Reshuffle: Assistant ministers targeted

Published on 23/03/2009

By David Ohito

A Cabinet shuffle could be in the offing as President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga seek to restore public confidence in their leadership.

Political strategists familiar with both offices also intimate the two could use the shuffle to punish the rebels, those implicated in corruption and non-performing ministers and in the process assuage the public outrage over Government spending and perceived tolerance on corruption.

Non-performing ministers and those linked to corruption scandals have a reason to worry when the axe finally falls.

However, most of the casualties are likely to be the 50 Assistant Ministers in the Coalition Government, some of whom have displayed open defiance at Kibaki and Raila.

There has been pressure from the Church for Kibaki and Raila, not only to act on corruption, but also reduce the number of ministries from 42.

At the weekend, Raila said he had agreed with Kibaki to sack ministers implicated in graft, echoing the President’s sentiments last week that bickering ministers would face the sack.

Strategists close to the Raila camp claim the PM could use the shuffle to consolidate his power base by looking for new allies in the Rift Valley.

“Raila must live with the fact that the Rift Valley may not vote for him as a bloc anymore and he must look for fresh allies,” said source who sought anonymity, adding that the future Cabinet appointments would focus on that.

Weighing and balancing

“He will also have to weigh between loyalty, long term political interest and balance between Central and Southern Nyanza,” added another analyst.

Analysts say President Kibaki will be playing his succession cards at the shuffle, while Raila may be seeking to consolidate his position in readiness for his third presidential race in 2012.

“If you are a minister and you are dissatisfied with the Government, you either quit, or shut up or we will show you how to leave,” Kibaki said last week in Kisii, which was poignant given his past silence on bickering ministers.

This comes hot on the heels of US ambassador Michael Ranneberger’s announcement last week that a top Government minister had been banned permanently from going to the US for engaging in corruption.

Indirect attack

This was largely seen as an indirect attack on the Government, whose credibility in fighting corruption has been questioned following a string of scams in Energy and Agriculture ministries, among others.

Politicians yesterday challenged the two principals to use the shuffle to redeem the image of the coalition by cracking the whip on the corrupt ministers.

Central Imenti MP Gitobu Imanyara said: “We have had enough of rhetoric. Kenyans want to see action. “The Government presently appears to be like a ship without a captain. We need to see decisive action in order to restore the image and confidence in the coalition,” Imanyara said. Ikolomani MP and chairman of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee Bonny Khalwale and Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo demanded the reduction of the Cabinet from the “bloated” 42 to 20.

Said Jirongo: “It’s a good chance to deal with the duplication of ministries in the coalition to reduce costs in the wake of tough economic times.”

Dr Khalwale said the President and the PM should listen to Kenyans to downsize and purge corrupt ministers. “The principals should quietly ask the US Embassy to provide the list of those banned on corruption and eliminate them from the Cabinet immediately,” Khalwale said.

Reshuffle targets

“If those implicated in corruption are retained, we will be left with no option but to deduce that the principals themselves are beneficiaries of graft,” Khalwale cautioned.

But Lands Minister James Orengo said he would continue voicing his concerns on corruption and maintained that colleagues implicated in graft should step aside to pave the way for investigation.

“I cannot be part of collective responsibility to defraud Kenyans and keep quiet when public coffers are being looted,” Orengo said.

“I am not sure who the targets of the reshuffle would be but it may be used to silence dissent in the ODM and PNU ranks,” Orengo claimed.

Gem MP and ODM Chief Whip Jakoyo Midiwo said downsizing the Cabinet should be a priority.

“The Government has already slashed the development budget. We need no more than 15 ministers. But they should be people of good moral standing without corruption cases facing them.”

Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka had said last week said: “It is like ministers are under instructions to steal as much as they can to fund their political parties.”

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