Archive for March 2008

Safaricom IPO Launched as Ruto's Cabinet Inclusion becomes the headache

It is official now, Safaricom IPO goes on as scheduled starting today, Friday the 28th of March to April 23rd 2008. ODM's call for protests to stop the launch were fruitless. ODM's concerns about Mobitelea, 35% sale to foreigners and Jimnah Mbaru tri-roles in the IPO went unheeded. Kenyans and the world at large fight for the most profitable company in East Africa. President Kibaki opened Safaricom IPO this morning. The President and Finance Minister, Amos Kimunya slammed critics of the deal. Raila was notably absent during the launch. Kimunya further added that Safaricom's AGM will be held online. Kibaki asked CMA to firmly apply rules to deal with rogue stockbrokers.

It is now emerging that Ruto's exclusion from the cabinet list is the reason as to why Kenya does not have a Grand Coalition cabinet. Until space is found for the Kalenjin emperor, there will be no cabinet. Events revolving around the formation of the cabinet also demonstrates that nothing in ODM and PNU has changed despite the publicity facades and that wrangling over this and that will be the order of the day in this era of Kibaki and Raila partnership.

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Please Help: Appointment with Kabogo

I would like to meet Mr. Kabogo I am a businessman but I dont have has contacts please be kind to send me his contacts or book for me and I appointment and let me know. Godwin

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James Bett: Why the violence in Rift Valley could not have been planned

RIFT VALLEY IS THE ONLY PROVINCE (besides Nairobi) that is a true representation of Kenya since all communities can be found there. Frequent conflicts have also characterised the province.

Many people have talked of serious underlying issues that were only triggered by the disputed presidential poll. Such issues include land, historical injustices, economic disempowerment, ethnic mistrust, and unemployment.

There is no dispute that the electioneering process right up to the voting day was largely peaceful. Many Kenyans were satisfied with the process of voting, counting and declaration of results at the polling centres.

The unprecedented violence that rocked most parts of the country was precipitated by the announcement of disputed presidential results by the Electoral Commission of Kenya.

Most people who watched the announcement of the presidential tallied votes live on TV and heard it on radio were concerned about the unexplained withholding of results from certain constituencies and subsequent differences in the results announced at constituency level and at KICC tallying centre, which led them to suspect that there was manipulation of presidential elections in the tallying process.

THE VIOLENCE WAS THEREFORE spontaneous and NOT premeditated as has been reported by some. The theory of the violence having been planned is just that – a theory.

Yet it has been so well spun that even the international community have bought it wholesale! One diplomat was recently quoted as saying “it may have been spontaneous in Western, Nyanza and Coast but at least in the Rift Valley, it was clearly planned”.

Why this singling out of one community for selective condemnation? What would make it spontaneous in all other parts of the country “except” in the Rift Valley?

It is a complete fabrication that there was any form of planning, training or financing of youth to engage in violence. Let me give you just a few points why the violence could NOT have been planned.

Kenya is reputed to have one of the best intelligence networks in the region. Indeed, together with the military intelligence and police network including that of informants, nothing escapes the watchful eye of Big Brother.

Claims have been made that the violence was planned as far back as six months in advance. It is utterly unbelievable that such planning involving probably thousands of people could have escaped this elaborate network. Otherwise we may have to ask why the Government failed to beef up security in Rift Valley when it “expected trouble”.

There were many PNU candidates and voters in Kalenjinland. If, perhaps, the whole community was in a conspiracy of silence so that the intelligence network missed this vital information, how about the numerous parliamentary, civic candidates and voters in PNU, their family, friends and relatives within the community? Didn’t even one person learn of the planning and whisper a warning to the authorities?

The majority of Kalenjin youth who participated in the violence in most urban areas of Rift Valley were unarmed and carried little more than sticks and stones. Only a few had arrows or other weapons. Any Kalenjin man can demonstrate that it will take less than 15 minutes to make an arrow. If this thing was planned for six months, why didn’t the youth just make as many arrows as they needed?

If people were paid for “ethnic cleansing” why not use just a little of that money to buy a few kilos of six-inch nails and make enough arrows before the elections?

These planners must have been so naïve that they did not understand the repercussions of the war they were starting. Otherwise they should have known the importance of evacuating their own from areas where there was likely to be revenge attacks from the affected community.

THERE WAS NO SIGN THAT KALENJINS living outside their ancestral land were evacuated or prepared to evacuate at short notice.

If the Kalenjins planned a war before the elections, someone should have noticed panic-buying and stocking of these essential items amongst the planners. I was in Eldoret during the first one week of this fateful year and saw the desperation of everybody as people were grounded for lack of fuel, could not communicate by phone, and almost all essential items went missing in most homes. Poor planners these people!

Many Kalenjins risked their lives protecting, hiding and assisting Kikuyus to escape death.

Why did people who had planned all these not warn their Kikuyu friends and neighbours to flee before instead of risking their own lives by protecting them after the violence began?

There are over two million Kikuyus in the Rift Valley. If anyone had planned an ethnic cleansing targeting them then surely the death toll would have been much higher.

Mr Bett is the chairman of EMO, a community organisation serving people in Rift Valley. This is an excerpt of a speech read during an interdenominational prayers and peace rally in Eldoret.


Jaindi Kisero: Let’s free the Capital Markets Authority so it can do its job

JUST HOW SAFE IS THE MONEY which you leave with a stockbroker to buy you shares? Which of these brokers is trustworthy and how can an ordinary mwananchi differentiate between a financially solid firm and one about to disappear with his money?

These are pertinent questions, indeed. The collapse of Nyaga Stockbrokers and the news that more such brokers may be facing difficulties has sent shockwaves among investors.

Market confidence has been dealt a severe blow. It is saddening to see panic-stricken folk queuing for days on end in front of the offices of Nyaga Stockbrokers, seeking to know the fate of the hard-earned savings they had entrusted with this troubled house.

How were these ordinary folks to know that they were dealing with a broker they shouldn’t have trusted?

Nyaga Stockbrokers was not one of those upstart brokerages that popped out the other day. The firm was among what is known as the “original six” — the members of a cartel that used to meet in a hotel lobby in Nairobi to trade shares without having to disclose prices to their principals.

The managing director of Nyaga Stockbrokers, Mr Patrick Gikiavi, is not your ordinary bloke. He is a director of the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) where he sits on key committees.

He is a member of the trading and compliance committee, a member of the finance committee, and former member of the central depository system implementation committee.

How was the ordinary man from Thika, Nyeri, Kiambu or Kisumu to know that such solid credentials meant nothing, and that the man they were entrusting their hard-earned savings with would abuse that trust?

And, if you looked at the audited accounts of Nyaga Stockbrokers, there was nothing to warn you that the financial health of the company was in doubt.

Stockbroking firms have over the years perfected the art of masking their blemishes by employing accounting gimmicks. Millions of shillings illegally owed to wananchi are hidden away in their books by simply disguising it as money owed to creditors.

Lately, the preferred gimmick has been to include the value of the seat they own at the floor of the NSE in the books to shore up their balance sheets.

