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Row over key House position ends

Tuesday August 10 2010

File | Nation President Kibaki with Prime Minister Odinga (left) and Vice-President Musyoka (right) at a past campaign rally. The PM on Tuesday withdrew his quest to be leader of government business in Parliament.

File | Nation President Kibaki with Prime Minister Odinga (left) and Vice-President Musyoka (right) at a past campaign rally. The PM on Tuesday withdrew his quest to be leader of government business in Parliament. 

By BERNARD NAMUNANE [email protected]

A16-month dispute between President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga over the position of Leader of Government Business in Parliament has finally ended.

The resolution to the protracted controversy came after Mr Odinga withdrew his interest in the position, clearing the way for President Kibaki’s choice — Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka.

The deal to end the row pitting the Party of National Unity against its coalition partner, the Orange Democratic Movement, was sealed during a meeting between the two principals of the coalition government on Monday.

The feud erupted in April last year after Mr Odinga disputed President Kibaki’s decision to appoint Mr Musyoka to the position.

The PM argued he was the right man for the job because of his role as coordinator and supervisor of government affairs including ministries.

However, he is said to have withdrawn his interest as a gesture for the new- found working relationship with President Kibaki and unity in the Grand Coalition Government.

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The move, which comes barely a week after the two principals led the country to ratify the proposed constitution during last Wednesday’s referendum, also means that the VP will chair the powerful House Business Committee.

He will be assisted by Agriculture minister Sally Kosgei of ODM, who will serve as the deputy Leader of Government Business.

And the joint Parliamentary Group that would seek to rally MPs behind the 49 Bills to be passed by Parliament before the new Constitution comes into force has now been slated for Monday.

On Tuesday, Mr Musyoka, who is visiting China on official duties, expressed delight at Mr Odinga’s decision stating it will speed up the implementation of the new Constitution.

“It will be a challenging role under the current circumstances but I look forward to working well with Mr Speaker, party whips and all members of the House,” he said.

Mr Musyoka who was informed of the latest development by Civil Service boss Francis Muthaura added: “The Tenth Parliament has a date with history to usher in a new constitutional dispensation. I am sure it will rise to the occasion.”

Deputy PM Musalia Mudavadi said Mr Odinga’s gesture should be reflected in the running of the coalition government to ensure that the differences that have pitted PNU against ODM are brought to an end.

“It is a step in the right direction especially at this point when unity in the coalition government is crucial in the passage of the more than 40 Bills. I hope it permeates others avenues of cooperation in government,” he said.

Justice and Constitutional minister Mutula Kilonzo said: “It is a good thing for Parliament because there is a lot of work ahead for the House because we have to debate and pass many Bills. This will require a substantive chairman of the House Business Committee.”