By Jerry Okungu
February 23, 2011
It was definitely a tense moment when President Kibaki faced one of his lowest moments in his presidency. The occasion was his second press conference in a week. Unlike the first one when he chided the National Assembly Speaker for rejecting his nominees as he swore to move to the constitutional court to decide on the matter, this time round, he surprised foe and friend alike by suddenly withdrawing the names of his four nominees to the offices of Chief Justice, Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecutions and Controller of Budgets.
President Kibaki is not unused to eating humble pie. He has done it before when he tried to reappoint Aaron Ringera to head KACC without referring to Parliament. At that time, MPs threatened to paralyze the operations of the government if the appointment was not withdrawn. He ate humble pie then.
Soon after President Kibaki’s press conference, his Prime Minister also addressed the press in his office; the occasion he chose to congratulate the President for finally seeing the light that culminated in withdrawing the names of the controversial nominees. However, the Prime Minister’s press talk, especially during question time was not without fireworks. In his statements to the press, he reserved the best of his statements for Uhuru Kenyatta when he chose to respond to the many unkind attacks Uhuru Kenyatta has been directing at him lately.
Going back to the President’s press conference, I watched the body language of many of his allies in both PNU and ODM rebels. I saw Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, Isaac Ruto, Ndaragwa MP, Hon Kioni, and Najib Balala who even struggled so hard to be the only one who shook the President’s hand after his speech. Yes, the entire President’s hardliners were there including Kalonzo Musyoka among others.
What was so telling was the loss in their faces as they listened to their captain reading what would amount to a total contradiction of the path they had taken regarding the controversial nominations. What was even more telling was the fact that this was the D- day in Parliament when the PNU hard liners had a date to deal with both the Speaker and the Prime Minister on the floor of the House!
In one stroke of the pen, the President turned his sword on his own troops and dealt them a devastating blow at least for now. And whichever way one would look at it, he stopped them in their tracks from taking the whole country downhill as they schemed for their own survival and personal interests.
In a nutshell, these are some of the grand plans the Ocampo Six (or shall we call them the New Kanu Alliance) and their supporters had in mind; they had planned to impeach the Speaker of the National Assembly for ruling against their interest. They had planned to pass a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister and if possible elect William Ruto as the new Prime Minister in the belief that the combined strength of PNU and ODM rebels would give them a majority in Parliament. Never mind that Ruto is a criminal on trial in two Kenyan courts as he awaits a third court case in The Hague in a few weeks’ time. Never mind too that the same Kibaki sacked Ruto from his cabinet post as soon as he was charged in a local court.
Their final act was to prepare ground for pulling out of the Coalition in the belief that once they are out of the coalition, PNU would form a government of National Unity without ODM and obviously appoint ODM rebels into the cabinet to replace Raila Odinga and his men. However, in this last act, they overlooked one little fact- that the reason we today have a coalition government is because the presidential election results were disputed. None of these people now clamoring for the Prime Minister’s post were presidential candidates. More importantly, presidential votes all over the world are not transferrable. This is the reason the crafters of the Grand Coalition document were clever enough to bind the two principal contenders to the Grand Coalition articles. It was to solve the dispute between the two top candidates. It was the same reason Kalonzo Musyoka who was the third ranking candidate was left out because he was irrelevant to the dispute after ranking a distant poor third.
Now that President Kibaki has made it clear that he does not want to cut short his presidency for the sake of his allies; and that he wants to renegotiate and consult widely with his Prime Minister on the nominations, will Uhuru Kenyatta proceed with his plans to “do whatever it takes to ensure President Kibaki enjoys unfettered powers”? Now that President Kibaki has chosen to consult his Prime Minister on the nominations, will the PNU brigade still pursue their intention to punish Speaker Marende and Prime Minister Raila Odinga?
If they have to succeed in their plans, they had better go back to the drawing board and look at their plans afresh because neither of the options looks rosy at all.