- Jul 9, 2007
Behind-the-scenes lobbying and a string of secret meetings appeared to precede the naming - in the next few days - of a new Cabinet complete with a prime minister and two deputies, The Standard can report.
Already, powerful regional interests are publicly piling pressure on President Kibaki and Mr Raila Odinga, the prime minister-designate, over appointments to the Cabinet and the two deputy premiership slots.
By Monday night, the intense clamour for positions appeared to paint a picture of the return to the same old high stakes, personality-driven, quest for power in a new dawn where the electorate expects the focus to shift to building and strengthening governance institutions.
In Central Kenya, a succession war between Cabinet ministers, Ms Martha Karua (Justice) and Mr Uhuru Kenyatta (Local Government), appears to have split MPs as the two Party of National Unity (PNU) bigwigs battle for one of the deputy premiership slots.
But a series of meetings between the region's MPs are yet to reach a consensus on who between the two would be fronted for the single slot reserved for the party in the envisaged coalition Government.
It is understood that while those in Kiambu and Thika districts are rooting for Uhuru, those in President Kibaki's backyard of Nyeri and Kirinyaga support Karua, a staunch defender of the Government.
Another meeting scheduled for Tuesday at Railways Club in Nairobi, in which the region's MPs are expected to draw demands for Cabinet positions, will tackle the matter of the deputy PM slot afresh.
There were claims at the weekend that MPs had unanimously agreed to support Uhuru, the Kanu chairman who is also being backed by the Independence party.
Former Gatanga MP, Mr David Murathe, who is a close ally of Uhuru, told The Standard the decision was reached at a meeting last week and claimed that a Cabinet minister was sent to deliver the news to Uhuru.
But Tharaka MP, Mr Muiru Mburi, and his Nithi counterpart, Mr Kareke Mbiuki, on Monday backed Energy minister, Mr Kiraitu Murungi, for the deputy PM post.
President Kibaki and Prime Minister-designate, Mr Raila Odinga, with members of the diplomatic corps at Harambee House, Nairobi, on Monday. Picture: PPS
This emerged as lobbying for Cabinet positions continued. But several Central MPs were in agreement that they should not push too hard as the region was already well represented in the half-Cabinet named in January.
Nyeri MP, Ms Esther Murugi, said the situation was tricky as Central already had four Cabinet posts, while the Meru region was represented by Kiraitu. In ODM, Eldoret North MP, Mr William Ruto, defused building tension when he backed Mr Musalia Mudavadi, the party deputy leader and MP for Sabatia, for the deputy PM job.
"I know my people have been asking that I be appointed deputy PM. But for the sake of our party, I will instead support my brother Mudavadi," Ruto, citing how a discredited presidential election changed circumstances for the party, stated. He is probably now be lined up for a powerful Cabinet position.
Rift valley leaders demands
But that doesn't mean ODM is out of the woods yet. Three of MPs - Mr Kipkalya Kones, Mr Franklin Bett and Dr Julius Kones - said at the weekend that power-sharing in the party should be based on voting patterns in the December elections.
"If we gave more votes than the North Rift, we the Kipsigis should get the bigger portion," Bett was quoted by our sister paper, The Sunday Standard, as saying on Saturday.
Luo Nyanza is also laying its stake amid reports that the region was fronting ODM Secretary-General, Prof Anyang' Nyong'o, Mbita MP, Mr Otieno Kajwang', and his Rongo counterpart, Mr Dalmas Otieno.
"Personality could play a role. This is going to be a very competitive Government and there will be a lot of haggling over policies," argued Kajwang', even as leaders from other regions insisted that for the sake of future support, Nyanza should expect less than other regions.
But the biggest headache for ODM is in the Rift Valley, not to mention Western Province, which has already landed the Speaker's post.
The Coast, with 12 MPs in ODM, is expected to get not more than two Cabinet positions. But Kisauni MP, Mr Hassan Joho, says the region is not making any demands.
North Eastern, which already has a PNU minister, is expected to get only one from ODM.
By virtue of being in the powerful House Business Committee (HBC) in Parliament, Dr Sally Kosgei, Mr Najib Balala, Mr Henry Kosgey, Nyong'o, Mr Ali Mohamed Mohamud, Mrs Charity Ngilu and Mr Omingo Magara may already have one leg in the Cabinet.
Perhaps, ODM may want to follow the example of PNU, which already has HBC members Karua (Justice), Mr Amos Kimunya (Finance), Prof George Saitoti (Internal Security), Kiraitu (Energy), Mr Moses Wetang'ula (Foreign Affairs) and Uhuru in the Cabinet.
Influential pentagon members
Like Ruto and Mudavadi, Balala and Ngilu may have more leverage to influence things because they sit in the Pentagon, ODM's top governing organ. Another Pentagon member, Mr Joseph Nyagah, may also be causing a regional balance headache for the party.
But last night, only the two principals appeared privy to the secrets of the new Cabinet on a day the President dropped the strongest hint yet that the much-awaited coalition Government could be announced any time now.
"Once an enlarged coalition Government is formed in the next few days, we shall be operating as one strong government," the Head of State, who will start the day officiating at a pass-out parade at the Police Training College in Kiganjo and returning to attend Parliament this afternoon, said on Saturday in a statement he read to foreign envoys.
His presence in Parliament and the shelving of debate on the Presidential Speech to pave way for two crucial Bills appeared to add to the urgency with which the President wants the matter of the coalition Government dispensed with.
Consequently, debate on the Presidential Speech, in its fourth day today, will follow the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill and the National Accord and Reconciliation Bill in that order.
Today's Order Paper lines up the two Bills for debate, after which they are expected to go to the Committee of the Whole House for scrutiny and probably eventual passage.
Karua and Attorney-General, Mr Amos Wako, are expected to set the mood for debate of the Bills.
On Saturday, President Kibaki assured the donor community that the coalition Government and its structures would be in place as soon as the laws are passed. Kibaki and Raila also held an hour-long meeting at Harambee House where they appealed to MPs to pass the two Bills.
Although there will be no amendment on the floor to the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, notice has been given for a proposed amendment to a clause on the National Accord and Reconciliation Bill.
Githunguri MP, Mr Njoroge Baiya (Safina), wants clause 4 amended in sub-clause (2) by deleting the words "parliamentary leader of the party in the coalition and thereafter shall be in full consultation with the President on the appointment of all ministers".
The MP wants this clause to be substituted during the Committee Stage with the words "respective parliamentary leader of the party in the coalition and thereafter there shall be concurrence between such leader and the President on the appointment of ministers and assistant ministers".
Earlier, President Kibaki recommitted himself to the peace pact, saying that signing the accord on February 28 was the first step to achieving a prosperous and stable future for all Kenyans.
"Let me assure you that we are fully committed to implementing and abiding by the Accord with our coalition partners without any reservation," he told the more than 40 envoys at Harambee House.
President Kibaki and Raila had earlier briefed the envoys - including representatives of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank - on the National Reconciliation and Emergency Social and Recovery Strategy.
- Reports by Ben Agina, Patrick Mathangani, Francis Ngige, Moses Njagi, Patrick Muriungi and Boniface Gikandi.