Monday, April 14, 2008

Bandit President finally names cabinet

NAIROBI - President Kibaki finally unveiled the much-awaited Grand Coalition Cabinet on Sunday that was received with mixed reactions.

With a stroke of the pen, the President ended weeks of anxiety by naming the new-look Cabinet, in which he sacrificed on the altar of political expediency the desire of most Kenyans for a lean Government. He appointed 40 Cabinet ministers and 50 Assistant ministers — a staggering total of 90. This means the already over-burdened taxpayers, trapped in a reeling economy, will have to dig even deeper into their pockets to pay for the luxury now synonymous with members of the august House.

Raila Odinga will now serve as Kenya’s second Prime Minister in a bloated Cabinet that left Kenyans wondering whether it reflected the much-desired portfolio balance. The President also sought to preserve as much as possible his initial 17-member Cabinet, retaining key allies, including the Vice-President and Traitor-in-Chief Kalonzo Musyoka, tinkering with it only mildly. Perhaps the only big sacrifice he made was shunting Mr John Michuki to the fairly obscure Environment portfolio.

Seemingly, the latest standoff over the Cabinet also appeared pointless because PNU retained all except one of the five key ministries ODM wanted it to cede if portfolio balance was to be achieved. Even after repeatedly insisting it had reached its "irreducible minimum" to imply the lowest it could go in the deal, ODM still lost Foreign Affairs, Energy and Transport to PNU after earlier letting go of Finance, Defence, Information and Communications, Internal Security and Justice and Constitutional Affairs in the new Cabinet.

But as is the tradition every five years when a new Cabinet is named, there were losers, winners, the new kids on the block and for once more women — a record 13. New ministries were also carved out of existing ones to accommodate the huge number of ministers. "We must understand that the Grand Coalition has come under extraordinary circumstances and what we need to do is to work to deliver a new constitution," Musalia Mudavadi, who was picked as one of the two Deputy Prime Ministers, said. The Sabatia ODM MP will also be in charge of the powerful Local Government portfolio, earlier held by Kanu Chairman and Gatundu South MP Uhuru Kenyatta.

While praising President Kibaki, the Foreign Affairs minister, Moses Wetangula, who kept his docket, said the Head of State and the Prime Minister had achieved portfolio balance. "We have to put aside partisan interests and make one team to turn around this country after the post-election violence." Pentagon member and Eldoret North MP William Ruto, who was appointed to the Agriculture portfolio, said: "The time to fulfill the promises we made to Kenyans is now. We will work together with our brothers in PNU because God has forced us to do so. We have no reason not to work together because Kenyans have told us to do so." Ruto added: "From tomorrow, wananchi should demand better services. We want to make sure that as we promised to create jobs for the youth, they should demand that. Prices of commodities have gone up, we want prices of essential commodities like flour to come down, while house rents should be affordable." Another ODM Pentagon member, Joseph Nyagah, said: "It’s now time to look forward. We have a lot to do for Kenyans and we must deliver. I know if we work together, we shall build a new Kenya."

But Defence Assistant minister Joseph ole Nkaissery bluntly spoke of what he thought about the Grand Coalition Cabinet. He charged that the Orange party had been short-changed, saying portfolio balance, which was the bone of contention, was not dealt with as expected in the appointments. "The truth is that we have been short-changed as a party. But let us accept it because this is what the two principals agreed on to bring peace back," he said. Yet another Pentagon member and new Water minister, Charity Ngilu, appeared to share Nkaiserry’s views: "It is good we have resolved the issues now, but I don’t think we have proper portfolio balance." She, however, added: "But since the Prime Minister will be coordinating and supervising the functions of all ministers, he will ensure that all is manageable despite lack of serious portfolio balance".

Perhaps the biggest winner is Uhuru Kenyatta, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade. He will find his new office vital in galvanising political support and clout as Kenya gears up for the 2012 General Election. The President also made an attempt at gender balance, with the appointment of 13 women in full ministerial and assistant ministers’ positions. Former Head of the Civil Service, Dr Sally Kosgei, makes her debut in the Cabinet as Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology. Bomet MP, Kipkalya Kones, ranks as one of the surprise winners in the new Cabinet was named. He was appointed to the Roads docket — no doubt a key ministry. Former Deputy Speaker, David Musila, is the new Assistant minister in the Office of the President in charge of Defence. He will work under the long-serving administrator, Yusuf Haji. Incidentally, Musila is also a former PC, like his boss. Rongo MP Dalmas Otieno also made a return to the Cabinet after many years in the political cold. He is the new minister for Public Service, which falls in the Office of the President. ODM also bagged Planning, National Development and Vision 2030, as well as Lands, a portfolio that has been handed to James Orengo.

The removal of Michuki from the Roads ministry was apparently meant to appease ODM. But his relegation to Environment and Mineral Resources will leave Kenyans yearning for his no-nonsense approach to issues when he served in Internal Security, Transport and lately in Roads where he gave cowboy contractors an ultimatum to shape up or be run out of town. However, it is the inclusion of Kisumu Rural MP, Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o, and staunch PNU supporter, Danson Mungatana, in the Ministry of Medical Serivices that Kenyans will definitely be watching keenly to see how the two work together.


Msanii_XL said...

you ever think of tempering you "hateful" and disrespectful rhetoric? evidenced by your title?

Amkeni Ndugu Zetu! said...

Sorry, Msanii, but can you genuinely and guiltlessly stand up and announce to the world that you think Kibaki is the true president of the Republic of Kenya? Yeah... didn't think so. So that, in my book, makes him a bandit, I'm afraid.