Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cabinet reshuffle and 2012 political equation


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FILE | NATION Eldoret North MP William Ruto leaves the Nairobi law courts after he was acquitted of fraud charges on April 12. Speculation is rife that the suspended minister is headed back to Cabinet.
FILE | NATION Eldoret North MP William Ruto leaves the Nairobi law courts after he was acquitted of fraud charges on April 12. Speculation is rife that the suspended minister is headed back to Cabinet.

Posted  Friday, April 29 2011 at 22:00
In Summary
  • 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.
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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.

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