Sunday, February 21, 2010



By Athman Amran, Allan Kisia and Lucianne Limo

The war of words between the Party of National Unity and Orange Democratic Movement continued on Saturday as PNU dismissed ODM agenda for the meeting between Prime Minister Raila Odinga and President Kibaki.

But Raila exuded confidence the Coalition Government would end the rift over corruption allegations in Government. Raila was equally upbeat the coalition would resolve differences when he meets President Kibaki, although it is not clear when the meeting would be held. It was earlier announced the meeting would be held on Monday, but Raila’s special advisor Salim Lone on Saturday sent out a new message explaining the meeting would now delay for a day or two.

Kibaki and Raila have agreed to meet and resolve disputes that have rocked the Grand Coalition Government. While in Japan, Raila issued a statement saying he had spoken with President Kibaki last Wednesday evening, over unfolding events and that they had agreed to meet on Sunday.

The planned meeting, The Standard on Sunday has learnt, follows intense pressure from US President Barack Obama, asking Kibaki and Raila to deal with grand corruption.

Chief Mediator Kofi Annan and Obama appealed to the two principals to stifle rising tension generated by the maize and free primary education fund scandals. Although pressure from the international community and local religious leaders stressed the importance of dialogue, they were emphatic on the need to fight corruption.

The PM raised a storm last Sunday, when he announced the suspension of ministers William Ruto (Agriculture) and Sam Ongeri (Education) to allow for investigations into the loss of billions of shillings in maize and free primary school fund scams.

President Kibaki later sent a statement from State House nullifying the suspensions of the two ministers.

And focus will today be trained on three public rallies the PM will address in Nairobi. Raila is expected at 9am from Tokyo, Japan, and will head for the rallies in Langata, Kibera and Baba Dogo.

Yesterday, PNU came out with guns blazing telling ODM its leadership cannot set agenda for the meeting between the President and the Prime Minister, as it was not a party affair.

Trouble started last week when Raila suspended Ruto and Ongeri to facilitate investigations.

Public apology

On Saturday, Government Chief Whip Francis Thuo told The Standard on Sunday PNU would first want a public apology from Raila not only for failing to consult the President before setting a date for the meeting, but also for an attempt by his party to drive the agenda.

Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi also censured PNU MPs who claim wrangles in the Government were an ODM ploy to scuttle constitutional review.

Mudavadi said ODM is not part of any scheme to disrupt constitution making. "Our party manifesto says it very clearly that we are not going to be an impediment to the constitutional review," he said.

Some PNU MPs claim wrangles between the President and the Prime Minister are part of ODM plan to derail the review. Yesterday, Mudavadi said MPs should make the constitutional review a priority when Parliament resumes.

"We don’t want sideshows when Parliament reopens. We cannot speak about getting a new constitution all the time," added Mudavadi, who is also the Minister for Local Government. Ikolomani MP Bonny Khalwale claimed there was a plot by some PNU MPs to divert public attention from the maize and education scandals.

"Right now the concern should be scandals in Government and a new constitution. It is not time to think about making Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka the leader of Government Business," he added.

He said Ongeri and Ruto should be sacked following scandals that have rocked their ministries.

"There is a deliberate effort by some PNU MPs to cover-up corruption in Government," added Khalwale.

Constitutional crisis

Thuo supported PNU MPs Dick Wathika (Makadara), Ephraim Maina (Mathira), Beth Mugo (Dagoretti) Mithika Linturi (Igembe South), John Mututho (Naivasha) and Agriculture Assistant Minister Kareke Mbiuki who also claim the PM is out to create a constitutional crisis by encroaching on the President’s powers.

"The problem with ODM is that they like talking too much. Raila should learn how to keep his people in check. The PM should apologise first before seeking to meet the President," Thuo said. He claimed the PM and ODM have been too casual on serious affairs of the State and in dealing with corruption. PNU Vice-Chairman George Nyamweya said it was ‘strange’ even to suggest an agenda for the President.

Nyamweya also argued that corruption, which the party claims is one of the agenda for the meeting, was not new. ODM had said that it had identified three issues they would table before the meeting with the President. Lone had told the Press corruption would top ODM agenda, especially on the concrete steps to be taken in probing maize and education scandals.

Second on the ODM agenda is the implementation of the National Accord, especially on the provision related to the authority of the Prime Minister to supervise and co-ordinate ministries.