The latest twist in the tragic experiment that is the Kenyan Grand Coalition has led to what appears to be a Mexican stand-off between the principals, Prime Minister Raila and President Kibaki. That things have come to a head might be shocking to only those who spend all their time watching Mexican soap operas at the expense of news or to those who are unfortunate to possess less sense than God gave geese; basically this situation has been brewing for a while and much as it was swift and sudden, but not so for anybody who has followed Raila’s strategy who will by now know this is a pragmatic man who is a shining embodiment of realpolitik.
To put matters in perspective will require that we revisit some past inter party tussles over corrupt ministers in the Kenya power sharing saga:
1. Kimunya and ODM’s insistence that he resign for sale of Grand Regency Hotel to a Libyan consortium, something he denied then admitted then vowed not to resign then resigned and was ultimately reappointed to another ministry.
2. Kajwang’ and PNU/ODMK’s push for his resignation for handing over work permits to foreigners who were not deserving of such consideration. He never resigned
3. Ruto coming under fire what was called the Maize scandal, this he has fought to date and is currently laying the blame squarely on Raila for chairing the committee that made recommendations that led to the said scandal
4. Kiraitu being besieged by an oil deal gone bad in which an Asian racketeer made off with billions bilked from local banks leaving behind an empty shell once called Triton. No one has taken responsibility for this heist.
5. Towards the end of last week several Permanent secretaries and senior government officials whom Kenyans have been demanding get the sack were finally given their walking papers. This officials were represented the rot from both sides of the government and included education PS. Karega Mutahi and Raila’s chief of Staff Karoli Omondi.
6. Karega Mutahi’s dismissal was as a result of the embezzlement of hundreds of millions of shillings that donors had provided towards supporting free primary education; as a matter of fact Raila had been calling for the resignation of not only the PS but also the Education Minister, Sam Ongeri, a plea he made to Kibaki in public in Ongeri’s presence.
7. Suddenly on Sunday afternoon Raila suspends Education Minister Sam Ongeri and Agriculture Minister William Ruto, the suspension is to last three months to allow for investigations to be carried out. That very same evening Kibaki dismisses Raila’s actions as usurping power only wielded by the C in C and thus invalid.
Here is the catch; Raila said he had consulted Kibaki before holding the press conference, the oddity I found in this assertion was in the previous spectacle of him literally begging Kibaki to sack Ongeri. The elephant in the room is whether Raila, having been handed all sorts of toxic assignments that could easily have been the epitaph on his political headstone, has decided to go for broke and let the chips fall where they will.
Think of it this way: Raila is riding a wave of popularity for taking on the very causes that were given him as you would give a suicidal man a rope; Raila is probably tired of continuing the demeaning masquerade of supposedly being one half of a 50/50 power sharing executive when anyone with horse sense can see that not being the case; Raila might be tired of catching the flack for ineffective leadership on reform and fighting corruption and just upped and decided to show the world whose hand was stifling efforts towards this end.
So how does he do it; he commits an act of misfeasance by coming out to suspend two Ministers; one a rogue in his own party and the other a besieged man on whom the spotlight is currently focused. You will notice he didn’t sack anyone, just suspended them, which, if his duties as Prime Minister are actually worth the paper they are written on, should be within his right as the person who manages the cabinet (where do employees defy a suspension from their manager because he isn’t the chairman of the board?)
In summary, one would believe this was not a random decision by Raila; it was not lost on me that Miguna Miguna and Salim Lone were conspicuous at the said press conference. Camp Raila must also have anticipated an angry kneejerk reaction from state house and they were not disappointed. At the end of the day what comes out of all the drama isn’t only the populist histrionics of Raila versus the conservative unfeeling elite leadership on state house road, but the fact that the international community and progressive Kenyans are left wondering to themselves whose coat tails the kleptocrats and leeches in our aghast house feel safer hanging on.
Even more intriguing for me is the call by some politicians for the Prime Minister himself to resign; would that mean a collapse of the coalition and a return to polls? Would that lead to a crisis in which PNU/ODMK attempts to form a government on its own? Is the country even ready for a poll of any kind? Or is this a clever ploy to scuttle the constitution review and keep the imperial presidency especially as Raila would all but have a clean sweep if elections were held today?