Who is to blame for all this mess? The watchman of the market, Capital Markets Authority (CMA), has been in deep slumber. Yet I choose not to accuse Mr William Chelashaw, Mr Paul Melly or Mr Edward Ntalami, the previous chief executives of the authority in that order.

Nor do I accept the argument that the laws are inadequate. Indeed, the existing legal framework for regulating the capital markets has all the required elements — requirements for licensing, minimum capitalisation, and disclosure.

THE ISSUE HERE IS NOT JUST individuals. Regulation of the capital markets has failed mainly because we have not allowed the CMA to operate autonomously.

We have made this important institution subject to an anachronistic corporate governance that makes it impossible for the CMA to exercise the influence and clout that the Central Bank of Kenya wields over commercial banks.

The CMA is treated and regarded by the Government as any other parastatal. Both its chief executive and board members are political appointees, serving in office at the whim of individuals.

The chief executive accounts not only to its board, but also to the permanent secretary of the parent ministry, in this case, Finance.

And, under the State Corporations Act, the chief executive is responsible to the Office of the President.

In that position, you can wake up one morning and find out that the Inspectorate of State Corporations, the Efficiency Monitoring Unit, or the Results Office — all under the Office of the President — have appointed auditors to conduct an impromptu special audit of your books, ready to recommend your sacking.

I need not belabour the point. If the CMA is to be effective, it must be exempted from the State Corporations Act. A regulatory body that accounts to multiple Government departments cannot operate effectively.

Once this is done, we can then work on strengthening its capacity to enforce the law by allowing it to recruit enough top-notch auditors to conduct on-site and off-site inspections.

Without doubt, Nyaga Stockbrokers has damaged the reputation of the stock exchange. But all is not lost. Several years ago, we went through a banking crisis when several commercial banks collapsed one after another.

We tightened the Banking Act, introducing high capitalisation requirements, new capital-to-deposits ratios, and rules to deal with risk concentration and insider lending. We amended the Central Bank Act to introduce security of tenure to the Central Bank Governor.

Stockbrokers operate with money collected from the public. I don’t see why they should not be subjected to such strict rules.

We must force weak ones to merge with stronger institutions, and eliminate those owner-occupier stockbrokers that thrive on selling people’s shares behind their backs.

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This was a historic day for Kenya

Parliament Tuesday passed two crucial Bills crafted after the power-sharing deal signed last month by President Kibaki and Mr Raila Odinga.

The Constitutional Amendment Bill provides for the creation of the post of prime minister and two deputies, their functions and roles.

The other entrenches the National Reconciliation Accord which is aimed at ending the political stalemate that engulfed the country soon after the disputed December presidential elections.

The debate was emotive as it was historic. Members who spoke were unanimous that the spirit and the letter of the Bill and the next one to come were crucial to national healing, unity and development.

Historic it was since this was one of the rare moments when a sitting President participated in a debate in the House as an MP, and not a symbolic figure presiding over a State function.

Speakers were categorical that the two Bills were a precursor to a constitutional review which should provide an anchor for the creation of a new, modern, vibrant, prosperous and democratic state.

President Kibaki and Mr Odinga exhorted the MPs to pass the Bills which provided the framework for a new constitutional dispensation, social, economic and infrastructure reforms.

The most important lesson was the realisation that the problems afflicting this country require a constitutional solution, because the current governance, economic and social structures were untenable in a multi-ethnic and multi-party state.

For now, the challenge remains in first actualising the letter and spirit of the Bills and second, carrying through constitutional review within a year.

It is gratifying that both sides of the House underscored their commitment to a working coalition. We hope they will live true to that commitment and urge the Government to set in motion the reform agenda.

While acknowledging that the prevailing circumstances required the unanimity witnessed Tuesday, we must also take care that Parliament is not reduced into a mere voting machine.

In future, we would like to see an assertive Parliament debating Motions purely on their own strength. It is only in this way that we will nurture and protect the democratic ideals we badly crave.

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Ng'ang'a Mbugua: Your farms aren't worth dying for

IN HIS HEYDAY AS AN ACTIVIST in legal reforms in the 1990s, the Rev Timothy Njoya once argued that peasants who own land were poorer than those who didn’t.

Up to that point, that was one of the most profound statements I had ever heard. I wondered why people were so obsessed with land when letting go would improve their fortunes.

And that brings me to my point: That for displaced families to progress in life, they must give up their agrarian ways and seek greener pastures in towns where they have found refuge.

Many of those who fled Rift Valley at the height of the violence in January have often expressed unwillingness to return. And this is not just because their houses were burnt and their property stolen or destroyed; they realise that they can never make it in life if they go back.

It has occurred to them that their lives will be disrupted every five years. If they can gather the courage to stand by their decision despite the odds facing them in the short term, this will be the most rational decision they will have made for themselves and their children.

One of the problems that has held back many families from improving their fortunes is that they have an irrational attachment to land.

Yet, this land does not provide them with either sufficient nourishment or financial returns to justify the time, money and energy they invest to coax a harvest from it every year.

Historically, it takes a drastic — and sometimes calamitous — shake-up of the social, political and economic order for the vast majority to critically re-examine their goals and redefine their priorities. That time has come for Kenyan peasants who have been displaced by violence. An illustration will suffice.

For many years, planters in the southern states of America refused to abolish slavery even when it was evident slave labour was more costly than wage labour.

AS THOSE WHO ABANDONED SLAVE labour prospered, those who held on to the old ways were pushed to the verge of economic ruin. A war had to be fought to change the social order, abolish slavery and usher in the era of capitalism, which has transformed the US.

In Kenya, families that in the past relied on land for subsistence must now look elsewhere if they are to ensure that their descendants do not suffer the fate their parents did in January.

They can take courage from the words of Naoko Takahashi, a Japanese professor of economics, who is the daughter of a teacher and granddaughter of a peasant. She said:

“In the past, the children of peasants in Japan were doomed to become peasants while the children of teachers walked in the footsteps of their parents. But when Japan was confronted by the possibility of colonisation, it mobilised its population to learn the tricks that the colonisers were using. The answer lay in education — and the technology to make guns.”

Displaced families can learn from the experience of the Japanese and vote with their feet like the freed slaves who left cotton plantations in the south to work as labourers in northern American towns.

It may be a bitter lesson, but it can help them to secure a prosperous and modern future for their children.

The first generation may end up as hawkers competing for space at Muthurwa market, but with education and vocational skills, their children can become anything they want to be.

And as for the land left behind in the Rift Valley breadbasket, the Government can redistribute it to increase production and feed the working population expected to grow by leaps and bounds.

Mr Mbugua is a sub-editor with the Nation

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Jackson Mwalulu: We should give the vexed land question greater priority

SOME RIFT VALLEY MPs WANT the Government to prioritise the land question. They have a point.

Their employers are slaughtering one another with abandon. From Mt Elgon through Molo to Laikipia, life has become brutish, nasty and short.

When legislator Mwangi Kiunjuri argues that the land-related violence has nothing to do with electoral politics, one is tempted to agree with him.

