Thursday, April 16, 2009



April, 15 2009

Kenya Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Wednesday wrote to President Kibaki informing him that ministers from his Orange Democratic Movement party (ODM) will forthwith boycott the Cabinet until their power-sharing grievances are addressed, the Nation has learnt.

The letter, written on the authority of ODM, precipitated a series of events which may see the resolution of the power-sharing impasse.

On Wednesday at 4pm, the President called the PM to his Harambee House office where the two held discussions. As a result of the talks, the Cabinet meeting scheduled for Thursday morning was put off. Instead, there will be a meeting of the Grand Coalition Management Committee at 11am.

A statement from PPS said the meeting will discuss issues tabled by the two coalition partners during the Kilaguni retreat.

The Kilaguni meeting had three agendas and broke up after participants failed to agree on one. It is not clear whether an agenda has been agreed on for today’s meeting.

Mr Odinga left the President’s office at about 6pm and the President went into another one with US ambassador Michael Ranneberger.

One ODM minister, who spoke to the Nation on condition of anonymity so as to express himself freely, said the meeting between the President and the Prime Minister was “inconsequential” and that the ministers would still not attend a “dysfunctional Cabinet”.

“The meeting would have no consequences on our resolve not to attend Cabinet meetings. There is no use attending meetings of a dysfunctional Cabinet,” said the minister.

Earlier in the day, Mr Odinga sent the letter to the President informing him of his party’s position and asking for the postponement of Cabinet meetings until the issues between the partner parties were resolved.

“The Prime Minister has sent a letter to the President asking for a postponement of Cabinet meetings until the Coalition Management Committee meets. ODM will not attend any Cabinet meeting until these issues are resolved,” a source at the PM’s office, who declined to be named because he is not authorised to discuss sensitive coalition business, said.

Mr Odinga’s drastic action comes a day after President Kibaki appeared to offer an olive branch, saying he had a good working relationship with Mr Odinga and that those talking of a crisis in government “were expressing words of despair”.

“I want to assure you that for myself and Raila Odinga, we are working together. I am sure we will succeed. We shall not be set aside by anyone,” the President said on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, a Harambee House source, commenting on condition of anonymity, said the President read the riot act to Juja MP George Thuo for the statements he has been making against the PM when he met lawmakers from the larger Meru districts at Harambee House.

A few hours after the President’s assurance on Tuesday, Mr Odinga called a meeting of ODM ministers and assistant ministers at his Treasury office where it was resolved that the party would no longer agree to play second fiddle in the coalition and that power-sharing issues must be resolved.

Interviews with ministers and aides revealed that it was at the meeting that it was agreed to snub Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, which would have discussed government legislative agenda ahead of next week’s opening of Parliament.

Mr Odinga was authorised to write to the President to express the concerns of the gathered ministers and inform him of the boycott until the issues the party had identified were resolved.

ODM walked out of the Kilaguni meeting after failing to agree with their PNU counterparts on the agenda. They also protested at the presence of senior civil servants at a meeting that was supposed to be a private affair of the Permanent Committee on the Management of Coalition Affairs.

“We decided not to attend tomorrow’s (Thursday’s) Cabinet meeting unless the Kilaguni crisis is addressed. The collapse of the Kilaguni talks showed the country in crisis,” said a minister who attended the Treasury meeting.

There is no need for us to attend the Cabinet meeting when our relationship with our coalition partners is not good. Attending the meeting will signify that it is business as usual,” he added.

Cabinet meetings, the highest government policy decision making forums, are chaired by the President on Thursdays at State House.

The Constitution does not say how many members are required to form a quorum for such a meeting, which is facilitated by the secretary to the Cabinet and Head of Civil Service, the office now occupied by Mr Francis Muthaura.

An absence of a section of ministers from Cabinet would hamper government operations. Mr Odinga is the coordinator of government and chairs all Cabinet committees with the exception of security. His absence would significantly derail the smooth running of Cabinet affairs.

ODM has 21 ministers and currently PNU has 20 following the resignation of Gichugu MP Martha Karua.

ODM MPs will meet at a Naivasha hotel on Thursday to discuss the issue of being short-changed in the coalition, the full implementation of the National Accord and plans to take charge of parliamentary committees when the House reopens.

However, such committees are a preserve for the opposition since they are meant to audit the government.

Livestock assistant minister Aden Duale said: “We are preparing our case for ratification and endorsement by the members.”

The meeting will also agree on pushing for the overhaul of all key parliamentary committees including the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and Public Investments Committee (PIC).

“We want our members to take full charge of the committees because we have the numbers. This is because some of the committee heads have been pocketed by politicians eyeing the presidency in 2012 to spoil names of our colleagues,” he said.

They are also keen on the proposed Opposition Caucus following reports that Ms Karua, former Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, was laying strategies of heading it.