Wednesday, February 9, 2011



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

February 7, 2011

Kenya is a great country. It is the only country where MPs can pass laws and a constitution they have not read!

Take the case of MPs Cyrus Jirongo and Julius Kones. These two leaders have hatched a bright idea that Parliament should endorse suspended Education Minister William Ruto for the post of Prime Minister! They are convinced that they have the numbers in Parliament to amend the National Accord Act to allow for a leader with a large following of MPs to assume the position of Prime Minister contrary to what the law says today.

The National Accord and Reconciliation Act as it stands, which forms the basis of the coalition government, recognizes the leader of the party with a majority in Parliament as the legitimate candidate for the Premiership. Currently Mr. Odinga holds the post owing to ODM's numerical supremacy over PNU in Parliament. The numerical supremacy includes William Ruto and his 60 MPs who still cling to their seats as de facto ODM members despite having sung songs of departure for close to three years.

Yes, circumstances may have changed drastically for Raila Odinga with 40 MPs. However the same circumstances have equally changed for William Ruto with his fictitious 60 MP in worse ways than they have for Raila Odinga.

The reason I sympathize with some of our MPs is because at times they reason as if they are strangers from Mars or some other distant planet. Because if they lived in the Kenya I know, Cyrus Jirongo and Julius Kones would have remembered that we now have the Public Officers and Ethics Act in the constitution which has raised the bar for any holder of a public office. It is no longer business as usual as in the KANU days when Jirongo and Ruto held sway as members of the infamous YK’92.

The reason I say Kenya has changed is the obvious fact that William Ruto was just the other day suspended from the cabinet, not because Kibaki and Raila hated him but because the law barred him from holding any public office as long as he has fraud cases in court. Now to tell us that a criminal in the dock should be our Prime Minister is to stretch imagination too far. May be Jirongo and Kones need reminding that William Ruto is not in the cabinet and that the post of Prime Minister is part of the cabinet. You cannot be Prime Minister when the law bars you from sitting in the cabinet.

Leadership of a political party is not bestowed on an individual based on one’s popularity in Parliament. It is based on the number of seats one’s party has in Parliament; not the number of rebellions an MP can execute in one year. In civilized societies, party leaderships are decided at party delegates' conferences, not at some obscure villages where political noise makers vent their frustrations to their villagers.

My free advice to William Ruto if he really wants to be Prime Minister is to do the following; clear all outstanding local land grabbing cases and go to The Hague and do the same there. Once he is a free man, let him persuade Raila Odinga and President Kibaki to return him to the cabinet. Once he has done this, let him convince ODM membership that there is need for a special National Delegates Conference at which he should contest the party leadership. If he wins, he can triumphantly return to Parliament to claim the Premiership from Raila Odinga.

A better route once he is through with court cases is to convince his 60 MPs to resign from ODM, form another party or join PNU and contest the elections a fresh. If all of them are returned to Parliament; which I doubt, they can now make William Ruto their Prime Minister. The question to ask is this: how many of these 60 MPs will sacrifice to go for a by-election when it is just 18 months to the General Elections?

The reality of the matter is that Raila Odinga was not anointed by Parliament or even ODM MPs to become the party leader. He was given that job by the rank and file of party membership. Anybody aspiring to that post must go through the same system. And as things stand; even those 60 Ruto MPs that still cling to the ODM for their daily bread and dread the idea of facing a by-election must put up with their party leader no matter how painful that may be. In any case William Ruto has never founded or led a political party. You don’t become a party leader just because a bunch of sixty MPs have chosen to follow you everywhere preaching negative ethnicity.

For those MPs that want to ditch ODM come the next elections, please pick a copy of the Act you passed in the 10th Parliament. You called it the Political Parties Act. It tells you what to do if you want to switch parties. You need to resign from your current party at least 6 months before you seek election under another party. This Act in effect tells you that you have 8 months to earn your MP’s salary as an ODM legislator after which you must resign or face the wrath of the Act as 70 Ugandan MPs learnt the hard way later last month. They are barred from participating in the ongoing Ugandan elections.