News 2008


Raila, only a step away from being PM

March 8, 2008


By Abiya Ocholla and David Ohito

The process to making Mr Raila Odinga the Prime Minister was fast-tracked to the penultimate stage, with the publication of the Bills to be debated in Parliament.

As the process went on, Raila, who has already started enjoying the trappings of power that go with the position continued to play the role on Friday as he toured Kibera.

In Kibera, which was among the worst hit Nairobi estates in the election violence, Raila preached peace and told displaced persons to return to their houses.

On Friday, the Government injected more urgency into constitutionalising the process, with Justice Minister Ms Martha Karua gazetting the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill 2008. Also gazetted is the National Accord and Reconciliation Bill 2008, published by Attorney General Mr Amos Wako. The Bills carry the details of the power-sharing accord.

Unlike other gazettements, the Attorney General’s office issued a statement to alert the media of the publication and to outline the contents of the Bills.

It is expected that when the Tenth Parliament resumes on Tuesday for its first regular sitting, the House could be asked to waive the tradition of giving priority to debate the presidential speech and allow for the Bill to sail through the first reading.

Parliament may borrow from the happenings of 1975 when founding President Jomo Kenyatta changed the Constitution in a day, going through the three stages. On the third day it was given presidential assent.

The amendment Bill was published on December 9. It was tabled on December 10. It passed all the three stages of debate that afternoon. On December 11, it received presidential assent and was immediately backdated to January 1, 1975.

Ugenya MP, Mr James Orengo, who spoke earlier this week, said that after the PNU and ODM parliamentary group meetings agreed to fast track the Bills without subjecting them to the routine debate, parliamentary formality can be priority and have them passed within a day.

On Thursday night, when he appeared on KTN’s Newsline, the Prime Minister designate said the new-look Cabinet, which he is to head under the new role, will be unveiled after entrenchment into the statutes of the power-sharing pact.

Raila, in the Newsline interview, said the House Business Committee would be constituted on Tuesday next week, which will allocate time for the Bills to be debated.

The first Bill, the AG’s office said, "Seeks to facilitate and entrench into the Constitution the enactment of the National Accord and Reconciliation Bill 2008, pursuant to the agreement on the principles of partnership of the coalition government signed on February 28."

The National Accord and Reconciliation Bill is to give effect to among other things, the establishment of the Office of the Prime Minister and two deputies.

Two other Bills, which are slated for publication, were not ready as they are still subject of negotiations by the mediation teams, sitting at the Serena Hotel.

The two are the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission Bill and The Ethnic Relations Commission of Kenya Bill.

Since the signing of the deal between Raila and President Kibaki on February 28, the Government has fast-tracked the symbolic entrenchment into office of the holder as the statutory process is formalised.

One of Raila’s would-be ODM Ministers Mr Najib Balala was included in a government delegation that also had Vice-President Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, to represent the Government in the Berlin Tourism Fair in Germany.

In Parliament on Thursday, Raila and Vice-President Musyoka entered together just before President Kibaki, illustrating their order of seniority.

Raila on Friday embarked on what would be the first peace mission representing the Government as he toured Lang’ata Constituency and told the displaced to return to their houses.

In a motorcade secured by State agents and a public address system the Ministry of Information supplied, he held three rallies in the Kibera slums.

Raila, accompanied by veteran politician Mr Martin Shikuku, former Makadara MP Mr Reuben Ndolo and his son Fidel, preached peaceful and national reconciliation.

"We want to begin working for the nation and its citizens. The era of mass action and violence is over and all displaced person can now return home," Raila said, after Kibera DO Mr Kepher Maruge, received him.

"We sat with President Kibaki and agreed to unite Kenyans and hold peace rallies countrywide to heal the country," he said.

"We have agreed to work with our brothers and sisters in PNU. We must forget the differences caused by the election and chart new beginning for Kenya," the PM-designate said.

"We signed the peace and reconciliation pact and it is just a matter of time before Parliament ratifies a new grand coalition," he added.

"We do not want to see a Kenyan arming himself and butchering another Kenyan as we saw during the violence," Raila told his constituents. He thanked them for the massive votes he amassed from the slums.

In the Newsline interview, Raila said the coalition partners were yet to agree on the number of ministers as anxiety rose among Kenyans over an expected bloated list.

He said the details of the slots to be held by each party had not been worked out.

"We shall be discussing in due course the details. Let me not jump the gun," he said as he announced that a National Conference on Ethnicity would be held soon.

The Lang’ata MP said a 10-member committee from PNU and ODM had been formed to not only establish a compromise manifesto for Government, but also the number of ministries.

"Once the necessary Bills affirming the power-sharing deal have been passed, the first task will be to form the Government," Raila said without giving a time frame.

He termed the anxiety about a bloated Cabinet as jumping the gun.

"I do not want a situation where Kenyans will accuse us of extravagance. The number of ministries will have to be discussed. We must reduce expenditure on what is luxury," he said.

The ODM leader also said among the issues yet to be resolved is the Leader of Government Business in the House.

"The issue of the person to be Leader of Government Business has not been resolved. We shall be discussing it in due course," he said.

He said the coalition partners would also share out slots for Permanent Secretaries and parastatals.

"When you talk about Government, it is the minister, PS and heads of parastatals and authorities," he explained.

Raila said until the Constitution is reviewed, the President would remain the Head of State and Head of Government even though the PM will have specific functions assigned to him.

"What we have is like the French model of cohabitation where the President chairs the Cabinet, but the PM ensures the decisions are implemented," he said.

He was, however, optimistic that the new constitution will come up with new governance structures that serve the national good.