News 2008


Kenya: Divisions arise over deputy premiership


Dennis Itumbi, AfricaNews reporter in Nairobi, Kenya

Sunday 9 March 2008

The Orange Democratic Party (ODM) walks into a peace treaty with the Party of National Unity (PNU) as a divided house, can reveal.

A row simmering over who should occupy the ODM’s deputy premier post, with the tug of war pitting two heavy weights is likely to divide that party and even the parliament which it dominates.

William Samoei Ruto and Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi are both eying that position.

A cross section of Rift Valley MPs led by Charles Keter set the ball rolling with a poorly covered press conference where they said, “ We have endorsed Raila Odinga as the Prime minister, and William Ruto for the post of deputy premier.”

By the time of going to press there was little leakage from the Mutula Kilonzo and James Orengo team, however credible sources indicated that the two deputy Prime ministers will hold the dockets of Defence and Internal Security respectively.

PNU on its part was said to be considering Prof. George Saitoti for the post, or someone from Coast.

According to the Rift Valley ODM MPs, Mudavadi should not automatically ascend the post of the deputy premier, since ODM had voted in Kenneth Marende who hails from Western province as the speaker.

“We have to be fair to all regions that brought victory to ODM and stood with the party, we have already given Nyanza the Prime Minister, Western the House Speaker and now Rift Valley should get the post of deputy premier,” one of the MPs told this writer in an interview on the sideline of the press conference.

Though Nyanza Mps like Dalmas Otieno on their part pleaded ignorance to the development, we can confirm that lobbying for the post is already on, since Mombasa legislators also want the share of the key post.

However, unlike Western and Rift Valley, Coast MPs were yet to name who should go for the post.

Western Mps on their part stuck to their guns, “Mudavadi is the natural choice for the post, we will discuss it with our colleagues, but that should not be a discussion.”

Chris Okemo a seasoned legislator told us on phone, “ we will cross the bridge as we get there, there is no division in ODM we have not started even discussing who get what, when we begin we will tell you.”

However when we insisted on a hypothetical answer, Okemo was philosophical, “ as a region we will present our case, we will remind everyone of where we have come from and then we will listen and make a party decision.”

The more vocal Bundalang’i legislator Ababu Namwamba who also spoke to us in a phone interview choose to be evasive, “right now we are busy awaiting for parliament to re-open so that we can begin our legal and representative duty, we are not discussing power, we are not power hungry.”

However, MPs who spoke to us at length, took us back to the 2007 Kasarani gymnasium where ODM conducted its presidential primaries and explained that Western as a region agreed to back Raila after the Prime minister designate announced Mudavadi as his running mate thereby creating the formidable Western Alliance .

“Remember that we even sought the blessing of the prophesy made years ago by our own people like Muliro that only someone from the lake would deliver the top seat to the Western people, something that galvanized the entire region, we stood by Raila long before other regions thought about it,” a youthful legislator from the upper side of Western confided on condition of anonymity.

He also explained that Mudavadi was more experienced and mature in government administration than Ruto and therefore deserved the appointment.

However, Rift Valley MPs argue that Ruto was the one initially promised the Prime Minister’s post and that it was just by respect that they had agreed to let go the post and should therefore get the deputy premier post.

“After Kasarani it was clear who was to be President, Vice –President and the Prime Minister, so it should not be a debate who takes over as deputy Prime Minister, besides our region gave Raila more votes than anywhere else, we have to be rewarded accordingly,” the MP who is serving his second term explained.

Asked what happens to Coast in the power sharing arrangement, legislators from both Rift Valley and Western remained mum preferring to refer the mater to “consultations in the party.”

“But I can tell you that the Coast People will not be let down they will get very powerful ministries in the arrangement,” the MP said.

Raila Odinga is all set to assume the Prime Minister’s post after a peace deal was finally signed between him and President Mwai Kibaki on February 28th.

Ruto and Mudavadi have brief political careers that have taken them to the highest echelons of power especially under former President Daniel Moi.

In the event Ruto takes the post, Mudavadi will be the loser since he has always held more powerful positions than Ruto in successive administrations.

On the other Hand a Ruto appointment would be welcome news for his Rift Valley region, especially Eldoret that is devastated by ruins brought about by the post 2007 General election violence.

It appears that as Raila takes the Prime Minister’s office and strives to create a niche of operations in an office without governance precedence in the country, he will have to bring order in his party that enjoys a majority representation in parliament.

A task he has to accomplish with some sense of balance to avoid the kind of dissent that is steaming form Vice President’s Kalonzo Musyoka’s backyard.

Kalonzo on his part, contrary to popular opinion did not lose anything that goes with his office, In fact in terms of government operations he remains the second most powerful politician, since he will still be the leader of Government business in parliament and will succeed the President in case of death and in his absence the Speaker will take charge.

The emerging division in ODM will require the operation of a swift politician to ensure it does not cause a schism in the party.