange party.
The tussles gathered intensity as the PM jetted out of the country last night for Germany to undergo what sources close to ODM described as a “brief medical procedure”.
The alleged “grand plot” against Raila has been linked to MPs — a number of them from ODM — who are pushing for a Grand Opposition in a Parliament that has no Leader of the Official Opposition.
Sensationally, the alleged plot has also been linked to the raging protocol wars between the Raila and his brigade on the one hand, and Vice-President, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, and PNU leaders sympathetic to him, on the other.
In contention is exactly who is second to President Kibaki in the pecking order. Politicians in the Kibaki camp maintain that the VP is his principal assistant, and therefore, his second in command.
But Raila loyalists say in the National Accord and Reconciliation Act, which gave birth to the Grand Coalition, Raila and Kibaki share executive power equally.
There was no word from President Kibaki, who some leaders say should clear the air on a matter that assumed near-comical dimensions during the Rift Valley peace tour.
On his part, Kalonzo downplayed the pecking order standoff between him and Raila terming it “a small matter”.
“I have no problem with the PM over the pecking order. Our determination to help President Kibaki serve Kenyans is what is being misunderstood as a struggle between the two of us,” the VP, who was speaking on Sunday at Thika High School when he launched a free one-week eye and throat clinic, clarified.
But claiming to “lift the lid” on the alleged plot at the weekend, Dr Oburu Oginga, the Finance Assistant minister, Bondo MP and Raila’s brother, claimed that the objective was to portray the PM as inconsequential.
He also alleged that the plot was aimed at cutting ODM’s numerical strength in Parliament and, by extension, Raila’s to throw the reform agenda into disarray.
“There is nothing like Grand Opposition. What these MPs are doing is joining hands with our enemies to cause trouble for the ODM leadership,” Oburu said as the simmering discontent in the party burst out in the open.
Oburu appeared to point at a two-pronged assault on the PM to be mounted in and outside Parliament. Already, up to 75 MPs have signed up a petition pushing for the Grand Opposition, a number of them in ODM.
And, with loyalties seemingly already divided, and with five crucial by-elections in the offing, ODM’s leverage in Parliament could be yanked away. This shifting of loyalties may now mean ODM has 106 MPs only on paper against PNU’s 98.
“This is an attempt to form another political party through the backdoor to undermine ODM leadership. ODM MPs should be focused on helping Raila discharge his duties effectively,” said Oburu.
Oburu, together with Lands minister, Mr James Orengo, Assistant minister, Prof Ayiecho Olweny, and Nominated MP, Mr Musa Sirma, clashed with MPs, Mr Fred Outa (ODM, Nyando) and Mr Pollyns Ochieng’ (ODM, Nyakach), over backbenchers’ opposition plan.
The two said they would, together with others, step up campaigns to constitute opposition in Parliament to check on the Grand Coalition Government.
But Orengo, Oburu and Olweny dismissed the MPs fronting for the grand opposition as self-seekers targeting packages that come with the office of the Leader of Official Opposition in Parliament.
The MPs were speaking at Obago Primary School in Muhoroni at the weekend during Olweny’s homecoming ceremony following his appointment to as an assistant minister.
But Mr Ababu Namwamba, the Budalang’i ODM MP and party Parliamentary Group Secretary, dismissed Oburu’s assertion that party legislators fronting for a grand opposition were out to undermine Raila.
“It is clear in the Constitution that the opposition in Parliaments checks on Government, not an individual. I don’t understand why my friend Oburu, who has been in Parliament for all these years, cannot understand this,” said Namwamba.
The MP added that the Constitution does not describe Government as Raila, saying “Oburu should stop his blind loyalty to his brother and allow MPs to correct him where he goes wrong”.
And as the standoff between ODM MPs over the Grand Coalition unravelled, the protocol wars would not just go away.
Yesterday, Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, Ms Martha Karua, said the Constitution was clear on the pecking order in Government.
She said the power sharing accord enshrined in the Constitution clearly states the pecking order and the specific roles.
“There is no abuse of protocol. The Constitution is very clear on the role of the President, the Vice-President and the Prime Minister,” Karua, who was speaking at Isiolo Stadium during the homecoming party of her Livestock Development counterpart, Dr Mohammed Kuti, said on Saturday.
The Gichugu MP was backed by Kuti and Assistant minister, Mr Danson Mungatana, and MPs Mr Erastus Mureithi (Ol Kalau) and Mr M’Itha M’Mithiaru (Igembe North).
Kuti, however, pointed out: “The Grand Coalition between the two principals was based on good faith. The same should be reflected by all the MPs in the coalition.”
But speaking on the telephone, former Kabete MP and Safina leader, Mr Paul Muite, said: “You cannot equate the Prime minister to the VP. According to the Constitution, despite the VP being the principal assistant of the President, he has no executive powers as the PM. The PM has more powers than the VP.”
However, Nairobi Metropolitan Development minister, Mr Mutula Kilonzo, and Kibwezi MP, Prof Philip Kaloki, said Kenyans looked upon the three leaders — President Kibaki, Kalonzo and Raila — to provide servant leadership.
They said the protocol issue should not be allowed to disrupt service delivery to Kenyans who cared less about who-is-who in the pecking order.