In Mt Elgon, where thousands have been killed and thousands more displaced, mayhem started as far back as 2003. Molo area has always been a flash-point with or without elections, with the situation deteriorating around electioneering time.

Is Molo Kenya’s Gaza Strip? The level of tribal poison there appears unique, what with people making hacking their neighbours a pastime. Today, Molo is the only place in this country — south of the Equator — where life is as unpredictable as it comes.

LAIKIPIA EXPLODES EVERY YEAR at around this time, perhaps due to drought, with pastoralists trying to force their way into the expansive whites-dominated ranches. How Kikuyu peasants there get roped in and end up being the biggest losers remains a puzzle.

Suspending normal parliamentary business to discuss the land question is a point one can understand in the face of the on-going bloodletting.

Are we talking about a National Conference on the Land Policy We Want? Tough luck, for getting consensus on such an explosive agenda would be as easy as getting Somalia back to statehood.

A Special National Committee on the Cause and Source of Land-related Conflicts? Maybe. Of immediate attention, however, is the security of Kenyans living in these zones. We can no longer sit back as sections of this country burn.

Here, the role and place of Kenya’s security system must come under scrutiny. Our security agents are either inept, on strike, outgunned or simply unpatriotic. It is hard to explain how armed bands can roam the countryside peddling death and destruction with such ease.

This country has, perhaps, the most elaborate security system in this region. The Provincial Administration stretches from the village headman to the minister for Internal Security (and the President) through the sub-chief, chief, DO, DC, PC and permanent secretary.

The Kenya Police Force comprises regular officers, the Criminal Investigation Department, Administration Police, prisons officers, the National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS), and the General Service Unit (GSU).

The Government has taken to making mass transfers and reshuffles of senior security officers in what looks like a knee-jerk reaction to the recent (or is it ongoing?) post-election violence.

That is both a statement of failure of duty by the affected officers as well as policy inadequacy on the part of the Government in dealing with indiscipline, and, or, sabotage from within.

Out-gunned? It has been recorded that the Kenya police are thinly spread (one police officer to 1,150 citizens as opposed to the internationally recommended one police officer to 440 citizens). This is perhaps the closest one can come to explaining runaway insecurity, particularly in rural Kenya.

This is evidence as to how stratified Kenya as a society is. Security priority is directly proportional to the distance from Nairobi. Even within Nairobi, neighbourhoods dictate the geography of security services. It is easier to be killed in Korogocho slums than in Runda.

While still on official security policy, isn’t it strange that we just watched as villagers in the far-flung Mt Elgon organised themselves into a formal force —Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF)? How many other actual or potential “forces” are we dealing with?

WE HAVE IT ON THE AUTHORITY OF respectable sources like the International Crisis Group that various communities now have their own SDLFs. What are we doing about it over and above focusing on elite power-sharing deals? Is disarmament part of the national healing process or we stay put until the next time we start hacking one another and then invite Mr Kofi Annan back?

While arresting, detaining or even executing the foot-soldiers in this game of destruction is crucial to ending the anarchy, dealing with the master-planners is the ultimate answer. It is catching these merchants of death that will enable us to come closest to a lasting solution.

Finally, a blanket amnesty to those who, under the disguise of protesting alleged electoral malpractices killed children and women, is the shortest cut to the jungle law. Criminals must never be feted as heroes of democracy.

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President Kibaki Signs Constitutional Amendment Act into Law

Barely an hour after The Constitutional Amendment Bill No 1 of 2008 was passed by the Kenya Parliament, President Mwai Kibaki signed it into law. The same is expected of the fast tracked National Accord and Reconciliation Act, which was passed by Parliament in record time.

The two bills now formalize the grand coalition agreement between ODM and PNU affiliates.

The debate on the second bill unearthed deep seated emotions and suspicions that the two sides still harbour against each other.

William Ruto seconded the bill with calls for resettlement of IDPs and addressing the reasons why there are IDPs and tribal clashes whenever there is a contest. He reiterated that the bills are a means to an end and not an end in themselves. "We should not gross over these issues of historical injustices, tribalism, marginalization and issues of inequality that bring conflicts among Kenyans. We must close our past and close it appropriately. We must be ready to make hard decisions."

Mwangi Kiunjuri supported the motion saying quoting the bills that the two bills arose after the disputed Dec 07 presidential elections which brought to the fore deep seated emotions among Kenyans. He said that those who will have positions should not celebrate since "we are just out of the ICU and to the High Dependency Unit. You cannot send an ICU patient home to eat ghitheri". He said that MPs should embark immediately on the process of constitutional review and resettlement of IDPs reminding the MPs that the long rains are on the onset and conditions in the IDP camps are bound to deteriorate with the threat of communicable diseases becoming a reality.

He further said that even with a truth, justice and reconciliation commission in South Africa, Winnie Mandela, who fought against apartheid was still taken to court for her atrocities against humanity. The same should apply to leaders who contributed to the loss of lives of Kenyans. He said parliament should set aside funds to elect a monument of shame. Kiunjuri wondered why the bill did not address the incapacitation or bankruptcy of the prime minister and his deputies.

William Ole Ntimama attacks on Saitoti and Francis Muthaura was cut short by the deputy speaker. He had earlier said that the power sharing must be real and the bill was clear that power sharing must be on a 50 50 basis and any attempt to shortchange either partner in the coalition will be too bad. He reinforced Kibaki's call that all Kenyans should be free to live anywhere in the country and added that he should also be at liberty to settle in Meru where his grandparents came from.

Prof Anyang Nyong'o made the attorney general to commit to the interpretation of terms in the Act which usually precedes an Act of Parliament but were missing on the bill. Amos Wako, the AG, confirmed that the drafting committee did not find it necessary to change what had already signed by the principals and other friends of Kenya. He however said he was sure that the two principals were clear as to what they meant when they drafted the agreement.

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Kenya MPs pass Constitutional Amendment and National Accord Bills as Raila becomes PM

After postponing the debate on presidential speech, Kenya MPs spent Tuesday afternoon entrenching Koffi Annan mediated agreement into the constitution. The agreement, in the form of Constitution Amendment of Kenya Bill no. 1 2008 and National Accord Reconciliation Bill, creates the position of prime minister and two deputy prime ministers entrenched in the constitution and pave way for a grand coalition between ODM and PNU. The bill was moved by the minister for justice and constitutional affairs, Martha Karua.

The constitutional amendment bill and an act of parliament which were the only items in the parliamentary order paper for today’s business were fast tracked through the second, committee stage and third reading as was the commitment of MPs to Koffi Annan. The bills will pave way for power sharing between ODM and PNU affiliates. The constitution amendment will lead to the naming of Raila Odinga to be named the Prime Minister and Musalia Mudavadi as one of the deputy prime minister. Martha Karua is expected to occupy the position of deputy prime minister on the PNU side.

The constitutional bill, by the second reading, managed to garner 200 MPs without any nos or abstentions. The bill required a two-third majority of 144 MPs. The agreement was signed by Kibaki and Raila on February 28th after a successful intervention of Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete just when the talks were about to collapse. Since then, Kibaki and Raila have been seen to closely relate together in a bid to show commitment to the unity pact.

