kenyan cabinet remains deadlocked over violence

For the second straight week the Kenyan cabinet remains deadlocked on the way forward in the effort to bring to book those who planned the post-election violence that killed over 1300 people early last year. Several cabinet ministers are opposed to the creation of a local tribunal – which is the official position of the government – and want the suspects be investigated and tried by the ICC’s chief prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo at the Hague. Their position, they argue, is informed by the sorry state of Kenya’s judiciary which for all practical purposes is usually in the pocket of whoever occupies state house.

It is widely believed that a number of cabinet ministers were significantly involved in the planning of violence after the disputed election. Indeed the government funded Kenya Human Rights Commission last week released a list of suspects that was populated by cabinet ministers and members of parliament. Ministers and MPs from both sides of the political divide criticised the move and vowed to take the human rights body to court for defamation.

My two cents on this is that those that plotted the violence at the very top should go to the Hague. The middle level and small fry should be tried by a special court within Kenyan law. And as this goes on we should have a truth and reconciliation process. That way, the people at the top will know that Kenyan lives are not the expendable commodities they imagine them to be and thugs who killed innocent women and children will be punished. And above all, the truth and reconciliation process will start the process of healing among Kenyans.

a misdirected cabinet…

So the president just announced a cabinet reshuffle in which he appointed Uhuru Kenyatta to be Minister of Finance. Many in the Kenyan media think that the president made this decision with his succession in mind. Hon. Kenyatta has now occupied the pole position among the wider PNU hopefuls in the ever intensifying Kibaki succession saga.

Me thinks that all this is a bucket of horse manure. Firstly, Uhuru Kenyatta will not be elected president in 2012. Martha Karua or George Saitoti have a better chance. Secondly, why appoint Uhuru to be Finance Minister? What credentials does he have to enable him serve in such a vital ministry? Thirdly, are all government actions forever going to be informed by 2012 political calculations?

As I have indicated before, I think that Amos Kimunya should have remained as Finance Minister. Among the current members of the cabinet he was the most qualified for that position. I like his business mentality and he seemed to be doing a pretty good job before the taint of corruption dragged him down. He may have been corrupt (which one of our leaders isn’t?) but he was the best man we could ever have, under the circumstances, at treasury. Kibaki should have restored him at treasury instead of politicizing the economic management of the country by appointing a hopelessly unqualiffied presidential hopeful.

the new kenyan cabinet, bloated and expensive

President Kibaki and Premier Odinga are two men without much of a strong will. This is evidenced by their capitulation to the demands of their cronies and allies in the naming of the new cabinet. 42 cabinet including the president and AG was announced by these two men. And this in a country that struggles to feed its people, educate them and keep them alive. Did we really need separate ministries for medical services and public health and sanitation? or education and higher education? And what exactly will the minister for fisheries development do that the minister for agriculture or water cannot do?

It’s insulting how these two men turned a completely deaf ear to the calls made by Kenyans for a leaner, cheaper cabinet. It’s tax payer’s money you are spending Messrs president and premier.

I understand that there was need to please as many people as possible following the events of February, but at the same time I do believe that there could have been a cheaper way of doing this. Perhaps having a more transparent system of government where ministers did not run their ministries like personal fiefdoms would have made people feel included in the government and obviated the need for tribal representation in the cabinet.

And now that we have a cabinet, it will be interesting to see how it actually functions, given the animosity that exists between the ODM and PNU and the rest. I can speculate that there will be a lot of mission creep across amorphously defined ministerial portfolios resulting in intra-cabinet power struggles. I can also see the members of the cabinet continuing in their bad habit of addressing each other through the media like they don’t have each other’s contacts (I seriously think that the media should give such exchanges a black out to teach these men and women a lesson).

Oh, and on all those promises of better government, a new constitution, land reforms, prosecution of corruption, roads, schools, hospitals ………. etc : I am not holding my breath.

do we really need this circus?

The back and forth tussle that has become of the negotiations between Kibaki and Raila over a coalition cabinet is very unseemly. More than twice, the two men have met and agreed on a deal only to have their mouthpieces issue statements on the contrary.

What surprises me is how PNU is acting like they did not know what they were getting into by signing the Feb. 28th agreement. By agreeing to share power with ODM, they essentially admitted guilt to the shady mess that was the previous December’s general election and thereby allowed ODM to put one foot into government. If PNU thought that ODM would be contented with the ministry of fisheries and such then they were way off the mark. Like any political party these people want power and they will not settle for less.

What Kibaki ought to do now is just give them what they want and then control them via the Finance Ministry. The two most contentious posts seem to be Foreign and Local Government Ministries. Kenya’s foreign ministry is not that big of a deal. Who cares about summits and talk shops around the world? Plus it’s not like the country has any coherent foreign policy that would be severely changed by an ODM apparatchik in the post. And with the ministry of Local Government, I say give it to ODM. It’s not like the major towns and cities – outside of the wider Central region – are not pro-ODM already. Having to fight councils and city residents selling tomatoes in the streets might even make them unpopular come 2012.

My two cents on this is that the tussle is about nothing really. The president can continue to run the entire cabinet through control of the treasury and concentrate power in the hands of the Finance minister. Kenyan ministers are not an ambitious lot so I don’t think any of them will want to do anything revolutionary simply because they are now in charge of local councils or the ministry of heavy industry (I can’t believe they are actually creating these superfluous ministries).

So save us the drama Mr. President and name a cabinet already. Your government will be a joke anyway, with its 40 cabinet posts. Kenyans will pay over 500 million Shillings every year paying for the bloated cabinet and expect and get absolutely nothing in return. Shame shame shame.

I put it to you that what really matters to Kenyans is not what post some fat cat gets in your government but the stuff that increases the number of sufurias of ugali in their homes : equitable economic development.

kibaki names cabinet

President Kibaki has just announced a new cabinet. In his cabinet, he has included the Hon. Kalonzo as vice president and minister for home affairs. Also included in the cabinet are former members Michuki, Karua, Saitoti, Wetangula, Kimunya, Kiraitu, among others.

The announcement could not have come at a worse time. The country was just gearing for negotiations between Kibaki and the main opposition leader Raila. The nation had expected the president to show goodwill by not naming a cabinet until negotiations were underway. It is likely that the main opposition group, the ODM, which maintains it won the Dec. 27 polls will not take this announcement lying down.

By announcing his cabinet, or part of it – since he does not have enough “national” MPs, the president has shown that he is not taking the negotiation process seriously. He should realize that now is not the time to be partisan about matters. He ought to have waited until a solution was found out of the impasse that has gripped the country for nearly two weeks before forming a government.

This new development is likely to generate more heat in Kenya’s political climate. On Tuesday Raila refused to hold any talks with Kibaki unless the talks were mediated by an international observer. President Kofuor of Ghana is now likely to leave the country without any success as both sides dig in by taking confrontational rather than reconciliatory positions.

Full list available here