Yes-No-Yes ministers given stern warning
Updated 1 hr(s) 41 min(s) ago
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By Mutinda Mwanzia
President Kibaki’s and Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s parties’ joint Parliamentary Group meeting has put Members of Parliament and Ministers deemed indifferent or wavering on the Proposed Constitution on notice.
Led by the respective Secretaries General, Party of National Unity and Orange Democratic Movement appeared keen to confront the reality that all isn’t well in the ‘Yes’ team, especially given the lukewarm reception some of traditionally vocal ministers and MPs seem to have accorded the Draft. The Grand Coalition appeared to fire the warning shot hot on the heels of controversies and suspicions stoked by such acts as the illegal attempt to insert the words ‘national security’ in the Draft at the Government Printer and the stunning High Court ruling that Kadhi Courts are illegal.
The party also met to take stock against the backdrop of Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta’s delay in releasing Sh200 million for the Committee of Experts to conduct civic education and Wednesday night’s report that police arrested five people ferrying volumes of the Draft in a pickup truck for destruction.
Questions have also been raging since last weekend’s rally in Embakasi Constituency attended by the President and PM but skipped by senior PNU ministers who traditionally are quick to be seen to be pushing the President’s agenda. On Wednesday evening Higher Education minister William Ruto yet again claimed, in an interview with Radio Maisha, that the actual number of senior politicians in his ‘No’ camp were many, but unlike him, many lacked the courage to declare their stand and have instead chosen to hide in ‘Yes’.
The parties met in the absence of the ‘Big Three’ as President Kibaki told the National Prayer Breakfast at Safari Park Hotel of his personal support for the Proposed Constitution. He said he believed that after 20 years of debate, it was time Kenyans were given a new constitution.
Cabinet ministers Anyang’ Nyong’o and Kiraitu Murungi co-chaired the PNU-ODM Parliamentary Group meeting because Raila, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi are out of the country.
The PG decision could be seen to be anxiety over the possible impact the silent but wavering group of politicians mockingly referred to as the Yes-No-Yes camp could hand the ‘Yes’ team in the August 4 referendum.
More than 80 MPs, including Cabinet Ministers Charity Ngilu, Mohammed Kuti, Wycliffe Oparanya and Assistant Ministers Cecily Mbarire and Asman Kamama attended the meeting. Also present were Government Whips Jakoyo Midiwo and Johnstone Muthama.
In a sign that the ‘Greens’ could be becoming jittery over fears that some leaders in their camp are out to sabotage their cause, the top leadership of the team yesterday issued a red alert to those within their ranks who are wavering in their stand.
Kiraitu, who is PNU Secretary General, said those within their team with one leg in ‘Yes’ and the other in ‘No’ should make up their mind before it was too late. Prof Nyong’o, who is ODM Secretary General and co-convener of ‘Yes’, team warned that those wavering they would not be allowed to jeopardise support for the Draft. There were, however, no names given or the sanctions those who disobey the ‘Yes’ command by Cabinet would face.
The Energy Minister declared those who support the draft should do so “wholeheartedly” because they would not be allowed to secretly further the cause of the ‘No’ team. He said it was wrong for some members of his team “to campaign for ‘Yes’ during the day and for ‘No’ during the night…you must be firmly on our side because there are no two options. Those in our team who are wobbling will go nowhere. We are certainly the winning outfit,” boasted Kiraitu.
President Kibaki called on leaders to “tell the truth about the contents of the Proposed Constitution”. He argued this was necessary so that Kenyans can make informed decisions.
“We need to pray for God_s guidance at this critical moment in our national history in which we are implementing a broad reform agenda,” said the President.
He said issues facing the country should be addressed from “a platform of knowledge, truth and honesty”.
The ‘Yes’ side accused those opposing the Draft, including politicians and Church leaders, of distorting the facts about its contents.” This is the only way in which we can discern the will of God and promote the common good,” Kibaki said.
But even as the Secretary Generals gave the warning, some of the President’s allies were again missing in action. Some politicians regarded to be close to the President have adopted a low profile since battle lines were drawn for the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ sides.
Treasury’s delay in releasing money to CoE has also fuelled speculation about the commitment of to the remaining phases of the review process. Already, there is a tiff between Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo and the Treasury over the delay.
Despite numerous assurances by Uhuru, CoE Chairman Nzamba Kitonga, as recently as Wednesday, stated that his team is stuck because of lack of funds.
Nyong’o yesterday expressed outrage that Treasury was yet to release the money. “Treasury should not derail the desire of the people to have a new constitution. Those concerned must release the funds to the CoE,” demanded Nyong’o.
Sources, who are routinely accurate, have also told The Standard there is “a conservative clique in PNU” scheming to scuttle efforts to pass the Draft. The insertion of the words “national security” into the draft during the publication and the ruling on Kadhi Courts are perceived by the ‘Yes’ team as the work of anti-reformists.
There has been an uproar over the Kadhi Courts ruling by three High Court judges and fears Government called the exercise its project to allow for the use of public funds in its support.
A booing incident involving Kalonzo at Uhuru Park is also viewed to have had a negative impact on the ‘Yes’ campaign even though the Prime minister and VP have declared there is no rift.
Kiraitu, who addressed a news conference at Parliament Buildings after chairing the joint PG with Nyong’o, urged leaders to rise above political interests and ensure the country got a new constitution.
“The primary objective of our campaign is to deliver a new constitution and we should not mix it with 2012 politics,” said Kiraitu.
“We have clamoured for a new constitution that will create a level political playing ground. It will not matter whether the President elected is Ogiek, Rendille, Oromo, Luo or Kamba. His mandate will be to serve all Kenyans fairly and equally,” said Nyong’o.