Thursday, April 22, 2010



Prime Minister Raila Odinga finally seemed to have had his way — transferring his critic and proponent of ‘No’ campaign William Ruto to the marginal Ministry of Higher Education.By Standard Team

He let Ruto swap positions with Aldai MP Sally Kosgei, one of the few Rift Valley MPs who have consistently

supported him even as the majority appeared to drift to Ruto’s side.In a similar fashion he replaced Energy Assistant Minister Charles Keter, a Ruto ally and Belgut MP, with Kiprono Magerer.The youthful Kipkelion MP, like Dr Kosgey did not follow the Rift Valley MPs’ exodus towards Ruto’s fold following Raila’s disagreements with the Eldoret North MP over handling of post-election suspects, Mau Forest evictions, reversed suspension from

Cabinet, and defiance of the party’s position on the Proposed Constitution.

Ruto told a local radio station last night he would be taking his new duties this morning.

In what could be hilarious to many Kenyans, Ruto ends up in one ministerial field and working block with Education Minister Sam Ongeri with whom Raila suspended him. President Kibaki reinstated the two shortly after the suspension.

The Ministry of Higher Education is the smaller ‘sister’ having been curved out of the larger Ministry of Education to accommodate the bloated Grand Coalition Cabinet and satisfy the runaway demands of the wrangling partners.

The changes, which took effect immediately, followed a meeting between the PM and the President at Harambee House, Wednesday. In a statement sent to newsrooms from the Presidential Press Service, it was made clear the changes were as a result of consultations between the President and the PM.

Former Agriculture Minister William Ruto will now have to move from sizing up the maize yields to books after he was moved to the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology in a Cabinet shuffle. [PHOTO: FILE]

The two usually meet on Wednesdays. The National Accord and Reconciliation Act they signed on February 28, 2008, demands that the President can only effect Cabinet changes affecting the PM’s side of the coalition if he puts it in writing that is what he wants done.
In what appeared a partial fulfillment of his promise he would shove aside discordant voices in his Orange Democratic Movement, the PM also dropped an Assistant Minister allied to Ruto.

Downsizing Ruto

Consistent with his demands he should be free to reorganise his portion of the Grand Coalition Government, Raila gave Kosgey, who last month came out openly in his support and criticised Ruto’s view on the clause on land in the Proposed Constitution.

As if to pre-empt claims among Ruto sympathisers he was downsizing Ruto, he let him remain in the Cabinet, and swapped him with a politician from his Kalenjin sub-tribe – Nandi.

The first mini-reshuffle by Kibaki and Raila saw Ruto moved from Kilimo House in Upper Hill, where he has enjoyed unrivalled visibility and national attention overseeing agricultural programmes and reforms in key sectors, such as tea, sugar and grain, to Jogoo House.Although all Cabinet portfolios enjoy the same clout, the distinction is often budgetary allocation, and the number of key State corporations under them.

Then there is also the ministry’s contribution to the Government’s manifesto for economic development and growth.The Ministry of Agriculture has over 20 parastatals, key among them the mega-million sugar factories, Agricultural Finance Corporation, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, Kenya Seed Company,  National Cereals and Produce Board, Agricultural Development Corporation, and Kenya Sugar Board.

Notable parastatals and State Corporations now under Ruto include Higher Education Loans Board, Commission for Higher Education, Kenya Institute of Education, and the seven public universities.

The Ministry of Agriculture’s allocation went up from 4.5 per cent of the national budget, which last year stood at Sh866 billion, to eight per cent. According to the requirements of the Millennium Development Goals it should be 12 per cent.

On the other hand, the Education sector takes the highest at 18 per cent, but the bulk of it goes to Free Primary Education, which is under Prof Ongeri.

Last week, Ruto shared a platform with Kibaki in Nakuru and maintained some issues must be resolved before the Proposed Constitution is taken to the referendum.

On Tuesday, Kibaki while addressing elders at Bomas of Kenya affirmed the need for the Government to speak with one voice and advised against lone-ranger tactics.

Ruto’s transfer from the ministry echoed the 1999 relocation of Finance Minister Simeon Nyachae from Treasury, to the low profile Ministry of Industry. Taking it as a vote of no confidence in him by the appointing authority and reprisal for exposing prominent debtors of State-owned National Bank, Nyachae immediately resigned from the Cabinet.

The President appears to have taken the opportunity presented by the PM to fill vacancies on his PNU side of the Cabinet. He picked Trade Minister Amos Kimunya to also act as Minister for Transport. The ministry fell vacant after the High Court, quashed the election of former Matuga MP Mr Ali Chirau Mwakwere.

In keeping with tradition inherited from former President Moi, Kibaki and Raila maintained the geographical balance the Government by swapping appointees from one region, and filling vacant positions from the political bloc of the previous holders.

In this way, the President replaced Garsen MP Danson Mungatana with Kaloleni MP Samuel Kazungu Kambi, from PNU’s affiliate, Kanu. Kambi takes over from Mungatana at the Ministry of Medical Services.

The President also picked North Mugirango MP Wilfred Moriasi Mbui, a Kanu MP, as Assistant Minister for National Heritage and Culture. He filled the slot left vacant by the High Court’s quashing of former Bomachoge MP Joel Onyancha’s election, last year. Mr Onyancha subsequently lost the by-election.

Mungatana, who like Kambi, comes from the Coast and PNU side, resigned from the Government in April, last year, alongside Gichugu MP Martha Karua. She was protesting what he called the Government’s resistance to reforms.

Mungatana, who is Karua’s deputy at the helm of Narc-Kenya, said, as he left: "If you see the leadership giving direction, you have to follow suit. I had to do this as the second in command in the party. She has shown a firm position that the party should take."

Cabinet meeting

Kibaki gave reason to Kanu chairman Uhuru Kenyatta to smile by picking two new Assistant Ministers from his party, and none from Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka’s ODM-Kenya, which also claims similar status with the Independence party in PNU.

With the talks between Raila and Kibaki, and the changes they agreed to, Kenyans will be watching to see if they would convene Cabinet meetings after skipping them for over three months.

After Kibaki rescinded Raila’s decision to suspend Ruto and Ongeri, ODM instructed its ministers to boycott Cabinet meetings until the matter was resolved.

There were signs the Cabinet could meet today because the two principals usually meet a day before.