Contributing to the bill, President Mwai Kibaki reiterated that the MPs should not loose sight of a changing world. He said that he was confident that the grand coalition arrangement will succeed and asked members to entrench the agreement into the constitution. He also reiterated the need to conclude the constitution review process. Kibaki had earlier in the day presided over the passing over parade at
Kiganjo Police College.

Raila, on his part, said that
Kenya is bigger and greater than all of us as he paid tribute to the international community for the role they played in the mediation process.

Martha Karua and James Orengo called for a bipartisan approach in the house. She further asked the legislators to give priority to the resettlement of internally displaced persons. Kalonzo on his part stated that the country cannot do without enacting the two bills.

Kibaki made history as the first president to contribute to a bill on the floor of the house. President Moi used to vote but never contributed. Kibaki sat with other members on the position usually occupied by leader of government business. He was in the chambers in his capacity as MP for Othaya and he avoided the seat he usually occupies during the state opening of parliament and during the reading of the budget. Raila, the soon to be named Prime minister sat directly opposite him on the seat usually sat by the leader of official opposition. The other MPs mixed and there was no demarcation along party lines.

The committee of the whole house stage which is an informal session took less than five minutes after Martha Karua moved that the committee of the whole house approve the bill without amendments. This led to the third and final reading which did not enlist any comments after which the speaker asked for another division (voting process). The vote for the third reading division had 197 yes, 0 nos and 0 abstentions. The bill now awaits presidential assent which is expected to be fast tracked as well. According to Amos Wako, the Attorney General, the bills have already been published by the Government Printers and will be signed by the president as soon as the MPs pass the second bill today.

National Accord and Reconciliation Bill 2008 was later moved by the Attorney General Amos Wako for the second reading. This was after the leader of government business and vice president Kalonzo Musyoka moved a motion to extend parliamentary proceedings beyond the mandated
6.30 pm until the house concludes its business for the day.

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Mutahi Ngunyi: Amend the National Accord and Reconciliation Bill today!

THIS IS A LETTER TO MPs. AS you begin debating the two ‘‘peace’’ Bills tomorrow, consider some thoughts.

For starters, the important thing in the peace deal is not the letter of the agreement; it is the spirit. Which is why you should not dismiss the ‘‘Muthaura project’’ and the leaflet circulated in Parliament on Wednesday last week.

In the spirit of the ‘‘peace deal’’, you must remember that this was never a struggle between a right and a wrong. It was a struggle between two rights. The ‘‘Muthaura forces’’ are right, although they are sheepish about their claims.

Similarly, and fundamentally too, ODM is right! And this is why you must not be rushed. In fact, you have no choice but to amend the National Accord and Reconciliation Bill. Reasons?

First I want to address ODM legislators. Good people, you are being cheated. My hunch is that PNU will support the Accord, and botch the amendment entrenching it in the Constitution. Not because the ‘‘Muthaura forces’’ are sneaky, but because the Accord is untenable in its present formulation.

If you pass the Accord before the constitutional amendment, nothing could stop the President appointing the grand coalition Cabinet the following day. And the country would break into a party.

IN THIS MOOD OF BLIND CELEBRAtion, the Constitutional Amendment Bill would be put to the vote. At this point, the ‘‘Muthaura forces’’ would ensure it does not garner the two-thirds majority.

In fact, instead of the 148 MPs required to pass a constitutional amendment, they would raise something like 145 MPs. The other MPs will either be absent or will abstain from voting. And with this, PNU will have won. They will have created the position of Prime Minister through an Act of Parliament as opposed to a constitutional amendment.

Would you blame President Kibaki for this? The answer is a resounding No! This would be blamed on the renegade MPs from PNU.

In the meantime, you would be in government with Mr Raila Odinga as Prime Minister. Would you abandon your positions and return the country to violence because the power deal was not constitutionalised? Maybe not. But if you accept the deal through an Act of Parliament, you would be cooked! Let me explain why.

If you accept the deal using the Act, PNU can decide to withdraw from the coalition at some point. This would annul the Act, disband the position of prime minister, and send all your ministers packing.

But can PNU do this? Definitely. If the country returns to normalcy and the bandit forces in the Rift Valley and Mt Elgon are neutralised, PNU can gamble on this. More so if the coalition government is problematic. And this is why you must accept nothing short of a constitutional amendment. In fact, you must insist on amending the Constitution first and enacting the National Accord and Reconciliation Bill later. Otherwise, you will be at the mercy of PNU.

Now I want to flip the argument and argue that a constitutional amendment is fatal for PNU legislators.

First, I must disagree with you regarding the creation of two centres of power. I submit that you will be the biggest beneficiaries of the position of prime minister in future. When Mr Odinga is president with 50 per cent executive powers, Ms Karua can be premier enjoying 50 per cent powers. And when Ms Karua is president, Mr William Ruto can be premier.

At any given moment, you can either occupy the position of president or prime minister with 50 per cent powers. Why would you fight such an arrangement unless you are myopic?

Second, if you plan to sabotage the Constitutional Amendment Bill, you would have a point. PNU has the numbers, but can never control Parliament. This is why, with 4.5 million votes, Mr Kibaki could only manage 45 MPs, plus some 20 or so from the fringe parties.

With 4.3 million votes, ODM had over 90 straight MPs. What does this tell us? If the prime minister is to be chosen by Parliament, PNU would stand no chance in future. This is so because some of our constituencies have as many as 100,000 voters, while others have as few as 4,000. Yet the two extremes produce one MP. And if it takes more voters to elect a PNU MP, than an ODM MP, ODM would occupy the PM position forever.

In other words, you must not rush the constitutional amendments. If you entrench this position in the Constitution, you must also go for proportionate representation in which your number of MPs is increased to match your population size. The two must be mutually exclusive and constitutionalised. Short of this, you could lose both the presidency and the premier position to ODM in future.

NOW, IF A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDment is bad for PNU and the National Accord and Reconciliation Act is bad for ODM, what must you do?

This takes me back to my original submission: you have to amend the Accord. You have to introduce Section 9 to the Act or amend Sections 6 or 8. The amendment should state clearly that, in the event one coalition member pulls out and the Act is annulled, we should go for fresh elections.

This would secure ODM’s 50 per cent power-sharing deal and provide PNU enough time to think through the constitutional implications of a PM position.

Otherwise if the Accord is passed and the constitutional amendment fails, ODM will be the loser. And if both the Accord and the Constitutional Amendments are passed, PNU will lose big. What do you think?

Mr Ngunyi is a political scientist with The Consulting House, a policy and security innovation think-tank working in the Great Lakes Region and West Africa.


Macharia Gaitho: The new unity government should not be about leaders

LOOKS LIKE THINGS WILL BE moving at a frenetic pace. The two keys Bills supposed to open the way to the realisation of the peace accord could be debated in Parliament today.

If everything is as hunky dory as it appears, the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill and the National Accord and Reconciliation Bill will be passed in record time by popular acclamation.

This will clear the way for establishment of the so-called Grand Coalition Government with ODM leader Raila Odinga as Prime Minister.

