Sunday, May 10, 2009



May 9 2009

Some civil servants do not take orders from ODM ministers. And there is a growing feeling that only matters endorsed by the PNU side are authentic. This is undermining unity in the grand coalition

The Sunday Nation can now lift the lid on the extraordinary divisions within the Cabinet that stand in the way of implementing the ambitious transitional mandate of the grand coalition.

Interviews with senior members of the coalition revealed a government so riddled with turf wars that civil servants routinely ignore directives from ministers; separate meetings are called with identical agenda and the duelling sides of the coalition operate a parallel Cabinet system.

The past week alone has yielded a series of small flashpoints that fit in the pattern of a government torn down the middle by turf wars that have virtually created two cabinets operating in one government.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Raila Odinga skipped the swearing-in ceremony of South Africa’s new president, Jacob Zuma, after the Foreign Affairs ministry urged him to keep off.

And on Tuesday afternoon, the PM’s security detail engaged in a standoff with police officers within Parliament. The police on duty within Parliament Buildings had declined to let in his motorcade arguing that he had used a gate reserved for the President.

Flexed his muscles

The PM was, in turn, seen to have flexed his muscles the following day when he reversed a directive by the Finance ministry, which is headed by PNU heavyweight Uhuru Kenyatta.

The ministry’s decree that required married couples working in the same organisation to choose which one of them would relinquish their position, the PM argued, was discriminatory and had not been approved by the Cabinet.

Interviews with several Cabinet ministers yielded the confession that the Cabinet does not function harmoniously because of the suspicion that defines the troubled relationship between the two partners.

ODM-allied ministers said senior civil servants, most of them appointed by the first Kibaki administration, seemed unwilling to take orders from them.

“A good partnership can be crystallised in two words: consultation and concurrence,” said Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang. “In this partnership, there is neither of those ingredients. The fact is that although the coalition is written into the Constitution, PNU does not accept there is a partnership and their view is that this is their government.”

PNU-allied Roads assistant minister Wilfred Machage, on his part, accused ODM of demanding too much.

“Respect is subjective and I think the trouble with ODM is that they want us to bow at their feet and let them have everything their way,” he said.

Beyond the duels for political supremacy, the fights between the two sides of the Cabinet have served to reduce the effectiveness of government and could also be undermining Kenya’s diplomatic standing within the region.

Only this week, ODM ministers complained about lack of official government representation at the airport when Sudan’s First Vice-President Salva Kiir visited the country because, they said, there was a perception he was an ODM guest.

Dr Kiir was heading to Kisumu to receive an honorary doctorate degree at the Great Lakes University.

East African Community minister Amason Kingi, who was elected on an ODM ticket, cited two cases which, he said, pointed to efforts to undermine his capacity to discharge his duties.

He said he had been omitted from the travelling party when President Kibaki visited Rwanda last November “despite the fact that relations with that country fall within my docket”.

According to Mr Kajwang, the problems will only be resolved when the two principals agree to work together in the spirit and letter of the National Accord.

“These are two rivals who have been forced to work together by circumstances. They do not like each other, but neither do they need to. They should just set aside personal views and cooperate for the sake of the nation,” he said.