Deal: Govt in reverse gear?
March 11, 2008
By Standard Team
The Government appeared to engage reverse gear that could take
momentum off a speedy enactment of the National Accord and
Reconciliation Bill 2008, even as MPs prepared to discuss the
landmark peace deal tomorrow.
When Head of Civil Service Mr Francis Muthaura emerged to "make a
clarification" on the structure of Government on Monay, citing
what he described as concerns created by various media reports, he
appeared to suggest that in spite of a power-sharing deal, the
office of an all-powerful presidency remains intact.
In itself, the timing appeared to send the wrong signals hardly a
fortnight after the signing of a brittle political settlement that
hauled the country out of a crippling post election impasse, which
left at least 1,000 people dead and half a million others huddled
in IDP camps.
Issued on the eve of the reconvening of Parliament and resumption
of mediation talks that will thrash out the issue of portfolio
balance, Muthaura’s statement amounted to putting the cart before
Today, MPs will start debating two proposed laws to legalise the
envisaged grand coalition government — the National Accord and
Reconciliation Bill 2008 and the Constitutional Amendment Bill
2008 — published on Thursday.
The two-page power-sharing agreement, which came after intense
international pressure and mediation by former United Nations
chief, Dr Kofi Annan, seemed to serve as a contract to pull Kenya
back from the brink.
In his statement, Muthaura seemed to imply that even though the
Office of the Prime Minister would be created, the President would
continue to enjoy unbridled executive powers in a
business-as-usual kind of scenario.
He sought to lower the stature of the PM’s office, which he said
would come third in the protocol pecking order, and therefore it
would be unlikely that the PM would supervise the VP if the latter
holds a ministerial position.
The statement, which drew instant response from Orange Democratic
Movement (ODM), the key partners in the coalition government with
Party of National Unity (PNU), seemed crafted to defend the status
On a day of intense shuttle diplomacy in Nairobi at the height of
the mediation talks, US Secretary of State, Ms Condoleezza Rice,
had said: "It can’t be an illusion, power-sharing must be real.
To the president, President Kibaki, I will say power sharing means
real power sharing and the US as a friend of Kenya expects that
power sharing to take place to show that you can make the
electoral and constitutional reforms that frankly should have been
made several years ago," Rice stated.
She added: "To Mr Odinga, I will be saying that we understand that
the election was problematic, the United States has said that, but
again power sharing does need to take place."
Last night, Pentagon House insisted that the National Accord
reflected the goodwill and positive attitude of President Kibaki
and Prime Minister-designate, Mr Raila Odinga.
The Orange party also said the Accord encapsulated what it
described as "the genuine desire of Kenyans".
ODM asserted that Kenyans had begun the slow process of healing,
reconciliation and rebuilding their shattered lives and "would not
accept to be dragged back to the period of mayhem, violence and
disruption by retrogressive forces bent on resisting changes".
It roundly attacked as "mischievous and unacceptable" the
statement by Muthaura, which was made at a live televised Press
conference organised by Government Spokesman, Dr Alfred Mutua, at
the Kenyatta International Conference Centre.
"Any statement clarifying, interpreting or explaining the content
of the National Accord must be jointly released by the two
principals — Kibaki and Raila," ODM’s statement read by former
Cabinet minister, Prof Amukowa Anangwe, asserted.
Ironically, Muthaura made the announcement a day after Justice
minister, Ms Martha Karua, urged leaders to desist from making
public statements that would undermine the power-sharing pact.
"The pact between the Government and ODM is for the benefit of all
Kenyans and its success would be viewed as victory for the entire
country," the minister, speaking in Nyeri on Sunday after a series
of public rallies, said.
Stung by Muthaura’s statement, ODM maintained that the Accord
provides for a 50-50 power-sharing formula and that this would be
at two levels: The Cabinet and Government, which includes the
Civil Service and State corporations.
The statement went on to say that the National Accord provides
that the Prime Minister shall have authority to coordinate and
supervise execution of the functions and affairs of Government,
including those of ministries.
"Any other interpretation of the National Accord undermining,
circumventing or delaying its ratification — in both spirit and
letter — is mischievous, unacceptable and must be rejected by all
Kenyans," the ODM statement added.
The party said the structure of the new coalition government was
being worked out and would be announced to the public by the two
In his statement, Muthaura purported to spell out the roles of
holders of key Government positions, saying the Vice-President
remained the principal assistant of the President and Leader of
Government Business in the House.
He said the President would appoint the Vice-President, prime
minister, deputy prime ministers and all ministers subject to the
terms of the February 28 accord.
"The Vice-President, prime minister, deputy prime ministers and
all ministers are directly responsible to the President. The
President will continue to chair the Cabinet," Muthaura added.
And Mbooni MP, Mr Mutula Kilonzo, a member of the team that
drafted the Accord, told The Standard last night that the
structure announced by Muthaura gave the correct administrative
"He has just given the pyramid structure of the expected
government," said Mutula, adding that Government structures were
well enumerated in the constitutional amendment Bill signed by the
Justice minister and the Attorney-General, Mr Amos Wako.
But lawyers aligned to ODM, who spoke on condition of anonymity,
read mischief in Muthaura’s announcement and dismissed it as "too
little too late in a clear attempt to water down the power-sharing
Their argument is that President Kibaki, alongside key ministers
who sat in the mediation talks, had appended their signatures on
the deal and an official at a lower pecking order cannot purport
to speak on behalf of the Government.
"If the Bills go through, then the PM’s office will have its
powers clearly defined. It will be the first ministry whose powers
shall be clearly stated under the Constitution," a lawyer said,
adding that constitutional Bills are passed or rejected in their
entirety and cannot be amended.
The lawyer added: "Kenyans will watch keenly how ministers vote
and should they oppose it, then it means Kibaki will have lost
authority and control over his own ministers.
"We must note that these are Government-published and sponsored
Bills. One is by the Attorney-General, Mr Amos Wako, and another
by Justice minister, Karua. Ministers cannot subvert Bills the
Government has tabled," he added.
Cotu Secretary-General, Mr Francis Atwoli, said the Bills should
be supported by all MPs and warned: "Any move to block the Bills
would be suicidal and would reverse the gains made on peace deal."
Although ODM has not laid stake on any Cabinet positions, there
are indications that the party will soon put on the table its
preferences in the 50-50 power-sharing agreement as contained in
the National Accord.
On its part, PNU is expected to put up a fight to retain the
high-profile ministerial positions it is already holding.
Meanwhile, ODM and PNU started harmonising their manifestos for
implementation under the new coalition Government. Internal
Security minister, Prof George Saitoti, and ODM Secretary-General,
Prof Anyang’ Nyongo’, co-chaired yesterday’s meeting, where the
issues were discussed.