UHURU CALLS JUBILEE MPs MEETING ON REFERENDUM
THE crucial government shake-up has been calculated by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto to reward the 2013 Jubilee campaign’s regional heavyweights, thus inoculating their administration from political liabilities.
The president was under pressure to swiftly make the all-important appointments as the referendum movement driven by the opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy gathers momentum. Cord is keen to rope-in disgruntled elements who had reinforced Jubilee’s political wing in the 2013 campaigns, but now feel unappreciated.
Cord has accused the government of exclusivity, saying the Jubilee administration was a members club for exclusive tribes to share the national cake at the expense of millions of Kenyans. Cord has made inclusiveness and equity a major item on the referendum agenda.
And in a political calculus aimed at answering opposition queries on the fairness of state appointments, the president played a tribal card, naming individuals from CORD strongholds, in an effort to blunt or neutralise the opposition’s referendum push.
Cord opposed recent changes in the military that saw former Air force Commander major general Jeff Otieno retire, saying the Jubilee administration was keen to control the military succession game.
But the president named the former Air Force boss the new ambassador to Cairo, Egypt, to counter the opposition.
“The president is being reactive to the referendum calls and afraid of the road CORD has taken. But he should not imagine that he will thwart the referendum because the train has already left the station and is on track,” said Maseme Machuka, Cord’s political affairs officer.
Having missed out on choice cabinet and parastatal appointments, those who had buttressed the Jubilee team, giving it national appeal in various regions, have quietly been holding ‘rebellious’ consultations at a Nairobi hotel to chart their political course.
It was against the backdrop of political backlash, coupled with growing discontent among those still out in the political cold, that Uhuru and Ruto awarded them ambassadorial posts announced Thursday evening.
Former ambassador Prof Sam Ongeri, who lost the Kisii senatorial race, was named Kenya’s representative to UNHabitat in Nairobi. Former envoy Chirau Mwakwere, who lost his Kwale senate bid, was named ambassador to Dar es Salaam. Former MP for Mutito Kiema Kilonzo will be posted to Ankara, Turkey. Mutito lost his gubernatorial run for Kitu county.
The three appointments, alongside that of former speaker Francis Ole Kaparo who was approved by parliament as commissioner in the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, completes the cycle of Jubilee political rewards to its key losers in the March 2013 polls.
Including them aims at shielding the government from internal political attacks inspired by discontent fanned by the last general election campaign team, while at the same time checking any overtures from Cord to tap their influence to outwit the government ahead of the proposed referendum.
The previously excluded group apparently felt abandoned by the president despite playing influential roles in the Jubilee campaigns, hence, their conferences in a Nairobi hotel on how to get back in the game.
Ongeri’s appointment aims to consolidate Jubilee’s political fortune in Kisii where he ruling coalition has won three by-elections. Naming Mwakere shores up Jubilee’s support at the Coast at a time when Cord’s gains have dwindled, fuelled by its leadership woes.
At Ukambani, the government seeks to leverage of Lands cabinet secretary Charity Ngilu and Kiema Kilonzo to increase appeal among the residents who overwhelmingly voted for Cord.
National Assembly Majority Leader Adan Duale downplayed the political significance behind the latest appointments, saying the president was enhancing the delivery of services with an able team that can efficiently deliver on the Jubilee manifesto.
“The posting indicate that Jubilee is committed to giving the government a national face as we endeavor to deliver on Jubilee’s platform. More Kenyans will come onboard to serve the government in various capacities,” Duale told the Star.