Did Raila Plot the Crisis - By Star Reporter

DID Prime Minister Raila Odinga and some of his ODM colleagues start plotting long to paralyse the government?

Or did the overturned suspension of Agriculture minister William Ruto and Education minister Sam Ongeri last Sunday unexpectedly precipitate a crisis in the coalition?

Raila wrote the African Union on February 8 requesting the return of Chief Mediator Kofi Annan to Kenya because the failure to tackle corruption could lead to "a complete paralysis in government". That was a full six days before the fateful suspension.

But three months ago, when Annan was in Kenya in November, the PM verbally complained that President Kibaki had refused his request to reshuffle ministers.

"Dr Annan confirmed that he had raised the issue with President Kibaki who promised to have the changes made early in January," said a source in Raila's office, Raila reportedly wanted a mini reshuffle with Ruto demoted to a junior ministry and Sports minister Hellen Sambili sacked.

Yesterday Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo, a close confidant of Raila's insisted that Kibaki had refused Raila's request to reshuffle the Cabinet.

Agriculture minister Ruto issued a statement yesterday saying there was no crisis in government "except that which had been orchestrated by a few individuals which exists in their scheme".

"These leaders should not be allowed to create despair in the country through orchestrated disputes, fermented paralysis or engineered confusion and Kenyans should treat their schemes with the contempt it deserves," said Ruto.

He said the escalation of hostilities was linked to ODM's changed position on the Naivasha draft and "the crisis has been orchestrated to derail efforts to have a new constitution".

The PNU supporters are claiming that Raila plotted long ago to cause a crisis within the Cabinet to shift attention from the maize scandal to power sharing and the National Accord.

Last night ODM secretary general Anyang Nyong'o dismissed claims by PNU that the crisis was manufactured.

"PNU is crazy and illogical. They argue with their bellies and not their heads," said Nyong'o.

The ODM chief whip Jakoyo Midiwo also denied that Raila planned the crisis and instead accused the PNU side of disrespect.

"To say that we planned the crisis is utter rubbish," said Midiwo.

To prove its conspiracy theory, PNU has questioned why Raila wrote to the AU on February 8 predicting a breakdown in government well before he purported to suspend Ruto and Ongeri last Sunday.

"There exists a serious dispute between the parties with regard to the functioning of the cabinet. The parties are unable to agree on how to tackle cases of corruption affecting the government as a whole and some ministers. There may soon be a complete paralysis of the government," Raila wrote in his letter.

After upsetting the Kenyan political cart, Raila flew out to Japan on Sunday evening.

On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi announced that the PM was officially declaring there was a crisis in the Cabinet and that the ODM wanted Annan back for mediation.

When asked by reporters if ODM had officially written to the AU, Musalia did not mention Raila's letter but said the party was in the process of writing a formal letter to AU.

The PNU operatives claim that Raila elaborately stage-managed the whole scenario.

They claimed that Raila was next in the firing line as he chaired the Cabinet Ad Hoc committee that handled the importation and distribution of subsidised maize in 2008 when Kenya was suffering a serious food deficit.

"The grandstanding and fomenting of a crisis is a well organised plan that started three weeks ago. Indeed, we are aware that Kofi Annan was invited to come to Kenya to settle a dispute, way before there was any dispute," said Kibaki's adviser on constitution and coalition affairs Prof Kivutha Kibwana.

However the conspiracy theory is undermined by the fact that Raila first publicly recommended on February 5 that Ongeri and his PS Karega Mutahi step down in the presence of President Kibaki at KIA. That was three days before he wrote to the AU.

And the idea that Raila wanted a crisis is further undermined by his statement on February 12 when he chaired a National Economic Social Council meeting in Naivasha whose participants included Mudavadi, Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura, and business people from the private sector.

He told them to forget about politics and build Kenya's economy.

"He was very categorical that the government needed to work together to realize Vision 2030. The two health ministers Anyang Nyong'o and Beth Mugo made presentations and were even calling each other by their first names. There was no indication whatsoever that ODM and PNU had issues," said a senior government official who attended the Naivasha meeting.

That was the day before his PS Isahakia and Secretary Caroli Omondi resigned, prompting President Kibaki to formally suspend them along with three other PSs and top NCPB officials.

At that stage, it looked like the two principals had finally come together to fight corruption.

On Sunday February 14, the day after, Raila announced he was suspending Ongeri and Ruto. Kibaki overturned that order and it then looked like the two principals had finally split on corruption.

But the PNU still insists that it is all a plot by Raila.

"Instead of the country focusing on the maize scandal and other pressing national issues, the Prime Minister's advisers want to take the country back to an interpretation of the National Accord," he said. "Kenyans should not accept to be derailed from the ongoing constitutional review, which is the most important agenda now."

"What is the Prime Minister's office really up to? What are they really covering up?" asked Kibwana.

PNU coalition spokesman Moses Kuria claimed his party has "credible information that the Prime Minister is planning to quit the coalition government immediately he returns from his overseas trip."

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