Kenya: A case of one state, two cabinets

dr_alfred_mutua.jpg Dr Alfred Mutua By SUNDAY NATION TEAM
Some civil servants do not take orders from ODM ministers. And there is a growing feeling that only matters endorsed by the PNU side are authentic. This is undermining unity

The Sunday Nation can now lift the lid on the extraordinary
divisions within the Cabinet that stand in the way of implementing the
ambitious transitional mandate of the grand coalition.

Interviews with senior members of the coalition revealed a government
so riddled with turf wars that civil servants routinely ignore
directives from ministers; separate meetings are called with identical
agenda and the duelling sides of the coalition operate a parallel
Cabinet system.

The past week alone has yielded a series of small flashpoints that fit
in the pattern of a government torn down the middle by turf wars that
have virtually created two cabinets operating in one government.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Raila Odinga skipped the swearing-in
ceremony of South Africa's new president, Jacob Zuma, after the Foreign
Affairs ministry urged him to keep off.

And on Tuesday afternoon, the PM's security detail engaged in a
standoff with police officers within Parliament. The police on duty
within Parliament Buildings had declined to let in his motorcade
arguing that he had used a gate reserved for the President.

Flexed his muscles

The PM was, in turn, seen to have flexed his muscles the following day
when he reversed a directive by the Finance ministry, which is headed
by PNU heavyweight Uhuru Kenyatta.

The ministry's decree that required married couples working in the same
organisation to choose which one of them would relinquish their
position, the PM argued, was discriminatory and had not been approved
by the Cabinet.

Interviews with several Cabinet ministers yielded the confession that
the Cabinet does not function harmoniously because of the suspicion
that defines the troubled relationship between the two partners.

ODM-allied ministers said senior civil servants, most of them appointed
by the first Kibaki administration, seemed unwilling to take orders
from them.

A good partnership can be crystallised in two words: consultation and
concurrence, said Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang. In this
partnership, there is neither of those ingredients. The fact is that
although the coalition is written into the Constitution, PNU does not
accept there is a partnership and their view is that this is their
government.

PNU-allied Roads assistant minister Wilfred Machage, on his part, accused ODM of demanding too much.

Respect is subjective and I think the trouble with ODM is that they
want us to bow at their feet and let them have everything their way,
he said.

Beyond the duels for political supremacy, the fights between the two
sides of the Cabinet have served to reduce the effectiveness of
government and could also be undermining Kenya's diplomatic standing
within the region.

Only this week, ODM ministers complained about lack of official
government representation at the airport when Sudan's First
Vice-President Salva Kiir visited the country because, they said, there
was a perception he was an ODM guest.

Dr Kiir was heading to Kisumu to receive an honorary doctorate degree at the Great Lakes University.

East African Community minister Amason Kingi, who was elected on an ODM
ticket, cited two cases which, he said, pointed to efforts to undermine
his capacity to discharge his duties.

He said he had been omitted from the travelling party when President
Kibaki visited Rwanda last November despite the fact that relations
with that country fall within my docket.

It was very embarrassing because I had to fight my way into the
delegation. More recently, ahead of the summit of East African heads of
state, I sought in vain for an appointment to brief President Kibaki,
he said.

The embarrassing protocol hitches are seen as undermining the
performance of the government and could account for its rock bottom
approval ratings.

One of the most significant aspects of the divisions within the
administration is the apparent reluctance by senior civil servants to
implement directives from the office of the Prime Minister as well as
that office's relations with PNU ministers.

The PM declined to be interviewed for this story because he did not
want to be quoted discussing protocol issues. But his spokesman Dennis
Onyango cited a number of incidents which, he said, demonstrate
reluctance by departments headed by PNU ministers to cooperate with the
PM's office.

He said the PM was routinely bypassed in making major decisions.

Mr Odinga was caught by surprise by the recent deployment of military
personnel in Samburu, for example, despite the fact he is a member of
the National Security Council, which should authorise such deployment.

The PM is never told when heads of states are coming and never invited
when protocols are being signed between Kenya and other states. He is
only invited to dinners hosted on behalf of the visiting dignitaries.
He routinely avoids those dinners, said Mr Onyango.

Nobody even sends him copies of the signed protocols for follow-up
purposes, yet he is supposed to be coordinating government affairs.

The PM's office also complained of contradictory directives from the office of the head of public service.

Mr Onyango said the Prime Minister recently called a meeting to discuss
a tussle between two cement companies which are vying for control of
limestone deposits in Mutomo district.

The meeting brought together representatives of the two companies,
Mutomo civic leaders, and officials from the ministries of Local
Government, Environment and Industrialisation.

A few days later, Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura convened a
meeting at the Office of the President to discuss the same matter, Mr
Onyango said.

He said the pattern was repeated when a dispute arose over a cement factory to be set up in Ortum, Pokot.

We view it as a circus. There are people who believe something has the
mark of government only when it is signed by the PNU wing, he said.

These incidences combined with the well documented protocol hitches
such as the failure by the provincial administration to receive the PM
at the Coast, paint a picture of an administration that is so hobbled
by divisions that its capacity to deliver on reforms is in doubt.

Teething problems

Contacted, Government Spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua said: Any coalition
will have teething problems. The Permanent Committee on the Grand
Coalition is tasked with solving these issues.

He refused to be drawn into discussing the specific problems that have
attended the implementation of policy or the role of the office of
public service in fomenting the conflicts.

According to Mr Kajwang, the problems will only be resolved when the
two principals agree to work together in the spirit and letter of the
National Accord.

These are two rivals who have been forced to work together by
circumstances. They do not like each other, but neither do they need
to. They should just set aside personal views and cooperate for the
sake of the nation, he said.

Sunday Nation

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