Uhuru will be a cross between an IDP and a squatter with no real job to do
Posted Monday, January 30 2012 at 20:00
Mr Uhuru Kenyatta is now Deputy Prime Minister without portfolio. It cannot be fun holding high office without a desk or a chair to work from.
It would be strange if a leader so high up the political pecking order – behind the President, Prime Minister and Vice-President – were reduced to working from his car or twiddling his thumbs at home every morning with no office to report to after breakfast.
Just as well he has the means to maintain well-appointed private offices with dozens of minions at his beck-and-call.
Actually, as Mr Kenyatta on Monday prepared to hand over the Finance ministry seat to acting minister Robinson Njeru Githae, I half expected something like the drama witnessed years ago when another outgoing Finance minister refused to move from the coveted office.
After all, Mr Kenyatta has retained his post as Deputy Prime Minister even after stepping aside as Treasury minister in the wake of the International Criminal Court ruling that he be charged with crimes against humanity.
He could well have argued that his status as Deputy Prime Minister gives him the right to remain in occupancy of the physical office; leaving the acting minister to look for room elsewhere.
Mr Kenyatta did not do that, handing over to Mr Githae on schedule, but in a rather brusque manner that betrayed a fragile temperament.
The plus side is that he did not display the kind of hubris put on by a previous occupant of the Treasury Building, former Vice-President George Saitoti, who, incidentally, is now one of Mr Kenyatta’s rivals within the PNU and allied outfits for the Kibaki succession.
After the 1992 General Election, Prof Saitoti was retained as Vice-President, but it was inevitable that he be stripped of the coveted Finance ministry after the Goldenberg scandal that virtually bankrupted the country was executed on his watch.
Initially, Prof Saitoti refused to vacate his office at the Treasury Building, arguing that it was meant specifically for the VP.
He need not have mentioned that he had expensively refurbished and fitted it with a large boardroom suitable for one a heartbeat away from the presidency.
The VP holding tight meant that his successor at the Finance ministry, Mr Musalia Mudavadi, had to look for less swank accommodation a floor further down within the same building, though he was technically Prof Saitoti’s landlord.
When the issue generated media debate, Prof Saitoti exposed his very thin skin, publicly wondering if the office “ni ya mama yako?’’ (does it belong to your mother?)” after a pesky journalist asked when he would vacate.
The comment also betrayed the general attitude towards public property during the free-wheeling Moi era when the movers and shakers had licence to do as they pleased.
Anyway, Prof Saitoti eventually gave way and moved to a less prestigious address at Jogoo House in his new designation as Vice-President and minister for Home Affairs.
And that is the point. The person who holds the office of Vice-President in Kenya has never had an office to call his own.
He simply resides in the ministry he is given to oversee. Today if Mr Kalonzo Musyoka lost the Ministry of Home Affairs and was left without a substantive docket, he would be homeless, pun fully intended.
Ditto Mr Kenyatta today, a Deputy Prime Minister stuck in limbo between being a squatter and an IDP and no work to do.
But there is a silver lining in every cloud. Even as the DPM awaits the carpenters to put together a new office somewhere, he can take solace in the fact that he is a free man.
Mr Kenyatta and his co-accused at The Hague, Mr William Ruto, Mr Francis Muthaura and Mr Joshua arap Sang, are on the verge of making history.
If their appeals against indictment fail, I believe they might be the first persons from anywhere in the world to face crimes against humanity charges at The Hague while still free men.
All others before them have been either in custody, or fugitives with international arrest warrants on their heads.