Tuesday, April 21, 2009



By Standard Team

The infighting within the Grand Coalition Government appeared to take a new turn last night, with reports that ODM legislators were planning drastic action at Tuesday’s State Opening of the Third Session of the Tenth Parliament.

The reports, from highly placed sources, indicated that the party was sore because President Kibaki had "failed to consult with Prime Minister Raila Odinga on the Government’s legislative agenda".

And on the table among a raft of intended actions is a boycott of the State Opening, and a plan to shoot down Supplementary Budget requests that the Government would be asking the House to approve. The estimates would enable the Government to run its business until the end of the financial year in June.

On the other hand, the Party of National Unity (PNU) was railing and alleging treason by the Prime Minister’s Administrative Secretary Caroli Omondi over what they termed as leakage of State secrets.

In a typical Machiavellian fashion, the party appeared to be responding to the weekend’s renewed calls by ODM for the reconstitution of the offices of Head of Public Service (currently held by Francis Muthaura) and Government Spokesman (held by Dr Alfred Mutua).

On Monday night, ODM was frantically seeking to convene the party’s Parliamentary Group, apart from consultations between Pentagon members on Tuesday morning to ratify the decision.

"ODM’s Pentagon and the Parliamentary Group meets this morning to brainstorm on the fact that Kibaki has not briefed ODM on the legislative agenda he plans to present to the House tomorrow (this afternoon)," said the source.

However, The Standard learnt that the PG was called off at the 11th hour, with party Whip Jakoyo Midiwo citing the fact that it would have coincided with the State Opening.

Midiwo also denied claims that the party planned to boycott the Government’s legislative agenda, and blamed coalition partner PNU for spreading the misinformation.

"We have not discussed such a thing and in any case, that would be counterproductive for us," said Midiwo.

Earlier, Mumias MP Benjamin Washiali and his Nyatike counterpart, Mr Omondi Anyanga, had confirmed receiving invitation for the PG.

By the time of going to press, the Pentagon members’ consultative meeting remained on course. It is understood that the meeting would formalise the unprecedented boycott decision.

The wrangling coalition will today be embarking on another rocky patch, especially after ODM promised to take battle to the House given its numerical strength.

The party has promised to push for reforms contained in Agenda 4 of the National Accord, which includes changes to the Constitution, reforming the Police force and Judiciary, among others.

At today’s State Opening of Parliament, President Kibaki would outline the Government’s legislative agenda, in a speech that would then be debated by MPs for four days beginning tomorrow.

On Monday, PNU said leakage of State secrets to the media posed a danger to the Grand Coalition.

The calling for the Omondi’s sacking served to show that the infighting would continue to fester within the Grand Coalition, even after the principals met last week and agreed to work together.

But while PNU insisted that Omondi must go, ODM was reiterating that they would not relent on their call for Muthaura’s removal.

Kangundo MP Johnstone Muthama led seven PNU MPs in condemning Omondi who, however, declined to comment.

ODM Secretary-General Anyang’ Nyong’o said the party had called for the reconstitution of the offices of the Head of Public Service and that of the Government Spokesman "in line with the National Accord" that required that the offices be filled following consultation and concurrence by coalition partners.

"This has so far not been done with regard to many other such offices, but these two are urgent since they directly affect the daily operations of the coalition," Nyong’o said.

But the PNU MPs said "the leakage of Government secrets to the media" was meant to divert public attention from their failures in Government.

Lenny Kivuti (Siakago) said the country’s coalition leaders were a big letdown to the electorate, while Jeremiah Kioni (Ndaragwa) said the infighting among the leadership was scaring away investors.

Meanwhile, ODM legislators rallied to the defence of the PM a day after Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi blamed him for the squabbles in the Grand Coalition.

ODM Chief Whip Jakoyo Midiwo claimed PNU MPs were afraid of a Raila presidency because they could end up in jail over past economic crimes.

Midiwo and ODM MPs also dismissed claims by Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Kiraitu that Raila was disrespectful to the institution of the presidency.

Other leaders who condemned the PNU attack on Raila included Olago Aluoch (Kisumu Town West), Oyugi Magwanga (Kasipul Kabondo), John Pesa (Migori) Fred Outa (Nyando), John Mbadi (Gwassi), Nicholas Gumbo (Rarieda) and one of Raila’s aides, Mr Odungi Randa.

The leaders asked their PNU counterparts to stop tribal politics that could fuel tension in the country. Raila, they said, had the right to vie for the presidency.

"It is true that Raila has not lost his sight for the presidency but at the moment he is keen on working hard to deliver diligent services to Kenyans as Prime Minister," said Mr Midiwo.

He added: Is it a crime for Raila to have an ambition? How does that affect the management of the coalition? Why are the likes of Kiraitu scared?"

Midiwo said it was unfair for the PNU team to hit at Raila at a time when both sides of the coalition were trying to put the coalition back on course.

Olago said PNU should not speak with "executive" authority as if ODM was not part of the Government.

He said: "We are not an Opposition in the Coalition but a key principal partner. Our views also count. It’s therefore wrong that when we say something some people trash it.

Olago said President Kibaki and Prime Minister should resolve on the two issues as fast as possible to end bickering in the Government.

"Kenyans feel greatly betrayed by the grand coalition government. It has not lived up to its expectations and ODM and PNU leaders must rethink. People are not interested in coalition wrangles, they want better services," Olago said.