President Kibaki may have instructed the Attorney General to try and save his top allies from the jaws of International Criminal Court (ICC) and buy them time in office, but all that crumbled.
Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and immediate former Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura in a past function. Photo: File/Standard
Even after yielding to public pressure and announcing Francis Muthaura had stepped aside, what opened a new friction point was the fact that Uhuru Kenyatta just let go the Treasury portfolio, but retained the Deputy Prime Minister post.
Though the DPM can only be removed by Parliament, or collapse of the Grand Coalition Government, the National Accord still sets out the option of him resigning. But last evening, the President, after meeting the two allies whose crimes against humanity charges ICC judges confirmed on Monday, seemed to suggest in his statement that the Constitution upholds Uhuru’s position as DPM. The same law took away his position as Finance minister after he was committed to full trial.
But the President, sources reveal, was left with little choice after the judges that committed four high profile Kenyans to full trial at The Hague, agreed with the Prosecutor that he did in fact attend a meeting with Mungiki at State House alongside Uhuru and Muthaura.
The President may have strenuously denied this and not for the first time on Wednesday, but it was quickly looking like he would not let them go because of the fact that he was bound by their case. The meetings, for which the two are in trouble, were reportedly convened to try and keep the President in office. But it seems the fire threatening to consume the careers of Muthaura, a retiree recalled to office by President Kibaki, and Uhuru who is fighting to take over his desk at State House in the General Election, was going up first, and getting too close to the President for comfort.
It is also believed the President yielded, believing that Uhuru’s forfeiture of the Treasury post and Muthaura’s exit would defuse rising tension in the coalition and pacify the Prime Minister, Raila Odinga.
The Prime Minister disowned the committee of experts set up by the Attorney General on Tuesday. But from the reactions that followed, the battle to get Uhuru out of Cabinet completely may just have started.
ODM is also now saying the decision to pick Francis Kimemia, who was the Internal Security PS to take over from Muthaura, is also unilateral and unacceptable because the PM was not consulted.
Stay became untenable
Although the civil society had persistently campaigned for their removal from office, their stay became untenable after ODM joined the fray.
The President is also believed to have released the two to deflect accusations that he was practicing double standards given that he suspended the other suspect, Eldoret North MP William Ruto, and released Henry Kosgey, who still has a pending court case.
There was also a precedent of ministers stepping aside, not even because they had court cases but to allow for investigations.
There were also reports that the President bit the bullet after it turned out the PM side of the Coalition had decided to boycott Cabinet so long us Uhuru and Muthaura, who has been its secretary, would be sitting in it. But this discomfort may not have been overcome: ODM is furious Kibaki let Uhuru retain the stronger of the two positions he held.
Lands minister James Orengo dismissed Uhuru’s exit only as Finance minister, and retaining DPM post, which allows him to sit in Cabinet, as a half-hearted measure.
Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo noted that by retaining Uhuru as DPM, the President could have just accepted the resignation letter as Uhuru drafted it.
“Don’t blame the President; may be Uhuru drafted the resignation letter that way, but I can tell you that will not last for long,” he added.
Mutula said all Cabinet ministers, including the President, PM and his two deputies were State officers as outlined in Chapter 73 of the Constitution and, therefore, held those positions in public trust. “When you hold a State office you must be a person who brings honour to the nation and dignity to the office, as well as promoting public confidence in the integrity of office,” he added.
Orengo touched off fresh controversy saying the structure of the Coalition Government essentially meant acting Finance Minister Robinson Githae could technically report to the DPM. “To purport that Githae is the Finance minister who, in essence will report to Uhuru signifies a half-hearted change. Uhuru must go. There is no way you can purport to shower with your trousers on,” Orengo charged.
Special Programmes minister Esther Murugi who like Mutula is from the PNU wing asked: “Why are they so desperately baying for Uhuru’s blood?” She argued the ICC judges said despite their decision the accused should be presumed innocent and allowed to enjoy their liberties.
“The ICC judges were clear that their ruling does not interfere with the local affairs of those involved. So who are shouting the loudest?” she asked Murugi posed. “This whole thing is a political ploy,” she claimed.
The resignations, decided after President’s advisors gauged the public mood and felt it was steeped against Kibaki, were made public at Harambee House. The President, Muthaura, and Uhuru attended the meeting.
Sources within PM’s wing of the coalition told The Standard the party-allied Cabinet ministers had planned to boycott Cabinet meetings if Uhuru and Muthaura were to be retained.
“ODM ministers were not going to attend Cabinet meetings if Uhuru and Muthaura are in,” the source revealed.
Government Chief whip Jakoyo Midiwo, who is from the ODM wing, dismissed the move by the President to retain Uhuru as DPM and give his Treasury docket to Githae, saying the PM was not consulted. But the Treasury docket is PNU’s and the National Accord does not require the President to seek PM’s greenlight in who to appoint.
ODM’s beef appeared to be more about Kimemia’s appointment, and Uhuru’s retention as DPM.
“The President can appoint Kimemia as his secretary in his office, that’s okay but for the position of Head of the Civil Service, that he must consult the PM in accordance with the National Accord,” argued Midiwo.
By Alex Ndegwa and Martin Mutua, The Standard
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