Sunday, December 14, 2008



By Standard on Sunday Team

The Kibaki succession game is back with full force and is eating its way into the core of the Cabinet.

The well-heeled ministers sucked into it have shifted from playing proxy games and are now engaged in open and direct catfights.

Last week Justice Minister Martha Karua, who is in the line of fire from an emerging alliance of four powerful Cabinet members coalescing around Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, had a bitter exchange with Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi.

The exchange between the current and immediate former holders of the Justice docket played out in front of President Kibaki and Prime minister Raila Odinga on the day they failed to railroad Parliament into endorsing the Bill seeking to finish off the Electoral Commission of Kenya.

Kibaki and Raila, though perceived to lean on the side of the Serena Team, are also seen to be standing on the buffer zone between the group of four and the Serena Team. Some however, as our interviews revealed, view Raila as one supporting a Bill whose faults and hidden booby-traps he does not know.

The fury of the ongoing war was captured in the words of a minister agitated by Kalonzo’s ‘machinations’, dismissed as ‘indecisive’. The first target of the alliance of four, as told by politicians familiar with the boardroom row rocking the reform agenda, is the Serena Team, or simply the National Mediation Committee.

When the country thought it had either finished its job under Dr Kofi Annan, had lost the fire to carry on, or had resigned to working behind the scenes, the team game back in full force.

It turned out it would, according to the Bill published by Karua – Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill – that it would, if it had been passed the way it was drafted, the committee would have a say on who heads and joins the proposed Interim Independent Electoral Commission and the Interim Independent Parliamentary Commission.

One side quickly read a political strategy that had to be nipped in the bud.

They felt the Serena Team, which is made of four ministers who have made it clear they have the eye on State House, was getting too powerful and had to be tamed. They feared the ‘ambitious’ members in the team could be taking over the reform agenda so as to turn it into their favour.

Target number one is Karua, who is member, Justice minister (drafter of the resultant Bills) and has declared she will be on the ballot paper in 2012 as leader of Narc-Kenya. The other Serena Team members are Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi and Cabinet ministers William Ruto and Moses Wetangula. The alliance of four is made up of: Kalonzo, Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, Deputy Prime minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Kiraitu.

The bond between them is the Central Kenya populous vote, which Karua is nibbling away. They also each have, on their own right, the ear of the President and have a strong political foothold in the region. They all also have the PNU connection. After negotiating the political settlement, the Serena Eight were all were appointed to the Cabinet.

Karua has intimated someone is after her old job, she is being fought, and that it is frustrating to have the documents she so delicately worked on pulverised by Parliament.

Karua was bitter on Thursday, lashing out at unnamed "pretenders who kept a disinterested stance, while they were busy disrupting the reform process". Kiraitu responded: "I was actually surprised by Karua’s attitude in ignoring to reach out to Parliament and build consensus before publication of the Bill...Reforms are not an individual affair, but about consultations across the board."