Wycliffe Muga: Kibaki, Raila will gain from clash - The Star

It is fairly obvious that Prime Minister Raila Odinga has a very keen focus on the 2012 General Election, which he hopes will at last see him ascend to the top of the political totem pole.

This compels him to constantly seek to ally himself with issues which the general public feels strongly about, and to act with long-term advantages in mind, rather than any immediate difficulties that he might face.

On the other hand President Kibaki has no such reelection campaigns on his agenda. He need not worry whether he is personally popular or not.

Indeed he has revealed a rare mastery of passive resistance: he just sits there and ignores all the noise. As a man who does not have to worry about reelection, why should he care if dropping two ministers will make him popular with the public? What has he to gain from taking such difficult decisions now?

Given this disparity, it could only be a matter of time before there was a parting of ways between the two.

But I have also argued that there is no inherent danger to the republic in this quarrel between the two principals. And I base my reasoning on the assessment that the two ministers whose careers are at stake are not important enough to cause a permanent falling out between the two

My guess is that Kibaki was all along bound to dismiss these two Cabinet ministers, only that he wanted to do so at his own time. After all, who is Prof Ongeri and what makes him so important to the President that he would willingly undergo continued public criticism just to keep him in office? The President has dumped men who were much closer to him in the past. He has no compelling reason to keep Ongeri in the Cabinet at all.

And as for William Ruto, these recent developments have been rich in political irony: here is a man being hounded out of office by the PM whom he struggled so hard to help ascend to power; and being kept hi office only by the intervention of a president whom he did everything he could to eject from State House.

I am inclined to speculate that the President would very much prefer that Ruto was not in his Cabinet at all. And that he is indifferent to the fate of Ongeri. So, why did he intervene to keep them in office?

I would argue that unless he was willing to allow us all to conclude that it is the PM who is really running the country, Kibaki really had no choice but to distance himself from Raila's action in "suspending" the ministers.

However the PM too had no choice but to take such a step: Would he really be able to go out campaigning in 2012 on his usual anti-corruption platform if he kept quiet at this time, over the two scandals which have most outraged the common citizens of this country?

Whatever the truth about Ruto and Ongeri concerning the corruption scandals in their ministries, at this time when the public is demanding resignations, a clever politician steps out and adds his voice to those demands. And this is what the PM did.

And I would add to this, that the PM's feelings on all this very likely mirror those of the President: he too would prefer to have Ruto out of the Cabinet; and he too is indifferent to Ongeri's fate.

It may be unfair, but it is just the reality of politics, as so many other ministers have found out to their horror — when the public decides that you are guilty, no argument you bring forward will change their perception. Your best bet is to step aside and hope that a few months later, most people will have forgotten all about it and you can quietly return to the Cabinet.

Still, as I say, neither Ruto nor Ongeri is important enough to bring about any serious cleavage in the coalition government. And sooner or later, the President and the PM are going to sit down and come to some kind of understanding over this.

In the end, the PM will have burnished his anti-corruption credentials in anticipation of the 2012 elections, and the President will have demonstrated clearly that he is in charge. Both will have gained something that matters to them.

And I think Ruto and Ongeri will then find out that the President, all along, had no intention of keeping them in his Cabinet.

Wycliffe Muga comments on topical issues.

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One Response to Wycliffe Muga: Kibaki, Raila will gain from clash - The Star

Anonymous said...

Reading about the plans for a new port in Lamu makes my heart feel sad. I was born in Kenya during the 50's and my memories as a child growing up are of a nature paradise.
Humans are like a virus taking over the earth with their concrete sores, destroying earths natural eco-system. Once destroyed we will never be able to re-create it again. Lost paradise for Ever. What a tradegy for Mother Earth!!!