Monday, April 21, 2008

Coalition cabinet: Raila outwits Kibaki. Again.

ODM supporters across the country did not rush to the streets in celebration after Raila Odinga and a host of men and women from his party were named to the cabinet.

The Orange party had demanded the Transport, Foreign Affairs, Local Government and Energy ministries after abandoning claim to the Finance and security-related dockets, most of which are in the Office of the President. Allocation of the key ministries was at the heart of the stalemate on naming the grand coalition cabinet.

But after a retreat by the bandit President and the people’s Prime Minister at Sagana, the ODM boss yielded ground on Foreign Affairs, Energy and Transport, and secured Local Government, which was given to deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi.

A number of ODM supporters felt that they were given a raw deal and that “real” power still remained with PNU. But Raila disputes claims that ODM lost out to its coalition partner. “Look through the new Cabinet with a microscope and you’ll realise that nobody got the better of the other. That is the best it could get,” he said when he reported to his new office at The Treasury. And in a TV interview on Thursday evening after being sworn in as the second Prime Minister of independent Kenya, Raila said it was the other way round, that PNU had, in fact, ceded more ground.

He noted that whereas PNU retained the security dockets, ODM captured key ministries that handled matters touching directly on the common man, citing Roads, Water, Medical Services, Agriculture, Immigration, Tourism and National Planning.

Serve Kenyans
He stressed that there was no winner or loser in the new dispensation, noting that all ministries were expected to serve Kenyans. But there is speculation that the international community pressured him into taking the ministries that Kibaki offered him because, in any case, he will supervise them all. A closer look at the allocation of ministries, however, reveals that vintage Raila may have outwitted Kibaki once more.

Whereas the bandit President seemed more focused on the security dockets, Raila was keen on the “common man” ministries that will endear his party to the grassroots. With Water, Public Service, Youth Affairs and Sports, Roads and Agriculture, ODM can easily steal the thunder from PNU. Secondly, there are two executive ministries in government: Finance and Local Government. Having seized Finance, PNU had to yield Local Government to ODM. This gives the Orange party control of local authorities, which are dominated by its councillors and puts it in a position to influence critical decision-making at every nook. Further, Public Service, headed by one of Raila’s key advisors, Dalmas Otieno, and Planning, to be run by another ODM man, Wycliffe Oparanya, were placed under Office of the Prime Minister.

And in areas such as security where PNU dominated, Raila made sure that Kibaki’s men and women don’t run the show; he dispatched his key lieutenants to key ministries run by PNU. For instance, Otieno Kajwang’ was sent to Office of the President to be in charge of Immigration and Registration of Persons, while Orwa Ojodeh and Simeon Lesirma will work with Prof. George Saitoti at Internal Security. Even more curious, Raila seems to have sent his brother, Dr Oburu Odinga, to be his “eye” at The Treasury. Other assistant ministers Raila sent to key PNU dockets include retired soldier Joseph Nkaissery (Defence), Richard Onyonka (Foreign Affairs), Lorna Laboso (Home Affairs), Omingo Magara (Trade) and Cheptumo Korir, a lawyer, to work with Martha Karua in Justice and Constitutional Affairs.

Though some ODM leaders have expressed disquiet after missing out on the positions, Raila carefully used the portfolios to appease the Luo, Luhyia, Kalenjin, Maasai, women, youth and Muslims constituencies, as well as to tame his oppenents’ influence. The Kalenjins, who voted for him overwhelmingly, scooped Agriculture (William Ruto), Roads (Kipkalya Kones), Higher Education, Science & Technology (Sally Kosgei), Industrialisation (Henry Kosgey) and Youth Affairs & Sports (Hellen Sambili) and several assistant ministers. In fact former assistant Public Service minister Asman Kamama was demoted because of the five, while Dr Wilfred Machage lost his East African Community Affairs docket to ODM’s Amason Kingi, whose appointment must have been a bitter pill to swallow for his neighbour, assistant minister Danson Mungatana who had hoped to be named minister.

Nyanza got Immigration, Public Service, Lands and Medical Services. Mohammed Elmi’s appointment to push development in northern Kenya was meant to reward Muslims and marginalised communities, which identified with Raila in the election. This, together with William ole Ntimama’s appointment to National Heritage could also have been informed by impending Kilgoris and Wajir North by-elections.

By handing Pentagon member Charity Ngilu a flag to fly in Ukambani, Raila was possibly intending to tame Kalonzo’s influence in the region. He was also giving them back a ministry they had lost to John Munyes after bandit President named the half-Cabinet; Water & Irrigation was previously held by Mutua Katuku, who hails from that region. It is said that Ngilu could not be taken back to Health because it had been “diluted” by being split into two. To make matters even more exciting, we have it on high authority that PICK’s John Harun Mwau was named Transport assistant minister with Raila’s blessings—perhaps to further clip Kalonzo’s wings. In the last election, Kalonzo campaigned for ODM-K’s Mutinda Mutiso for the Kilome seat, but he was defeated by the “Boss”.

Such manoeuvres and Raila’s energy inform the fear among PNU partisans that the President might be “reduced to a shadow” when the Premier starts rolling. It is almost certain that given Raila’s new position, political mind, skilled PR team and focus on the next election, he will outshine his partners, portfolio balance or not.

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