Speculation is already rife that things could move at supersonic speed resulting in President Kibaki announcing the new government as early as tomorrow.

Whether it happens this week or the next, events have indeed proceeded at a pace that was surely unimaginable just few weeks when it appeared almost certain that the talks brokered by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan where on the verge of collapse.

Instead of the total meltdown we all feared at the time, Kenya is instead on the verge of a great new beginning, but a lot more will have to be done than merely assembling a national unity government or whatever it may be called.

The kind of government we are expecting is coming into place expressly as a device to pull Kenya from the brink of anarchy after the violence suffered in the wake of the disputed elections.

The violence may have been triggered by the elections, but the roots lay in long-standing issues and grievances that successive administrations — Kenyatta, Moi, Kibaki — had preferred to sweep under the carpet.

Those are the issues that the unity government is supposed to address, and they are far more important than merely providing space for the political elite agreeing to close ranks and “eat together”.

There is the danger than once every party has its quota of Cabinet ministers and senior civil servants and every major leader his allocation of bodyguards and escort vehicles, the issues that really matter could be again conveniently forgotten – until the next explosion.

It is, in fact ,quite distressing that so many so-called leaders are up to the present more preoccupied with canvassing for rank and position than in pushing for the issues that need to be tackled.

And the rest of us are fascinated as to who has what powers in the new pecking order and who gets what slot. We are putting more emphasis on the scramble by individual politicians for power, perks and privileges, and in the process taking our eyes off the graver issues we should really be focusing on.

EVEN AS WE EAGERLY AWAIT THE new power structure we must put the focus back where it belongs.

Politicians, by nature and almost without exception, are a greedy, selfish and shortsighted breed. Thus it becomes doubly important that we force our leaders to address the issues that are much more critical to the future of this nation than their own individual ego and ambition.

The successful mediation by Mr Annan and his departure was not the end, but the beginning of what will be a difficult and lengthy process of crafting a new constitutional order and resolving the issues of land rights, justice, equitable development, fair sharing of resources and a criminal gap between rich and poor.

Those are the ticking time-bombs that must be defused if Kenya is not to forever threatened with implosion.

Peace, it must be emphasised, is not merely the absence of war. And let us not forget that Kenya is not yet at peace. At best, there is a ceasefire in place and the mandate of the unity government is to continue the engagement that will bring about a permanent cessation of hostilities.

Unless our leaders tackle this aspect with due speed and diligence, there is every danger that renewed violence could be in the offing.

In the first instance, the formation of the unity government must not in any way be hampered by hardliners, obstructionists and other unpatriotic elements who may place their individual interests above the national good.

Secondly, the unity government, once in place, must move with speed to national healing and reconciliation, a process that will only be successful if the underlying issues are resolved without delay.

It is important here that all recognise that the unity government is not about leaders hitherto at odds putting aside their differences so that they can wine and dine together at our expense.

Nor is it about any side surrendering some of the power it thinks it won at the ballot box; nor about the other side winning some of the power it thinks it lost unfairly at the same polls.

It is simply about a win-win situation, not for the leaders, but for Kenya. And the issues to be tackled are not about the leaders, but about the people of Kenya who deserve peace, security, human rights and the opportunities to prosper and realise their goals and ambitions irrespective of clan, tribe, race, sex or religion.

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Traffic chaos: Rethink public transport issue

The public transport crisis in parts of Nairobi following the new directive barring matatus from entering the city centre may not end soon unless the Government thinks of a more creative way of handling the situation.

Monday, the matatu operators resorted playing hard ball, blocking Jogoo Road, one of the city’s busiest, to demonstrate their anger over the directive.

And although police were able to disperse the protesters, even tow away their vehicles with which they had blocked the road, the fact remains that the directive was poorly thought-out.

For the past week, Jogoo road has turned into a motorists’ nightmare. The snarl-up arising from diverting matatus to the new Muthurwa terminus, away from city centre has caused deep frustration.

While we acknowledge the noble motive behind the plan, namely, to decongest the city, we are appalled at the level of unpreparedness that the city authorities, the police and the central government displayed.

Clearly, there was no proper plan to accommodate the passenger vehicles and ensure their quick turn-around to their routes.

Worse, commuters have been pushed to the edge. They are dropped off too far from their workplaces, overcharged for the short but tormenting journeys, or forced to walk long distances to the city centre.

In developed cities of the world, efficient public transport is a guaranteed service. Fast and reliable road and rail transport are common. This is what is missing in our part of the world, which is why matatus have become indispensable.

The city authorities have to make a choice between two evils – decongestion of the city centre or paralysis of road transport, and loss in productivity.

Local Government minister Uhuru Kenyatta and City Hall must go back to the drawing board. First they must rescind the ban temporarily as they seek alternative ways of addressing the congestion in the city. Second, and most important, they should devise a comprehensive urban transport system.

The directive by Mr Kenyatta was motivated by the noblest of intentions – decongesting the city centre – but its implementation was not only ill-timed but extremely punitive.

Mass transit system

Since Thursday last week, commuters and matatu operators alike had been expressing disquiet with the new rule that they regarded as obstructive and without merit – one of the rarest instances that the operators and their long-suffering customers had spoken in one voice.

There are just a few questions that require answers. For how long can this crisis be allowed to fester untreated?

There has never been any shortage of suggestions, even expert studies, indicating what the central Government and the City Hall should do.

The most responsible, and cost-effective so far, has been to seek ways of introducing an intra-city mass transit service in which a fleet of shuttle buses plies the city from specific places in the suburbs dropping commuters in stages set aside for that purpose.

This will allow those who do not want to drive into the city to leave private vehicles at well-secured parking lots, then they board the shuttle buses to and from the city.

And to discourage private motorists driving into the city, a prohibitive toll is imposed so that only the very rich can drive up in style every morning.

What is so difficult about the City Council seeking funds to purchase this fleet of shuttle buses, charging a minimal fare, and making a tidy profit into the bargain while de-clogging the city?

Not only will this short-term measure do the job that City Hall is trying to do, it will also give the Government time to plan and execute grand schemes like an elaborate subway or tramway service.

Kenyans are suffering for no good reason. They want their city decongested, but not at the expense of their jobs and businesses.

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America Secret Hand in New Cabinet List

Even as President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister-designate Raila Amolo Odinga mull over the structure of the eagerly awaited grand coalition government, it is apparent that deciding on who to include in the cabinet is a Herculean task given the foreign interests factor that has taken center stage.

The cabinet, which we have learnt should have been in place by now, is providing a hard challenge as the two principals try to juggle, balance and accommodate strong foreign interests mainly from the United States and the EU on one hand and China and a few Asian countries commonly referred to as Asian Tigers on the other.

Right now, there are a lot of backstage dealings by mainly the US and its main challenger ton the world super power position – China – to have friendly politicians appointed to certain key ministries.

While in principle all ministries are equal, it is no longer debatable that some ministries are more equal than others as they carry more clout. Appointment to such ministries transforms the occupier into an instant senior politician. Among the important ministries include Finance, Internal Security, Roads and Public Works, Education, Health, Agriculture, Trade and Industry, and Defence. Others are Energy, Foreign Affairs, Tourism, Transport and Lands.

