Kenya: Kibaki, a man with one option

kenya_mwai_kibakiPresident Kibaki (pictured) ventured out of State House a day after Parliament rejected his reappointment of Justice Aaron Ringera, but he kept his next course of action to himself.

He stood out as the object of attack by Parliament, assaulted by a House that for decades wanted to be where it was on Wednesday: Imbued with the capacity and will to stand in the way of the President, keep him in check, and show him he would not always have his way. The President has the option, though, of talking to the re-energised Parliament, to get things moving again.

Though his speech at the Nyeri Agricultural Show propagated wisdom of food security and welcomed drop in fertiliser prices, there was no olive branch dangled before Parliament, conciliatory gesture to a hostile House, or even assurance he had his finger on the nations political pulse.

But as he went about his work one thing stood out: On Wednesday evening Parliament made him the first President to have his executive authority challenged by the House, and made a study in how the Legislature can neutralise the so-called imperial powers, leaving him with zero option.

It was the Presidents first day in public after Parliament adjourned yesterday, to help the two forces cool their heels and try and strike a compromise.

At stake is KACCs financial lifeline, which MPs have vowed they would cut if Kibaki insists on Ringera, even after bypassing Parliament and KACC Advisory Board, and his own presentation of himself as a leader keen to see the ghosts of corruption exorcised.

After the defeat of his side in Parliament, the question on the lip of his friends is what is/are the Presidents option(s). Our enquiries revealed it is a zero-sum game for the President unless he forges a common ground with Parliament. It could be the first time that Kenyans would see the play-out of a tussle that could show there are limits to the Presidents powers, and that there are laws.

It also could mark the day Parliament claimed an inch, and then began going for a mile … and the possibility of plummeting relations between the Executive and the Legislature.

What started off as something that could be shrugged off reappointment of Ringera and his two deputies has put the President in an awkward position. It is not easy to tell how the President will wriggle out of the position.

On the one hand, insisting that he was right and acted within the law could worsen the situation because Parliament could slay KACC altogether by denying it money to operate.

Removed by tribunal

It will also be difficult for the President to shove off Ringera, whose appointment the Executive has insisted was within the law, and could only be remove by a tribunal.

The Presidents perceived closeness to Ringera, a man he may not want to let down, also comes to play.

He will also be careful not to hurt the PNU constituency, especially the upper Eastern Province, where Ringera comes from, and whose MPs were most vocal in his defence.

If President Kibaki decides to stand his ground, KACC may survive but suffer a confidence crisis and perception it is not only a scarecrow, but also pliable tool beholden to the Executive. The negative perception will reinforce criticisms he never was out to fight Goldenberg, and Anglo Leasing mega-scandals.

However, some political analysts argue if President Kibaki yields an inch, Parliament, which is dominated by the Prime Minister Raila Odingas party, ODM, would demand a mile.

Where does this leave the President and his party that is looking increasingly fragmented in the House? The debate on Ringera exposed the underbelly of the Presidents coalition party PNU.

The party could not withstand the firepower against it on the floor of the House from ODM Cabinet members, and even its affiliate Narc-Kenya.

Whereas debate by those supporting the Motion to annul Kibakis gazette notice on the reappointment of Ringera and his two assistants, were led by seasoned politicians like Gichugu MP Martha Karua, Cabinet ministers James Orengo, and Anyang Nyongo, not many PNU coalition ministers spoke.

Kibakis big guns did not come out to convince members to vote on their side. Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Amos Kimunya took a backseat during the debate. Energy Minister Kairaitu Murungi and Internal Security Minister George Saitoti were away. Political analysts and lawyers were unanimous Kibakis decision was precarious, as he seeks traction with the public mood, while ensuring his interests in seeking a Ringera replacement.

Key options

University of Nairobi political scientist Adams Oloo said the President has three key options: To choose to remain silent, await the court verdict on pending matters, or prevail upon Ringera and his two assistants to resign, and reapply through the board.

Dr Oloo said the President should accept that he erred and de-gazette the appointments.

Tom Wolf, Synovates head of research, said Kibakis advisors seemed keen to ensure KACC director “is someone they can work with”.

“If Ringera stepped down now, there would be no acting director in that office and as the Advisory Board has indicated it would advertise the post… But do they (Kibakis cronies) have leverage to ensure the one appointed is the one they can work with?” posed Wolf.

“Maybe Ringeras team has compiled a lot of very damaging information about very powerful people… we are likely to see interesting competition in the Advisory Board in filling the vacancy if that is the way to go,” Dr Wolf predicted.

Lawyer Paul Mwangi said the President could revoke the appointment and treat it as an error, agree with Parliament and the public mood, and ask Ringera to resign voluntarily or ignore Parliaments decision.

Mwangi said it would be better for Kibaki to take cue from Kenyans that the decision to extend Ringeras tenure was an illegality and nullify it.

Lawyers Paul Muite, Abdullahi Ahmednassir and James Mwamu told the President that he has no way out than respecting the Legislatures decision to overturn Ringeras reappointment.

He criticised the Advisory Board headed by Okongo Omogeni of being slow in advertising the three positions. He said Omogenis team should now declare the position vacant and have it filled. Muite and Mwamu advised Ringera to resign to avoid unnecessary confrontations.

Muite said the only option for Kibaki now was to prevail upon the three directors to resign.

“That office calls for public goodwill. Ringera being an officer of the High Court, should respect the decision taken by the Legislature and leave office,” urged Mwamu.

The Standard

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