Tuesday, October 14, 2008



OCTOBER 14 2008

By David Ohito
The Cabinet sits today in a crucial meeting that could paint the future of Kenya’s political landscape.

And as if to underscore the import of the meeting, ministers from the Orange Democratic Movement wing of the Grand Coalition held a closed door "consultation meeting" last evening.

On the table at today’s sitting — called by President Kibaki on a Tuesday, a departure from the Thursday norm — will be, among others, the Kriegler Report.

It is understood that the meeting could dwell at length on recommendations on the Electoral Commission of Kenya as an institution, and the fate of Chairman Samuel Kivuitu and his cast of 21 commissioners.

On Monday, Presidential Press Service Director Mr Isaiya Kabira confirmed the meeting: "There is a Cabinet meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) at 10am. We will brief the media after deliberations".

Also expected to feature at the top-level talks are important pending national issues, including the quest for a new Constitution, the resettlement of the Internally Displaced Persons and cost of living, mainly food and power (fuel and electricity).

Last evening, sources said the ODM ministers meeting — chaired by Prime Minister Raila Odinga and party chairman Henry Kosgey — consulted on the way forward.

Security at the PM’s office was tight, and our crew was turned away.

Those present at the talks included Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi and ministers Mr James Orengo, Mr Najib Balala, Dr Paul Otuoma, Mr Mohammed Elmi and Fred Gumo.

Anxiously waiting

The Cabinet meeting comes in a week that Kenyans are anxiously awaiting the first reshuffle of the Grand Coalition Government — which would see the vacant Finance and Roads portfolios filled.

Environment minister John Michuki and Public Works minister Chris Obure are currently holding the portfolios in addition to their dockets. Former Finance minister and Kipipiri MP Amos Kimunya stepped aside to pave way for investigations over the Grand Regency Hotel sale, while Kipkalya Kones (Roads) died in an aircraft crash on June 10 in Narok.

Also killed in the crash was Lorna Laboso, who was the Home Affairs Assistant minister. Kones’ widow Beatrice and Laboso’s sister, Joyce, were recently elected to replace the deceased as Members of Parliament for Bomet and Sotik respectively.

Position rejected

Observers have their eyes similarly trained on the appointment of the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Northern Kenya and Other Arid Lands, a position rejected by former Deputy Central Bank Governor Mrs Jacinta Mwatela.

The country’s top decision-making organ also meets amid controversy over a Ukrainian ship hijacked in the Indian Ocean waters off Somalia, and the ownership and destination of military equipment onboard.

The Government has maintained it owns the 33 tanks and other military cargo aboard Mv Faina, but international military experts, including officers of the United States military, have insisted they were bound for Southern Sudan.

Converging today against the backdrop of polarised positions over the fate ECK commissioners, Kibaki succession politics and Constitution review are the 42 ministers of the Grand Coalition Government.

And even as Kenyans awaited word on the Government’s action over the Justice Johann Kriegler’s Independent Review Commission recommendations, The Standard learnt that another crucial report, that of the Justice Philip Waki Commission on post-election violence would be ready for handing over to President Kibaki on Thursday.

These two important reports have remedial measures for some of the causes of the post-election violence that led to the death of over 1,000 people and the displacement of hundreds of thousands others in January and February.

Pressure piled on the two principals, President Kibaki and Raila, to live up to their promise for a new Constitution by next year. Raila goes to the meeting having publicly campaigned that ECK commissioners should pack up and go.

The Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka has sprung to the defence of the team, as have several other ministers who say Kivuitu’s team should await comprehensive reforms of the electoral body.

A section of envoys have expressed their support for the full implementation of the Kriegler report and the overhaul of the ECK.

In Parliament, Webuye MP Alfred Sambu has threatened to challenge Kibaki’s legitimacy as the elected president after Kriegler said it was impossible to tell who won the 2007 presidential election.