Cabinet reshuffle and 2012 political equation
The impending Cabinet reshuffle following the acquittal of William Ruto from a fraud case is set to change the political scene a
- Prime minister is expected to drop foes for his loyalists
The impending Cabinet reshuffle following the acquittal of Eldoret North MP William Ruto from a fraud case is set to change the political scene ahead of next year’s General Election.
A number of political analysts with which the Saturday Nation spoke, said Prime Minister Raila Odinga might use the opportunity to edge out not only Mr Ruto, who has been a thorn in his flesh, but other rebels such as Tourism minister Najib Balala and Agriculture minister Sally Kosgei.
They said Dr Kosgei’s situation might be compounded by the current seed shortage and the high food prices seen against her earlier statement that a ministerial flag was just a piece of cloth to help her evade traffic jams.
Another MP who is likely to face the axe, according to sources in the know, but who requested not to be named for revealing government secrets is Livestock assistant minister Aden Duale, who is the most vocal critic of the PM outside the Kalenjin Rift Valley.
“Raila and Ruto’s political divorce is a forgone political conclusion. It does not make any political sense for the former to try and appease him,” said University of Nairobi Political Science lecturer Adams Oloo.
He said Mr Odinga was instead likely to reward those who have stuck with him despite immense political pressure from their backyards.
He said a reinstatement of Mr Ruto will send the wrong signal to the PM’s remaining allies who have been waiting in the wings expecting to benefit from an arising vacancy.
“I have in mind such people as assistant ministers Magerer Lang’at and Margaret Kamar, as well as Nominated MP Musa Sirma. Stemming further exodus from his camp is important for psychological purposes,” said the political analyst.
Some insiders also say that the reshuffle is expected to benefit Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba who has lately been close to the PM.
However, details were vague as to who the young lawyer could replace given that there is no minister in his Western backyard who has serious loyalty or efficiency problems.
No far reaching effect
But Prof Macharia Munene of United States International University was of the opinion that much should not be read into the reshuffle, as it was unlikely to be far reaching.
He said President Kibaki was likely to just go ahead and reinstate Mr Ruto given the current camaraderie between them.
“While the National Accord requires the two principals to consult in any Cabinet appointment, it is not explicit on the reinstatement of suspended ministers,” said Prof Munene.
He predicted that Mr Ruto will most likely come back without much fuss like in the case of Energy minister Kiraitu Murungi after he was absolved of wrongdoing in the Triton oil scandal.
On the much touted downsizing of Cabinet, he said he could not see it coming as it would mean loss of jobs for strategic allies at a time when the general election is around the corner.
There has been a clamour for a trimmed Cabinet in the wake of the current high food and fuel prices with assistant ministers Kabando wa Kabando and Nderitu Muriithi suggesting 24 ministers down from the current 42.
“What is easier is to leave the vacant posts unfilled and instead restructure the ministries to fit the current number of ministers,” said Prof Munene.
Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua had earlier said a suspended minister’s presumption of duty was automatic once they are cleared of corruption charges.
Outspoken Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny, said immediately after Mr Ruto was acquitted, Head of Public Service Ambassador Francis Muthaura called and told him to resume duty.
“Drivers and bodyguards were also instructed to be at his service and official cars made available,” he said.
Mr Ruto is, however, said to have demanded an appointment letter before resuming duty, saying he did not want to be a subject of a tussle.
“He is a performer and wananchi are asking that he be returned given the wonderful job he did at the Ministry of Agriculture,” said Mr Kutuny.
Hinting that the president might by pass the PM and return Ruto to the Cabinet even if the latter objected to his reinstatement, another MP close to the former minister, said curtly: “We have been assured that he will be in the Cabinet regardless of what happens.”
Another analyst, Mr Samson Komen, said the Premier blundered by announcing there was bound to be a reshuffle soon, which might have alienated his co-principal.
“Seeing that Mr Odinga needs a comprehensive reshuffle that might help him shed off bad baggage in readiness for next year’s elections, the president’s advisers might counsel a retention of the status quo for some time or just reinstate Mr Ruto and former Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang’ula, who hopes to be cleared in the Sh1 billion Tokyo embassy scandal,” he said.
Information on the latter’s clearance was, however, still scanty by the time we went to press.
However, the Prime Minister’s spokesman Mr Dennis Onyango, said his boss had not expressly announced that there would be a reshuffle.
“The PM was simply answering journalists who desperately wanted something on reshuffle and he simply told them the obvious that it is the prerogative of the Executive to fill Cabinet positions and that in due course that would be done,” said Mr Onyango.
He added that as far as he was concerned there was no reshuffle anytime soon.
But some pundits say were the president to unilaterally reappoint Mr Ruto, it would open another confrontation between the two principals.
“The PM will find this an affront and will resort to the courts, which will result in a stalemate such as the one witnessed during the botched nominations to the four constitutional offices. This will certainly leave the president with another egg on the face,” said Kabianga University College lecturer Herbert Kerre.