News 2008

 

ODM'S great expectations



Sunday Nation

Story by BERNARD NAMUNANE

09. March 2008



The Orange Democratic Movement has identified 18 ministries — among them 10 powerful portfolios now held by key Kibaki allies — that it wants to hold in the new coalition government.

In a secret proposal seen by the Sunday Nation, the coalition partner has also earmarked 1,000 high-profile jobs it will want to fill as part of the National Accord and Reconciliation Agreement to share government positions equally.

In order to fully accommodate its members, the party is proposing that the size of the Cabinet be increased to 38 slots through the creation of five new ministries.

Among the positions for which ODM has staked a claim are Finance, held by Amos Kimunya, Internal Security occupied by George Saitoti and Martha Karua’s Justice and Constitutional Affairs.

One of the requirements of the agreement is that there should be “portfolio balance,” which means that the powerful ministries need to be shared equally.

The ODM proposal recognises that the presidency, vice-presidency and one position of Deputy Prime Minister will go to the PNU side.

It proposes to take Internal Security, Finance, Local Government, Health, Agriculture, Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Information and Communication, Transport, Water and Irrigation, and Energy.

Others are Tourism and Wildlife, Environment, Public Service, Special Programs, National Planning, and Youth and Women’s Affairs.

The proposal suggests that PNU take Defence, Foreign Affairs, Roads and Public Works, Science and Technology, Livestock and Fisheries, East African Community, Gender, Sports and Culture, Regional Development, Lands and Settlement, Trade and Industry, Housing, Labour and Human Resources, Immigration, National Heritage and Cooperative Development.

The party is also proposing the creation of ministries of Coordination and Development (to be held by the PM), Light and Heavy Industry, Natural Resources and Mining, Urban and Highway Development, and Rural Development. The new ministries would be shared between the two sides.

If the ODM proposal is accepted, the President would reshuffle the half Cabinet of 17 slots that he created days after he was declared winner of the December 27 election. He left vacant 16 slots in his 36-member Cabinet and all positions of assistant minister.

In total, ODM wants 18 ministers in the coalition government, 36 assistant ministerial positions, 18 permanent secretaries, 22 ambassadors, five provincial commissioners, 94 district commissioners and five provincial directors of education.

“The agreement talks of a 50-50 share of seats in the Cabinet and top positions in government. PNU may get one seat more, but the distribution must reflect the relative parliamentary strength,” Eldoret North MP William Ruto. However, it is understood that the Party of National Unity would be reluctant to relinquish Finance, Internal Security, Constitutional Affairs, Roads and Energy.

Mbooni MP Mutula Kilonzo, a government representative at the mediation talks, said the final decision lies with the President even though he is obliged to consult Mr Odinga.

“The appointment to the Cabinet is at the discretion of the President. Even the document that was signed by President Kibaki and Mr Odinga still holds that position,” he said. He was referring to agreement signed on February 28 by President Kibaki and Mr Odinga in the presence of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete.

A clause in the accord states: “The composition of the coalition Government shall at all times reflect the parliamentary strength of the respective parties and shall at all times take into account the principle of portfolio balance.”

A proposed law gazetted on Friday — the National Accord and Reconcilliation Bill, 2008 — which comes up in Parliament next week, allows the President to appoint whomever he like from his own party to the Cabinet, but for the ODM positions, he has to accept the recommendation of the party leader, Mr Odinga.

During the negotiations, members of the mediation team agreed that the number of Cabinet positions allocated to each side in the political conflict was to be agreed upon later by the parties. When President Kibaki chaired the first joint parliamentary group meeting of the soon-to-be-created coalition government, a team was formed to strike a deal on the sharing of the seats in addition to harmonizing the manifestos of the coalition parties—PNU, ODM and ODM Kenya.

The members of the harmonisation committee are scheduled to hold their first meeting tomorrow, and it this team that is expected to determine how the ministerial positions will be distributed.

Among those on the 10-member body are Cabinet ministers Saitoti, Noah Wekesa and David Musila from the government side; some of the ODM representatives are MPs Henry Kosgey, Charity Ngilu, Chris Okemo and Anyang Nyong’o.

On Satirday, Mr Musila and Mr Okemo confirmed that they will meet on Monday to start the discussions before handing over the documents to President Kibaki for appointment.

Speaking by telephone from his Mwingi South constituency, Mr Musila said: “We are scheduled to meet on Monday afternoon to start work. However, I am in the dark as to what positions have been taken by ODM and government.”

The ODM proposal wants the 50-50 sharing to apply to the lower ranks of the Civil Service to ensure fairness.

Permanent secretaries are appointed by the President, while the boards of parastatals are filled by the ministers in charge. Other positions are either filled by the Public Service Commission or advertised and filled competitively.

In most cases, however, ministers or other well-connected persons are able to influence the appointments.

Interviews with PNU ministers, many of whom did not wish to comment publicly, revealed that the party has its own proposals, and that the partners could be in for protracted negotiations before an agreement is reached.

Among the dockets that PNU is keen to retain are Finance, Internal Security, Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Local Government, Energy and Transport and Communications.

The PNU argument, the Sunday Nation was informed, is that other high profile ministries—Health, Agriculture, Trade and Industry, and Tourism and Wildlife — are vacant and should be taken up by ODM MPs.

“Those positions are equally heavyweight, and for the President to have left them out, it means that our now good friends from ODM can take them up. We have just signed a deal and we should not allow the just-founded camaraderie to be affected by jostling over Cabinet positions,” said a Cabinet minister, who did not wish to be named.

The rest of the ministries, the PNU members argued, can be reshuffled and shared with their ODM colleagues in the coalition government.

But the sharing may not be 50-50 as ODM leaders are asking, the PNU members said.

The PNU proposal, the Sunday Nation was informed, is to expand the Cabinet to 36, up from the present 34. Among the highlights is the revival of the Ministry of National Reconstruction which was held by the late Vice President Michael Wamalwa in 2003.

That ministry, they propose, should be given to Mr Odinga, who in his capacity as the PM should play a key role in national reconstruction and reconciliation.

Their reasoning is based on the fact that most of the areas that were affected by the post–election violence were his strongholds—Rift Valley and Nyanza— and his efforts to reconcile and rebuild those areas will be more welcome by the residents.

 

 

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