The two foreign giants have both had long trade and political relationships with Kenya. And with a radically changed political scenario, they are burning the midnight oil to ensure that they have friends in key ministries if they have to perpetuate or open new trade and business opportunities with East Africa’s biggest economy, which also has a big influence on the economics of other countries in the region.

It should be stated that from the onset that the US and Britain have since independence been Kenya’s key trade partners with equal political influence. However, this status was threatened soon after Kibaki assumed power and started warming up to the fast-rising Chinese, who in the meantime had managed to build an economy to rival US’s and suddenly shown a massive interest in Africa. China, with a population of over 1.4 billion people invested some US$ 9 billion in Africa last year alone.

More importantly, unlike the US and members of the EU who insisted on good governance, democracy and respect for human rights as a prerequisite for foreign assistance, China seemed quite happy to do business with anyone, democratic or human rights credentials not withstanding. The country insists on sovereignity of other nations.

As the Kibaki government came under increasing scrutiny particularly after the Anglo Leasing scandal, the US and Britain began to give it a wide berth, with the then British envoy, Sir Edward Clay, dramatically accusing individuals in the administration of overeating and vomiting on the shoes of their benefactors, the president turned to China as an alternative means of support.

Traditionally, Kenya had obtained its security equipment mainly from the West but the Kibaki administration started looking elsewhere. The British were also not amused when the government, which had for a long time preferred the British-made Land Rovers for use by government officials, and particularly security officers, began to buy Japanese autos. To make matters worse, senior government officials, who for many years exclusively drove the German-made Mercedes Benz, began to use Japanese 4x4s as well.

The tourism sector was not left out. With the number of visitors from Britain and the US falling as a result of travel advisories, Kenya began to look to the East. Suddenly there was an avalanche of Chinese visitors. National carrier, Kenya Airways, extended its routes to several Chinese cities and offered discounts on such routes. However, it did not take long for players in the tourism sector to notice that the Chinese were not good spenders and tour operators turned focus again to traditional markets. A local newspaper once cheekily reported that even the commercial sex workers who benefit form tourism were complaining about the poor pay for services offered to Chinese tourists!

In trade, the Western countries were alarmed, when cheap (mostly counterfeit) goods, particularly electronics and clothes from China began to flood the Kenyan market, replacing formerly strong British and Japanese brands.

It was against this background that the US and Britain began to support the then opposition ODM in their bid to oust increasingly anti-western Kibaki government. Prior to the 2007 campaigns, opposition leaders made many trips to Washington and London, mainly to raise funds. Unconfirmed reports have it that several US and UK businesses provided financial backing to the ODM campaign as several Chinese ones did the same for the PNU. They all hoped to be paid back in form of business opportunities once their benefactors won the election.

The political settlement arrived at after the Koffi Annan mediation has provided both sides with opportunities to angle and haggle for their pound of flesh.

We have learnt that the US and the UK are keen to have several important cabinet positions go to ODM ministers and they are stopping at nothing to ensure this is done. Likewise the Chinese, who have strong friends in the PNU ranks, are stopping at nothing to ensure that their friends retain the important dockets they hold in government.

The struggle is so intense with a source informing us that the Chinese are resorting to unorthodox tricks. Needless to say, the Chinese care little for image. Back home China is anything but a democracy. Self-determination by groups such as the Tibetians has been frustrated and as we went to the press there were international demonstrations by Tibetians calling for independence and democracy. Corruption thrives in Beijing and one out of three Chinese products is likely to be a counterfeit.

We have established that it is in this light that the US is insisting that the Finance docket goes to ODM. This is perhaps the most important ministry which handles all the government’s money. The minister is the custodian of all government financial resources. It is the ministry that decides how resources are allocated and also how to raise such resources, including through the sale of state companies such as Safaricom.

The occupant of the office is such a key figure and it is not difficult to see why the foreign interests want a friendly politician in the position. There are a few names the US is floating for the ministry. They include pentagon member Musalia Mudavadi who would also be Deputy Prime Minister, Chris Obure and Chris Okemo. These three have served in this ministry before and successfully presented budget estimates.

But even as the Western powers want an ODM man in the post, the Chinese are backing the incumbent Amos Kimunya who ahs served their interests very well since he was appointed. It will be interesting to see who carries the day.

Similarly, the US and their EU allies want a friend in the Internal Security docket. The interests here are both security and business. They want a politician who will be tough as far as the fight against terrorism is concerned and at the same time influence the award of security tenders to western companies.

A source intimated to us that the US will be stopping at nothing to ensure and ODM politician occupies this position. The argument is ODM, which ahs a massive Muslim backing, is in a better position to neutralize Muslim hardliners which will make it difficult for terrorists either to recruit or operate among the Muslim population. The names of Henry Kosgey and Joe Nyagah are being mentioned as possible occupants of the position currently held by the mathematics professor George Saitoti.

The Chinese have displayed little interest in this position because apart from wishing to have adequate security for their interests in Kenya, they do not have a lot of interests in the internal security equipment industry.

But they have displayed interest in the Defence ministry because they want to deal in military hardware. The Chinese are doing good business supplying arms such as to war-torn eastern Sudan, never mind the international criticism that Khartoum is using arms, jets and tanks supplied by Beijing to commit atrocities in Darfur.

But the US wants a friend here as well and the name of former army Major-General Joseph Nkaissery is being floated.

The Chinese have also shown strong interest in the Trade and Industry ministry. China is today known as the workshop of the world that produces a wide range of products from electronics to textiles and even household goods.

Since Kibaki came to power, the local market has been flooded with Chinese products. While they are cheap, they do not last long; acquiring the name “use-and-throw-away”.

The number of Chinese businessmen and traders has been increasing each passing day. In Nairobi, the Chinese invasion is such that many retail outfits are run by Chinese. The Chinese are not eager to relinquish this privilege and thus the push to have a friendly minister in that position.

But the US and allies are also interested in this. They are keen to stop Chinese products from replacing theirs on the shop shelves. They want a friendly politician who will be tough on dumping and counterfeits – from China of course.

The other ministry that is creating cold war between the West and China is the Roads and Public Works. Lately China has been providing assistance in the construction of infrastructure. But this is not for free since the money end up in the pockets of Chinese construction companies. Although award of tenders theoretically is as a result of competitive bidding, the reality is that the political leader of the ministry has a lot of influence.

While the US is fighting to have an ODM minister in the position, the Chinese are rooting for John Michuki, the current occupant. Early this year as the country burned, Michuki visited China and Malaysia for unexplained reasons. When he reported back, he was taken ill and admitted to hospital. Later it emerged he had suffered food poisoning.

The West will like to see many US and European companies involved in roads construction. Additionally, they would not mind the ministry to continue to procure road construction equipment from them.

The other hotly contested ministry is Health. This ministry consumes a substantial amount of the country’s resources particularly with the challenges of HIV/AIDS and Malaria. There is also expensive medical equipment to procure.

