Saturday, April 5, 2008



By Jerry Okungu

Kenyans elected their MPs to go to parliament and make laws; good laws to make this country a better place. They did not elect these people to be appointed cabinet ministers and assistant ministers. To the best of my knowledge, no MP campaigned on the platform that if elected, he would be appointed cabinet minister because there are no known criteria how Kenyan ministers are appointed. There are no parliamentary standing committees to vet members of the cabinet, the judiciary and other constitutional offices of the government. All along we have left this job to the whims of the sitting president.

Right now, Kenyans are coming to terms with the trauma of the elections aftermath. People have died; some have been maimed and scarred for life. Thousands more are internally displaced. However, instead of hearing voices of reason concerning themselves with the plight of the poor and the displaced, all we hear are our elected MPs jostling for positions in the new coalition! Isn’t this embarrassing enough for a wounded country like ours?

Why are we forcing our ways and tribes into a bloated government that may in the end drain our dented economy? What value will these power hungry individuals add to the new government? What difference does it make to split ministries only to accommodate our tribesmen and village mates?

This country does not need more than twenty ministries and at most twenty-four offices with another twenty or twenty four assistant ministers. We must make the cabinet small enough to be efficient. We must make it small enough to allow the larger parliament to take it to task. Let other members of parliament serve in watchdog committees to ensure service delivery and accountability to the people of Kenya.

In choosing the cabinet, let the coalition not look at individuals. Let them consider regions and communities apart from competence which should be priority number one. And I can bet that every community or tribe in Kenya has at least one competent individual qualified enough to be appointed a cabinet minister, an assistant minister, a permanent secretary or a parastatal chief executive.

With twenty cabinet ministers, we can give two ministries to each province and still have four more to play a round with. Of the four left, let President Kibaki and Raila Odinga have two each to serve them in their offices. Based on population density, let Kibaki appoint his allocation to Mt. Kenya region while Raila gives one extra to North Eastern and Rift Valley Provinces.

What must be understood here is that once your tribe gets a ministerial post; don’t expect an assistant minister or a permanent secretary until all the tribes have been slotted in. In this way we will avoid that tired merit excuse that in the past has been used to staff a whole ministry with faces from one village.

As we proceed with this stop gap measure while waiting for constitutional overhaul, let us bear in mind that the new constitution must include a senate to check on the excesses of our MPs and bar MPs altogether from being cabinet ministers and CDF chiefs all at the same time. With all these powers and responsibilities on their hands, all they have done is to fail to perform.

This current jostling for cabinet posts has got me thinking. How nice it would be if our elected MPs spent their energies at weekend funerals offering not to be appointed to the cabinet as Noah Wekesa did the other day and instead lobby for their voters to be appointed to the cabinet?

Which MP is bold enough to rush a bill to parliament and ask for a constitutional amendment that will bar MPs from serving in the cabinet? Will it be Ababu Namwamba, George Thuo, and my MP Fred Outa or my friend Kiema Kilonzo?

Right now there are bad eggs in the present parliament; those that have been there forever. They are busy working behind the scenes to scuttle the current fragile peace Kenyans are enjoying. They know that if Kibaki and Raila forge a lasting coalition; they have no chance of reverting to their old ways of disenfranchising the larger Kenyan population.

They have perfected the art of survival in chaos.
That is why they are advocating for a bloated government that they know will be as chaotic as ever. They know that supervising fifteen ministries is an uphill task.
The more reason they are asking for forty one ministries that they know will give the prime minister a nightmare!

The President and the Prime Minister designate must not give in to these saboteurs from within.