Saturday, December 6, 2008



By Gakuu Mathenge

The Party of National Unity (PNU) is split down the middle over whether to make President Kibaki party leader or retain him as party chairman.

A group of party leaders led by spokesman George Nyamweya has accused Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi and Wildlife Minister Noah Wekesa of plotting to push for Kibaki as ceremonial party head and reserve substantive positions for themselves.

"Kibaki himself accepted to be interim chairman on July 15 when former chairman Jasper Nyamboga stepped down for him. The President has not announced he is not capable of discharging the responsibilities of chairman. In any case, PNU constitution has no provision for party leader. We can not rely on the goodwill of delegates to create or shoot down a proposal for a position that does not exist," Nyamweya said in an interview.

He questioned the motivation the ministers had in taking on the President for party chairmanship.

"Unless the party leader’s position comes with substantive powers, it is just ceremonial. I doubt that is what the President wants to be in PNU." He said the proposal to make the Kibaki party leader had not been discussed.

However, Kiraitu told The Standard on Sunday that PNU coordinating committee met two weeks ago and agreed the President was too busy to be bothered by day-to-day mundane party matters, hence the decision to make him party leader.

"As party leader, he will provide leadership and policy guidelines while the party management implements the policies. The proposal was presented to the President and he accepted it. We intend to propose the creation of the party leader’s position to the delegates for ratification and adoption by the NDC," Kiraitu said.

He is vying for the position of secretary general against Nyamweya.

However, Wekesa, who is the chairman of PNU coordinating committee, said the issue of Kibaki being chairman or party leader had not been agreed on.

"There is no consensus, people are divided over it. I know many MPs, including Cabinet ministers who feel the President should remain the party chairman to strengthen the party and keep it together. The President is keen on promoting national unity and the best way to do that is remaining PNU chairman. However, if he accedes to suggestions to become party leader, I will go for the chairmanship," said Wekesa.

He cautioned those pushing for Kibaki to become party leader to back off.

Regional outfit

"Kibaki will not be running for the presidency in 2012, and he can be a unifying factor as chairman. If people with known presidential ambitions take over PNU chairmanship, they will be viewed by affiliate parties as rivals and not allies. But when we remain vice chairmen and other officials below Kibaki, everyone feels they have a chance to vie for presidency and PNU will remain united," Wekesa added.

A Kanu official who declined to be named said PNU was doomed without Kibaki as chairman.

"A sitting President is strong influence and the glue that keeps PNU together. If another person assumes the chairmanship, PNU will immediately lose Central region as a bloc because Uhuru Kenyatta and Martha Karua will split it among themselves," noted the official.

Nyamboga stepped down for Kibaki at the KICC on July 15, and has since assumed party executive director’s functions.

Sources The Standard on Sunday spoke to say Nyamboga was tricked and would not have resigned had he known Kibaki was not interested in becoming PNU chairman.

Since the announcement by Kiraitu that the President would not be gunning for PNU chairmanship at the November 19 National Delegates Conference at Kasarani, Saitoti and Wekesa have since declared their interest for the position.

"It is important for PNU to assume the face of Kenya, and not regional outfit. But if people feel they have money and they are famous to take over everything, the party will lose its founding ideology of fostering national unity and disintegrate. It is important to make people feel they have an opportunity in PNU," warned Wekesa.

Sources say 2012 succession positioning is at play, with some leaders calculating their moves just in case PNU alliance collapses mid-stream.

Kangundo MP and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka close ally Johnstone Muthama yesterday said ODM-Kenya recognises Kibaki as the interim chairman and they expect him to remain chairman of the PNU alliance.