Monday, April 27, 2009



Published on 27/04/2009
By Standard Team

The crack in the Grand Coalition Government seems to be getting wider by the day as PNU and ODM at the weekend exchanged the strongest words since the signing of the peace accord.

What started as discontent in ODM for allegedly being ‘short-changed’ by the PNU side has now escalated to the fight over who between Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Prime Minister Raila Odinga should be Leader of Government Business in Parliament and seems to be getting out of hand.

Yesterday, PNU accused Raila of fomenting trouble in the coalition Government to initiate a "civilian coup" and to deflect attention from his failures in the supervision of Government business.

PNU further maintained that the issue of Leader Government Business had been concluded with Kalonzo’s nomination, and challenged ODM to go to court to seek constitutional interpretation.

Raila’s response came fast and furious — he called for fresh elections, saying ODM had been "pushed to the wall".

Both ODM and PNU legislators devoted the weekend to rallies to galvanise support from wananchi ahead of House Speaker Kenneth Marende’s ruling on the matter tomorrow afternoon.

Kibaki’s prerogative

Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta led the PNU team in Meru, urging President Kibaki to stay put and maintain his choice of Kalonzo (see separate story).

Kibaki’s allies, led by Kalonzo, whom the President has nominated to be Leader of Government Business in Parliament, dismissed the power sharing National Accord as "a two-page document" that did not alter Kibaki’s constitutional prerogative and Parliament’s tradition in naming the House Business Committee (HBC) and its chairman.

"That has been the tradition for 45 years and was not altered by the National Accord," PNU said in a statement read by Roads Assistant Minister Wilfred Machage in the presence of the VP and 20 other MPs.

"It is not up to the Speaker to compare, discuss or seek to judge a letter between the President and a Member of Parliament," Dr Machage said in reference to Mr Marende’s message that he was evaluating the letters received from Kibaki confirming Kalonzo as chairman of the House Business Committee and Raila nominating himself for the same post.

"The action by the PM of nominating himself to be Leader of Government Business is unconstitutional, illegal and unacceptable," said the PNU statement.

"I am perturbed why the Speaker did not rule on the floor," Machage said, indicating that it was evident whose letter had weight in law.

Nominated MP George Nyamweya said neither the Speaker nor Parliament had the authority to "interpret" Kibaki’s constitutional powers.

Machage said Sections 4, 23 and 30 of the Constitution confer on the President powers to delegate his leadership of Government parliamentary business to a minister of his choice.


"The National Accord is not superior to the Constitution of Kenya," said Machage, adding: "Kenyans should not be misled that a two-page accord and amendment in one section makes the Constitution inferior to the accord."

Speaking in Lari, Kiambu, afterwards Kalonzo said the Constitution was clear on presidential appointments and there was no reason for the country to be subjected to unnecessary debate.

Kalonzo said presidential appointments could not be contested and wondered why leaders keep on confusing Kenyans on the issue.

But Raila maintained that ODM would push for fresh elections if the Speaker’s ruling does not go his way.

Raila chose Kibera, in his Lang’ata constituency, to declare that his party would not cede further ground on the matter, asking his constituents to be ready for elections.

"We can’t cede any further ground, we have been pushed to the wall. The country has said No. If the decision is not rescinded, we are ready to seek a fresh mandate," said Raila.

Nominated MP Rachael Shebesh, who addressed the Kibera meeting, urged ODM MPs to attend tomorrow’s session in Parliament, saying the House would not debate who should be Leader of Government Business but "observe the National Accord".

Ms Shebesh accused PNU of using Kalonzo to propagate its agenda.

"I want to advise the VP. Don’t be used to fight wars that you don’t know about. We know the VP is not even a PNU presidential candidate for 2012," said Shebesh.

Fed up

And Vihiga MP Yusuf Chanzu said the Orange party was fed up and now ready for elections.

"Even if it means going to elections tomorrow, we are ready," he told a cheering crowd in Kibera.

Higher Education Minister Sally Kosgei accused PNU of generating the squabbles by ignoring the National Accord. "PNU is ignoring the Accord and this is the source of trouble. In the Accord, the PM is the head of Government. We can’t have someone with 14 MPs as head of Government," said Dr Kosgei.

Raila said his party has a majority in Parliament and has the right to be given the position, arguing this is the practice all over the world.

He accused PNU of misleading the country by borrowing from the Constitution, which vests executive powers on the President.

He claimed that the National Accord is clear on the separation of executive powers between the PM and President.

At the weekend, Kibaki reiterated that his nomination of Musyoka as Leader of Government Business would not be reversed.

Raila maintained yesterday: "We won’t quit. In fact, it is they (PNU) that should quit. To us quitting means going to the polls."

Speaking at the 19th PCEA General Assembly Moderator at St Andrews Church in Nairobi a fortnight ago, President Kibaki ruled out early elections before reforms are undertaken.

–Reporting by David Ochami, Peter Opiyo, Maseme Machuka and Patrick Muriungi