Friday, July 6, 2012



Prime Minister Raila Odinga addressing Civil Society activists in Nairobi

By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
July 4, 2012

Are some civil society activists overrating themselves or are they simply making outrageous utterances merely to grab media attention? Don’t we know that some of the CS leaders that were at the forefront in street battles against the Nyayo regime became embarrassingly compromised when they were appointed to serve in the present government? Didn’t some of them become worse sycophants than even the diehard Nyayoists under Moi?

Now the National Convention Executive Council wants the Prime Minister to suspend Githu Muigai the Attorney General for consistently misadvising the government since his appointment. The same outfit is demanding that the Prime Minister sack the Permanent Secretary for Internal Security for defying a court ruling over the appointment of county commissioners.

The Council is miffed that Mr. Mutea Iringu told the controversial county commissioners to stay put in their offices as his boss Mr. Kimemia directed the Attorney General to immediately appeal the ruling in a higher court.

In this tirade in front of the Prime Minister, the Police Commissioner too was not spared the activists’ guns. His crime was rather straight forward. He had failed to tame the elusive, faceless and murderous gang that is out to target and slaughter innocent Kenyans.

It is common knowledge that retrogressive forces are out to mutilate the new constitution and stall reform agenda. All signs are there for all to see. One can see those forces hyperactive in parliament and among senior personnel in the public service.

In fact recently a top civil servant disclosed in a public gathering that there is a bill ready for tabling in parliament that will restore provincial commissioners in our new system of government. Never mind that the constitution did away with PCs in our system. That indeed was the clearest sign that anti reformers will go down fighting.

A few days later, the same top civil servant had the audacity to order the Attorney General to immediately appeal the court ruling that nullified the appointment of 47 county commissioners. When I saw this footage on prime time news, I recalled the days of Charles Njonjo as Attorney General and wondered if a fellow civil servant would have ordered him to undertake such an assignment.

It is true our new constitution is under threat. It is also true that the retrogressive forces that campaigned against the constitution have regrouped and have reemerged under different colours. They may no longer be the red brigades that lost the referendum but they are still the same forces that were hell bent on derailing the constitution one more time.

If you see Attorney General presenting ambiguous bills in parliament at times with premeditated errors; it is not for nothing. If you see parliament taking away the responsibility of the Judicial Vetting Board and arbitrarily giving it to the Judicial Service Commission where the AG sits; it may not be as innocent as it seems.

If you see a presidential candidate table an amendment in parliament to allow party promiscuity among our MPs; it is the clearest sign that the forces of impunity are in overdrive. Their mission is to stall reforms at all costs because such reforms are a threat to their life styles.

However, in safeguarding our hard won constitution, let us guard what we utter in public. There are some utterances which are populist and good for news punch lines. However, if the demands we make of our leaders are unrealistic, we all lose out and look bad in the process.

Take the three sacking demands that were made to the Prime Minister this week. He was asked to sack or suspend three top government officials just like that.

We know as much as everybody else that the three top officials may have not performed as expected. However their sacking cannot be a walk in the park.

These are not the days of Nyayo era when top government officials were sacked and appointed at lunch time over the radio. These are not the Nyayo days when we could afford to hire and fire a Vice President of the Republic of Kenya by the road side. We have established institutions and guidelines for hiring and firing our public servants.

If today we want to sack the Attorney General, a Permanent Secretary or Commissioner of Police, we can either go to court to nullify his appointment on grounds of gross misconduct or appeal to his appointing authority to relieve him of his duties. We cannot go to the wrong authority and expect to get the desired results.

The Civil Society must appreciate that we have a coalition government and government ministries and constitutional offices are shared between two principals. For this matter, the State Law Office and Internal Security belong to the President’s coalition side. He is the only one that can replace the Police Commissioner, Head of Public Service, Internal Security Permanent Secretary and Attorney General at will.

Making such demands of the Prime Minister to discipline individuals he never appointed in the first place is misguided and cheeky. It makes news alright but its effect enjoys limited shelf life. Our civil society activists can do better than this.