Big tribes ‘lose’ top jobs to minnows

Published on 07/06/2009

By Oscar Obonyo

Akin to the Kiswahili saying “vita vya panzi, furaha kwa kunguru”, the tide seems tilted in favour of residents of northern Kenya — thanks to the latest string of public appointments.

The adage literally translates to “the battle of grasshoppers is a blessing to the crow bird”. Its import is that heightened political competition among the ‘big tribes’ has accorded minority communities leadership opportunities. Through piecemeal appointments over time, members of the hitherto marginalised community are slowly flooding several sectors of Government.

Curiously, many welcome this trend arguing individuals from northern Kenya are best placed to break the big-tribe political dominance and rivalry. Besides, politicians interviewed by The Standard On Sunday say they pose no major political threat.

Raw deal

“Those who may be complaining ought to know that after decades of being treated to a raw deal by Government, we are finally getting a little of what we rightly deserve,” says Nominated MP Mohammed Affey.

From the nomination of legislators to the tenth Parliament, diplomatic postings to the House committees recently constituted by the Abdikadir Mohammed-led Committee on Administration of Justice and Legal Affairs, individuals from northern Kenya have dominated appointments.

Sources attribute the move to perceived animosity and suspicion particularly among politicians from central Kenya, Rift Valley and western Kenya regions.

Afraid of re-igniting hostilities of 2007 and well aware of vested political interests, The Standard On Sunday has established there was an unwritten agreement within the Abdikadir team to lock out individuals from these areas from heading crucial committees. “Of course, there were serious efforts to push for certain candidates from the said warring regions. But the attempts attracted resistance of equal measure, leaving us with the sole option of settling on more acceptable candidates,” a member of the committee told this writer.

According to the member, candidates from President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s communities particularly generated a lot of heat. At the end of the exercise, no candidate from Central or Nyanza Province was endorsed to chair a single committee. The outright beneficiaries of the feuding Kibaki and Raila camps were those from minority communities. In fact, MPs had agreed, right from the start, that the Mandera Central MP chair the all-important Administration of Justice Committee.

In the subsequent vetting exercise, Mr Ahmed Issack Hassan was selected chairman of the key and most sensitive committee — Interim Independent Electoral Commission. The 39-year-old lawyer hails from Garissa.

Regional balance

To date, the Abdikadir team has constituted the membership of the Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission (IIBRC), Committee of Experts on Constitutional Review and the National Cohesion and Integration Committee.

However, it is the latter that boasts the largest number of Muslims and representatives from northern Kenya. They include, Ms Fatuma Mohammed, Ms Amina Mwekaa, Ms Alasa Osman, Mr Halakhe Dida Waqo and Mr Ahmed Yasin.

PSC on Administration of Justice Vice Chairman Ababu Namwamba maintains all appointments sanctioned by members of his committee were based on merit and a delicate regional balance. Nominated MP Sheikh Muhammad Dor equally dismisses claims of favouritism: “Those appointed to serve on various committees are those who applied, qualified and vetted accordingly by Parliament.”

In the run up to the 2007 elections, the Muslim and northern Kenya community suddenly became a crucial constituency with key political players closing in, in search of votes.

This reality was further demonstrated after the Grand Coalition Government was formed, following the disputed presidential elections. Of the 12 available nomination slots to Parliament, ODM, ODM-Kenya and Kanu parties nominated nearly half that number. The beneficiaries include Sheikh Dor, Affey, Sofia Abdi Omar, Shakila Abdallah and Amina Abdallah. Others are Maison Lechoono, Rachel Shebesh, Musa Sirma, Musikari Kombo, George Nyamweya, Millie Odhiambo and Cooperatives Minister Joseph Nyaga.

Observers also view the election of Lagdera MP Farah Maalim as Deputy Speaker as an added boost to the numbers and influence of the Muslim and northern Kenya community in Parliament.

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