Wednesday, July 22, 2009



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
July 20, 2009

Two attempts by the fractured Kibaki cabinet to find a solution to the tribunal stalemate are a clear sign that this cabinet has reached its “sell by date”. It is dysfunctional. It is not working. No amount of meetings, not even the cabinet subcommittee under Mutula Kilonzo will yield anything.

The truth is; Kibaki has proved that he is no longer the executive head of state he is supposed to be. The warlords appointed to the cabinet arbitrarily have dug in and usurped his authority.

For me, I see only one way out. Kibaki still has the last trump card to get out of the quagmire. He must use his executive authority, the constitutional authority he used to appoint the present cabinet. That authority allows him to fire any member of the cabinet that fails to toe the government line.

Let Kibaki remember that when he was faced with a similar rebellion in 2005 over the referendum, when some members of his cabinet took a different stand on the constitution, he lost the vote to the Orange team. Feeling wounded and bruised after a grueling campaign, he dissolved the cabinet in November 2005 as he contemplated forming a fresh one. And true to character, he severely punished the LDP party leaders that organized the revolt. He sacked them all from the cabinet and replaced them with KANU MPs that were waiting on the wings.

In the present coalition, there are 221 MPs in the coalition save for Martha Karua, Dawson Mungatana and Cyrus Jirongo. There is no reason why Kibaki should allow his government to be taken round in cycles over this Hague debate. Those in the cabinet that have chosen to have war with the coalition must be sacked from government since on their own; they are used to having their cake and eating it.

This abrasive disregard for authority has been coming for a long time. It didn’t start yesterday. It is a culmination of many years of snipping at the presidency as early as 2003 when Kibaki made the first attempt to exert his authority on the Narc coalition. His efforts to dissolve Narc affiliate parties came a cropper when LDP, Ford Kenya and NAK shot it down.

Just this year, after fighting relentlessly for Kibaki’s second term, Martha Karua refused to toe the line and decided to seek the presidency in 2012 with or without Kibaki’s blessings. Several attempts to cut her down to size resulted finally in her throwing in the towel and subsequently resigned from the cabinet.

Since Karua’s resignation, two assistant ministers have openly unsubordinated Prof. Sambili their Sports and Youth Minister right inside parliament, something that just six years ago was unthinkable in Kenyan politics.

And to show how indiscipline has gone too far in the cabinet, an assistant minister now threatens to travel all the way to The Hague to take documents proving that the two coalition principals were the masterminds of the post election violence! In Moi’s or Kenyatta’s time such ministers would be behind bars right now, let alone possessing travel documents.

Part of the reason this cabinet is not working is its size. Ordinary Kenyans saw a long time ago that forming a cabinet of 41 full ministers and 50 assistants was wasteful, unwieldy and reckless.

To chair a cabinet of 40 warlords is like conducting a classroom lesson in the ghettoes of America where the word discipline is unheard of.

In the best of circumstances, conducting a meeting of more than 30 normal people can be a challenge. Most productive meetings normally have between five and fifteen people because the number can be controllable. This is why most companies never have more than 11 members on the board at any time.

Little wonder then that when researchers go to the field to conduct their Focus Group Discussions, they always restrict the number to a maximum of ten for discussions are to be fruitful.

This cabinet fiasco has given the principals a golden opportunity to dissolve and later trim it to manageable levels. Apart from size, it is expensive, wasteful, unproductive and unnecessary.

If the United States and India, two of the largest democracies in the world, with economies 2000 times bigger than Kenya can afford less than 20 cabinet ministers, we must be reckless fools to sustain such waste.

The reason why the Mutula Kilonzo sub-committee will come a cropper is not because his colleagues don’t respect him. It is because he doesn’t inspire them. He lacks the political acumen that can win him support among his peers. More importantly, he blows cold and hot so many times long before he presents his case to his colleagues. And again, he comes across as someone that loves overrating himself as he berates fellow ministers for their ignorance of the law. With that attitude, it will be a miracle if he achieves anything.