US and UK pharmaceuticals have traditionally dominated the supply of drugs to Kenya although other players from India have come in with generics and the Chinese with mainly herbal-based drugs.

The US is not about to relinquish its dominant position in the supply of medicine especially the anti-retroviral drugs. They are also not keen to let go of their position in the supply of medical equipment. A friendly minister at Afya House would help facilitate this. They are campaigning for the reappointment of former minister Charity Ngilu.

Equally competitive is the ministry of Foreign Affairs. Although not significant in terms of business, it is strategic as it informs the government’s foreign policy which ahs a bearing on trade and business,

The West remains outraged that the Kibaki government has warmed up to the East, which for many years and particularly during the cold war was shunned by both Kenyatta and the Moi Governments.

About two years ago, the Chinese president Hu Jintao visited Kenya and President Mwai Kibaki has made several trips to Beijing. The US and UK are unhappy with this paradigm shift and keen to revert to the earlier status. A friendly minister at the ministry will not be a bad idea. Such a minister will also be useful in the lobbying by the powerful nations for support on serious international subjects such as war in terrorism, Iran, Iraq and Sudan question among others.

The other ministry that has attracted foreign interest is the Energy Ministry in charge of electricity and oil. Before other players came in, the British and American companies dominated trade in oil and oil products in Kenya. Lately, the Libyans have joined the fray. The Chinese and their allies are also keen to be part of this business and thus the push for a friend in the ministry.

More importantly, Kenya could still strike oil in the future. There is intense competition by foreign companies for a go at oil exploration. Both Western and Chinese companies want a piece of the action and it will depend very much on who will be at the Energy headquarters at Nyayo House to determine who will get the biggest piece.

It should be noted that since independence, foreign forces have used certain ministers in government to push their agenda. Right at independence, Tom Mboya, was used to lobby for US interests while Odinga Oginga did the spadework for the then USSR.

Others like Bruce Mackenzie were known agents of the British. In later years, Robert Ouko became the darling of the West, an enviable position coveted by the likes of Nicholas Biwott. While circumstances have changed, interests have remained the same and jostling among foreign powers to have friends high up in government remains the order of the day.

It remains to be seen who will eventually carry the day as this new cold war between USA and communist capitalist-driven China battle for markets and sources of raw materials.

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David Mwenje, former Embakasi MP dies

He first represented Embakasi from 1988 to 1991 when he lost the seat at the advent of multi-partyism to Ford Asili's Henry Ruhiu. During that tenure he is remembered for the role he played in the downfall of the fifth vice President, the late Dr Josephat Njuguna Karanja in 1989. Dr Karanja was then a Member of Parliament for Mathare Constituency (today Kasarani Constituency). Mwenje moved a successful vote of no confidence that led to the resignation of Dr. Karanja, who had replaced Mwai Kibaki as the country's vice president in 1988. Dr Karanja died in 1994. Mwenje served as an assistant minister for supplies and marketing during that time.

Mwenje later recaptured the seat in the 1997 on a DP ticket and successfully retained it in 2002 on Narc ticket. He briefly served as an assistant minister for cooperatives after the 2005 referendum. He was unsuccessful in retaining his seat in the controversial Dec 2007 elections and came fourth after Melitus Were and former city fathers John Ndirangu and Ferdinand Waititu. Mwenje, of the Jeshi la Mzee fame, will be remembered for his abrasive and violent brand of Nairobi politics only rivaled by Westlands MP, Fred Gumo.

Mwenje was hospitalized at the Aga Khan Hospital on January 12th where his condition deteriorated. He went to a coma and was transferred to the hospital's ICU unit where he was for 22 days until his death. His death comes barely a month after the death of his successor Melitus Mugabe Were. The Embakasi parliamentary seat is currently vacant. The murder of Mugabe Were is still unresolved.

In the oncoming by-elections the two remaining losers of the December elections, John Ndirangu, a former Nairobi Mayor and Ferdinand Waititu, a former Nairobi Deputy Mayor are expected to battle it out with Esther Passaris. Esther Passaris has the blessings of ODM top echelon. She failed to get the intended Nairobi mayoral seat after her nominated name was mischievously struck out by local government minister Uhuru Kenyatta at the time of gazzeting nominated councillors. Another possible ODM contender for the seat is former Makadara MP, Reuben Ndolo. Reuben is currently having a court petition case against Dick Wathika, the current MP for Makadara.

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Robert Shaw: Despite the euphoria, Kenya is not out of the woods yet

THERE IS MUCH JUBILATION and exuberance in the air and a real hope that life for most Kenyans can return to some semblance of normality. Certainly, there is a more positive feeling and for good reasons.

But there is an erroneous expectation by many that things will not only continue to get back to normal, but that we can pick up from where we were so rudely interrupted.

For example, the shilling strengthens, the Nairobi Stock Exchange picks up, and commentators start talking of rapid economic recovery. A cruise ship docks and we celebrate the return of tourists.

I do not want to appear to be a spoilsport, but it is not as simple as that. It is vital that we inject a large dose of reality into our hopes and expectations. We don’t want to raise false hopes that get dashed once the hard work begins.

We need to do this so that we can map out and implement a comprehensive action plan that will restore this country and its economic growth.

WE ALSO NEED THIS SO THAT WE can remedy and rectify some of the glaring distortions and inequities that bedevil the nation.

This is going to require an enormous residue of goodwill and hard work by all, the Executive and Parliament in particular. Let us put it another way. There is little room for the luxury of divisive politics.

It is useful to put on the table some of the impediments and challenges that confront us. Much damage has been done in many different areas and repairing it will take time. The economic momentum that we gained particularly in the past couple of years has been punctured.

It can be restored but not instantly. Even then, to do so will require much dedication and hard work.

Investor confidence is greater than a week ago, but still far from what it was three months ago. At best, all we can hope for is a steady return of it if stability and opportunity persist.

The region, of which we are a hub to, has been seriously disrupted. Confidence in Kenya as a reliable regional gateway has been severely dented.

We have a lot to make up if we want to persuade these countries not to find medium- and long-term alternatives. We must not assume we are doing them a favour. This is huge business for Kenya and hence a major pillar of our economy.

Then, there are the factors, not of our own making: rocketing fuel and food prices and costs of transport, and a drought that will worsen the plight of many already marginalised Kenyans.

We need to remember that there are also areas of the economy that are sick and need serious surgery. One such example is sugar. Kenya is one of the most expensive and inefficient sugar producers in the world.

At the same time, this sub-sector is facing increasing competition as the Comesa safeguards are relaxed.

The need to change is urgent and vital and for both social as well as economic and commercial reasons. Failure to do so plunges hundreds of thousands of Kenyans and their dependants into a downward spiral of poverty.

The point is that once the modalities of the coalition and its power-sharing are sorted out, the gargantuan task of running and reforming this country must kick in very fast indeed.

It will be as much a question of how effectively and efficiently it can be implemented, as well as what must be done.

Never before in the history of Kenya has the political class been put firmly into a position where it is expected to work hard and deliver.

