Wednesday, September 16, 2009



By Standard Team

Time ran out for Parliament before it debated President Kibaki’s unilateral reappointment of Justice Aaron Ringera, but there were signs he and his anti-graft agency may survive the wrath of MPs.

News filtered to newsrooms ahead of the longawaited debate that never was, was that Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Agriculture Minister William Ruto were lobbying for Ringera’s retention.

By rallying their troops Ruto weighing in on Rift Valley MPs and Uhuru galvanising Party of National Unity MPs — the two appeared to have taken the thunder off the debate. It was anticipated MPs would cut off Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission’s financial lifeline, or in the least deny it of money to pay Ringera and his two deputies.

Night meetings

The two leaders were said to be bound by shared interests — Ruto’s being Mau Forest issue, and Uhuru the return of Ringera. The Rift MPs are reported to have met on Monday night and agreed the best route for their members with the millstone of corruption cases on their necks was to stay off the fight against Ringera.

This was on the day the ODM front for Government whip, Jakoyo Midiwo, Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o and Lands Minister James Orengo had said they would use the debate on Ringera to teach Kibaki a lesson on perpetuation of impunity.

Ruto’s trick, sources revealed, was to convince Rift MPs that debate on the report of the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Mau Forest Complex would be in the favour of their constituents on eviction lists, if they went soft on Ringera and KACC.

Ruto held a series of meetings with the MPs at which he also sold the idea that the bonus in not appearing to be at war wit Ringera, would come by way of limited risk of prosecution of some personalities from the province who are on KACC investigation list.

But there was a soft landing for members who would not want to offend the public by appearing to play ball with Kibaki on Ringera appointment: They were advised to keep their vote away from the House.

This is what Uhuru did when the defeated Motion of censure against Ruto over the depletion of the strategic grain reserve was in the House. The Finance Minister prevailed upon some PNU MPs to either side with him in the open or stay away. Ruto won the day and the incentive for the PNU MPs then was to stop what they saw as the risk of Parliament being used as the platform to humiliate ministers. The argument then, also supported by Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, was that if the trend flourished no Cabinet member would be spared.

Yesterday, it was Ruto’s turn to reciprocate, but when asked he responded: "It is mere propaganda against me. How can I support Ringera yet he has fabricated two cases against me?"

Ammendments adopted

Environment Minister John Michuki let the cat out of the bag in Parliament when he confessed members of the House had "traded Mau Forest for Ringera!"

The magnitude of pressure on Ruto, the de facto political leader of Rift MPs, was discernible from the fact that one of the women MPs broke down at the PM’s office decrying how things had changed on the position they had earlier taken on Ringera.

It also bore fruit in the fact that the amendments the Rift MPs wanted added to the Task Force report on Mau — which was that the law and the Constitution would guide the evictions — were adopted.

Because the Ringera issue was only dwelt on for five minutes before the House adjourned, it is expected that today it would be the Ruto team’s payback time for Uhuru’s side when debate on Ringera runs for the balance of 55 minutes.

And so yesterday as two parliamentary committees recommended the revocation of Ringera’s reappointment, political exigency took over and the debate, too, took another direction.

The separate meetings by PNU and ODM MPs took place in the day as a judge withdrew from hearing a case challenging Ringera’s reappointment. Lady Justice Hannah Okwengu, who served as Ringera’s deputy in the defunct Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority, opted out barely a week after another Justice Msagha Mbogholi refused to hear a similar case.

The PNU MPs met at the Boulevard Hotel in the morning to plot a counter- attack on the Ringera debate in Parliament, notwithstanding that the same MPs sent a harsh verdict via the committees of delegated legislation and the Justice and Legal Affairs that Ringera’s reappointment should be revoked.

Common ground

Uhuru led Health Minister Beth Mugo and Nairobi Metropolitan Minister Njeru Githae and several MPs on forging a common ground in supporting Kibaki on Ringera.

Although guarded in his remarks, Chief Whip George Thuo said: "We do not want to pre-empt a parliamentary debate and contravene the standing orders, but I want to say the Ringera issue came up during the meeting," Thuo said.

MPs had initially come up with a three-pronged approach to corner the President: blocking Sh1.3 billion budget for KACC, withholding Sh45 million that would pay Ringera’s salary and that of his two deputies, and disbanding KACC and replacing it with a new body.

At the end of today’s debate the House is expected to either vote for adoption or rejection of the report of the Delegated Legislation Committee and that of the Administration of Justice.