Saturday, September 6, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
September 6, 2008

Ordinary Kenyans are proud of Madam Odinga. She has proved once more that she can distinguish between an inappropriate offer and genuine appreciation of her critical role in society.

When the Nairobi Star broke this story of government allowances to Mrs. Kalonzo Musyoka, her name was omitted. And for a good two weeks, she never received any communication from the government to that effect that she would be on the government payroll and the reasons for such a decision.

When Kenyans started grumbling about Mrs. Kalonzo’s allowance, her name was quickly roped in as another beneficiary and for two weeks, nobody thought it necessary to call her to inform her of her new fortunes.

Angry readers all over the world blasted me for omitting Mrs. Odinga’s name in my analysis in Uganda’s New Vision newspaper soon after the news broke out. Sincerely I could not have included a name the government had not made public.

Therefore, when Mrs. Ida Odinga called a press conference last week to formally decline the offer, I found it prudent to wait for Mrs. Musyoka’s reaction before writing this article. Now that she has finally made her decision known, I can now look at the issue afresh.

An interesting piece of information emerged in Ida Odinga’s press statement. She confirmed my suspicion that the government, in deciding to award the Vice President and Prime Minister’s wives with allowances, had not done its homework properly. No due diligence was conducted either in the African region or in Western developed countries to find out what governments were doing to compensate wives of senior cabinet ministers. Ida Odinga confirmed that there were no such practices anywhere she knew.

But perhaps the reason Mrs. Odinga declined the offer was the political impact it would have on her family. Would it make a difference in her life except to annoy millions of poor Kenyans in her constituency? Was the allowance even enough to meet her busy daily engagements and expenses? If she declined the offer, would she still manage to foot her bills that this Ks 400,000 was supposed to offset?

In a carefully worded but terse statement, Ida Odinga did two things; she thanked the Head of the Civil Service for the offer while declining it at the same time. More importantly, she made it abundantly clear that her role and contributions to the stability of this country could not be measured in terms of Ks 400,000 because it was obviously more than the cash on the table.

But perhaps the bigger message that Mrs. Odinga conveyed to the public and the political class was this: Think of this country and its people first before you reward yourself.

It was a message that must have stung our parliamentarians and cabinet ministers to the core. One wonders whether our rulers with a grabbing culture ever noticed what the Prime Minister’s wife was saying.

In quick succession, Mrs. Kalonzo Musyoka also came out but with a different message. She accepted the cash but promised to give it to charity! Really?
As much as Mrs. Kalonzo has her constitutional right to accept or decline such an offer, sometimes, public perception or sentiments should help us to make decisions as politicians or political families.

Mrs. Kalonzo should tell Kenyans why she should be used as a conduit by the Kenya government to deal with charitable organizations in Ukambani and Nairobi at the expense of the taxpayer. Why can’t the government do that through the ministry of Social Services, Gender and Children?

Mrs. Alonzo should know that already as it is, her whole household, like that of other cabinet ministers literally depends on the state 100% for upkeep. They live freely off the state in virtually everything including the air they breathe. They pay no taxes, electricity bills, water bills, rent, fuel, security, domestic servants and even food they feed on. They don’t understand the meanings of inflation, high prices of commodities, fuel crunch on any of the vagaries of modern day living in Kenya. On top of this they enjoy hefty transport, travel and entertainment allowances. My guess is that the Vice President’s family sees no bills. They are handled by mandarins paid to do so.

This is the reason Mrs. Kalonzo must convince Kenyans why she fishily schemed to receive cash from the Treasury for her private charity arrangements.


Taz said...
September 9, 2008 at 10:56 PM  

Hear hear!
Since she is an employee of the Central Bank of Kenya, I see no reason why Madame Kalonzo should be paid twice from public coffers. She ought to have rejected the money as Madame Odinga did.