KENYANS WILL BE WATCHING carefully over the next few weeks, and not just to see who gets what in the political equation.

They will be expecting the many appointments and replacements to be made based on merit rather than reward so that our institutions function much better and more professionally.

At the same time, the onus of running this country is not only weighty, but has got much more burdensome as a result of the trauma of the last couple of months.

Indeed, running this country successfully at this crucial juncture is one of the most awesome and unenviable challenges thinkable.

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Macharia Gaitho: Is this about 'jobs for the boys' or national healing?

I AM AFRAID THOSE FEARS expressed in this column a month ago – more than two weeks before that climactic moment when President Kibaki and Mr Raila Odinga signed their agreement on the steps of Harambee House – are being borne out.

My point then was that discussion on a new governance structure should not be about sharing power – it should not be about sharing the spoils, ‘‘jobs for the boys’’, or ‘‘eating together’’; it should be about sharing responsibility.

There is a world of difference between sharing power and sharing responsibility. The former is all about a small clique agreeing to share the spoils by eating together.

The latter is about each side in the political divide accepting responsibility for the post-election quake that shook Kenya, and taking up jointly the responsibility of ensuring that this country never goes down that path again.

We have already agreed to create the position of prime minister to be taken by the party commanding a majority in Parliament, in reality a position for Mr Odinga. We have also agreed on two deputy prime ministers, one from each side.

But now we are hearing all this talk about expansion of the Cabinet to grotesque proportions just so that there can be a slot for every man and his dog.

We are hearing about ODM demanding, not just its equitable share of ministerial flags and dockets, but also the opportunity to appoint its own permanent secretaries, provincial commissioners, district commissioners, State corporation bosses and all kinds of other officials in the public service.

President Kibaki and Premier-Designate Raila Odinga must come together and call a halt to all this nonsense.

If this is to be a Government mandated specifically to drive reform, then it must itself be a reformist administration in word and deed. One of the prerequisites must be a lean and effective Cabinet and a strictly apolitical public service.

There is nothing that nearly 40 ministers and twice that number of assistant ministers can do that a much smaller Cabinet cannot do.

A maximum of 18 Cabinet positions and two assistant ministers in each ministry should more than suffice.

And we certainly don’t need a public service led by fellows whose only qualifications are that they are relatives, cronies, friends and political flunkies of the so-called principals.

If President Kibaki and Mr Odinga are really leaders who care more about fixing this country than they care about eating together, then they must firmly lay down the law on this.

The dangers of an arrangement based solely on sharing power and the perks of high office underlines why there is still need for an effective opposition to keep a watch on things.

THERE HAVE BEEN SUGGESTIONS that the media and civil society play the role of the opposition, but there must also be a group in Parliament playing its role.

Backbenchers could play a critical role if they all recognise that their job is to keep the Government on its toes and not to be mere cheerleaders.

But in a situation where everyone is angling for some appointment, it might be more worthwhile if there was an organised opposition in Parliament.

And this is where the minor parties come in. Party of Independent Candidates (PICK) MP for Kilome, John Harun Mwau, has already staked his claim to be Leader of the Official Opposition.

But he diluted his pitch by making it at the same time he was attending a government Parliamentary Group meeting.

If he is serious, he should be busy organising all the MPs not drawn from either of the two major coalition partners in an attempt to assemble a strong parliamentary opposition.

The big two parties, now in coalition, and their main affiliates, account for some 170 elected MPs. That is a commanding majority, especially when their 12 nominated MPs are added to the list.

But there are a host of small parties with between one and five MPs each which, together, provide 35 Members.

Most of them are already allied to one or the other of the bigger players, but individually, they lack the clout to force themselves into the inner sanctums and thus are unlikely to win any major Cabinet positions or to win their jobless clansmen judicial postings or as chief executives of plum parastatals.

That is why they should come out and make their presence felt as a distinct force in Parliament, acting as the people’s watchdog rather than mere lapdogs for the amusement of those wielding power in the Kibaki-Raila power arrangement.

Safina, Narc, Narc Kenya, Kanu, Ford People, DP, New Ford Kenya, Sisi kwa Sisi, PICK, KENDA, KADDU, Chama cha Uzalendo and others have the numbers to make an impact as the opposition voice in Parliament.

Between them, they have not just the numbers, but also the forceful, robust, intelligent and maybe fearless and independent MPs that can help ensure the coalition Government remembers it has not been given the mandate to take Kenya back to a one-party state.

Some of them may not be your favourites, but the likes of Harun Mwau, Kabando wa Kabando, Richard Onyonka, Cyrus Jirongo, Gitobu Imanyara, Wavinya Ndeti and others could play far more important roles in the 10th Parliament than merely angling for appointment to Government.

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Kenya Head of Public Service on Kibaki/Raila Deal

What is the head of public service and secretary to the cabinet, ambassador Francis Muthaura up to. Today he has issued a statement highlighting the following, in an attempt to clear up the gray areas of the deal between Raila of ODM and Kibaki of PNU.

The vice president, currently Hon Kalonzo Musyoka, will still remain the Leader of Government Business in Parliament. Raila had indicated in a KTN interview with Peter Opondo last week on Thursday that he does not expect this role as he will be busy as a Prime Minister to attend Parliament regularly.

The President will chair cabinet meetings. That implies that he will be the Head of Government. Raila has in the past talked of consulting the president as he discharges his duties of 'supervising and coordinating' the ministries.

Civil servants will not be affected by the 50-50 deal expected to be implemented at the cabinet level. ODM had been said to be expecting a reconstitution of prime positions in the civil service to reflect the agreement. This reiterates Martha Karua's sentiments on Sunday that the deal did not include civil service positions. Karua is intimated to be one of the aspiring DPM's something that will put focus on Kibaki's tribalism accusation since Martha Karua is from the expansive Kikuyu community if she is appointed to this position. She has in the past indicated that she will be vying for the presidency in 2012.

The Prime Minister and the two Deputy Prime Ministers will also have ministerial portfolios. For example Raila will be the prime minister and minister for internal security in the office of the president. The downside is that this reduces the ministries to be shared out to ODM and PNU cronies by three, four if the vice president will also have a ministerial portfolio.

Interestingly, the fate of Muthaura's position still hangs in the balance as most of his duties will be taken up by the prime minister.


Start of the 2nd Session of 10th Parliament

The second session of the 10th Parliament reopened today. The major business of today's session was the speech by the Member of Parliament for Othaya, Mwai Kibaki, who is also the third President of Kenya.

Key highlight of his speech was his call for MPs to all support and pass the four bills drafted following mediation talks by Koffi Annan.

These are:

  1. National Accord & Reconciliation Bill
  2. Constitution Ammendment Bill
  3. Truth Justice & Reconciliation Bill
  4. Ethnic Commission Bill
There was a light moment when the President struggled to pronounce the word "ethnicity" to which there was foot thumping and laughter from the MPs.

As per the parliamentary tradition, several MPs had a hard time listening to the president's speech and easily dozed the afternoon away. Among them was Dagoretti MP, Beth Mugo and Prime Minister designate and MP for Lang'ata, Raila Odinga.

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