Newly appointed tourism Minister Danson Mwazo. Photo:Standard

They at the same time each brought into Cabinet a new minister they feel they can trust to push their political agenda, act in their interest, and where possible compromise for their sake, not just reading out the law as they think it ought to be done.

For President Kibaki the target was Mr Mutula Kilonzo, one of the country’s top legal minds and the most outspoken backer of The Hague process, who now moves to unfamiliar territory — Ministry of Education.

Replacing the man who has contradicted both the President and Vice President Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, who anyway has been under pressure in Wiper Democratic Movement on whose ticket he joined Cabinet, was a surprise pick from Western Kenya. Saboti MP Eugene Wamalwa, perceived to be Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta’s choice for running mate and a brother to one of Kibaki’s former top political backers, late Vice President Michael Kijana Wamalwa, takes over from Mutula.

Under President Kibaki, Kenya gets its fourth Justice minister in Wamalwa. The first was Mr Kiraitu Murungi, who stumbled from one political controversy to another until he was forced to step aside because of the Anglo Leasing scandal and he only came back after being cleared. The second was Gichugu MP Martha Karua, who started off as one of Kibaki’s most fierce supporters but left Cabinet bitter and frustrated, and is now one of his most vicious critics.

After Karua came Mutula, who quickly became unpopular because of how the spoke of the ICC trials and Kenya’s obligations to the Rome Statute for which it is a signatory.

Now the country waits to see how Wamalwa will navigate the tricky waters that have made the portfolio one of the hottest potatoes in the country.

Uhuru also seemed to have had another string of luck in the changes if not his advisory hand in it as one of his most vocal defenders from Central Kenya, Mr Jamleck Kamau, took over late John Michuki’s seat in Cabinet, albeit not the Environment ticket but Ministry of Environment.

Raila on the other hand threw out of Cabinet Mr Najib Balala, who only last week described his Orange Democratic Movement as dictatorial and announced he too, like Eldoret North MP William Ruto, was just technically in ODM but that he would bolt out at any time. In his place came another ODM MP close to Raila and who has featured in his political forays across the country, Mr Danson Mwazo, also from the Coast like Balala. Mwaso is the Voi legislator.

But interestingly, and perhaps in appreciation that The Hague’s case against Uhuru and three other Kenyans, may take longer to resolve and the remaining appeal may not yield much, Kibaki removed the tag of acting Finance minister from Mr Njeru Githae’s name.

Now he fully replaces Uhuru at the Treasury but the Gatundu North MP remains a Deputy Prime Minister, but this too may slip off his hands if he loses the last remaining appeal against full trial at The Hague alongside Eldoret North MP William Ruto, former Head of Civil Service Mr Francis Muthaura, and Kass FM’s Head of Operations Mr Joshua Arap Sang.

The changes also saw Prof Same Ongeri, a Kanu member and one of the President’s trusted allies who he handpicked for the peace-making ‘Serena Talks’ chaired by Dr Kofi Annan in 2008, move to Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The previous holder, Mr Moses Wetangula, for whom the Government chartered a plane to spirit out of Mali where he got stuck following a military coup, was moved to Ministry of Trade, which until Monday as in the hands of Mr Ali Chirau Mwakwere, who moved to Environment.

The reshuffle will see Prof Ongeri play a greater role in a ministry (Foreign Affairs) that is key in the ICC trials, as he shall sit in the Cabinet sub-committee on the ICC.

Apart from dropping Balala and bringing in Mwazo, Raila appears to have had no other business to settle in Cabinet, because he remains with an acting Minister for Industrialisation (Mr Amason Jeffer Kingi). Kingi, also from ODM and Coast like Mwazo and Balala, is holding brief for ODM Chairman Mr Henry Kosgei, who though having survived The Hague trials at the confirmation stage, has a case in a local court, which forced him to step aside from Cabinet.

This means the bulk of the changes, going by the power-sharing deal signed by Raila and Kibaki in 2008 where both have to consult and agree on changes affecting those they appoint to the Cabinet, were largely by Kibaki himself.

In the case of Mutula who comes from the VP’s WDM, which is a partner of President’s Party of National Unity in the Grand Coalition, it is likely the President moved him after consulting Kalonzo.

Interestingly, though Mutula has many times contradicted Kalonzo especially over his shuttle diplomacy against ICC and the many attempts by Kibaki to get Kenya off The Hague radar, the VP was under pressure from his party to initiate his removal from Cabinet. Kalonzo, however, declined to bow to the pressure, probably because the possible political backlash it may spark nationally and in his Ukambani backyard. But as it is, Mutula goes to Jogoo House, where Kalonzo also served as the sun set on Kanu, which he served as the Organising Secretary for many years.

In picking Kamau and Wamalwa from the backbenches to Cabinet, the President appeared to focus on the PNU’s backbenchers’ in the House. In following age-old tradition, Kibaki replaced Michuki with a man from Murang’a, and Raila kicked out Balala and brought in a new minister from Coast.

However, Kibaki also took the advantage of Uhuru’s forced exit from the Treasury to bring in his political friend, Wamalwa, which could go along way in assuring him of his place in the G7 Alliance.

Because of his close political ties with Uhuru and Ruto, who are the power behind G7 Alliance, and coincidentally ICC suspects for serious crimes against humanity, the country would definitely be watching to see how Wamwalwa will balance the loyalty of friendship and the demands of office especially as the cases against his friends edge closer to full trial.

At the centre of this friendship lies the prospect that if the two are convicted of their crimes, in respect to the obligations to the Rome Statute, Kenya will have to hand them over to ICC. As Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, this may be the time when Kenyans would be watching to see if this is what was on the mind of the President when he brought in Wamalwa and kicked out Mutula.

Coincidentally, it was Wamalwa who in the thick of the storm over the fake letter that appeared to suggest Kibaki would also be indicted by ICC, called the UK an ‘unfriendly country’.

As Githae took over Uhuru’s extra portfolio in Cabinet, Kamau took over from him at the Ministry of Nairobi Metropolitan ministry. Since Michuki’s death it was expected that any of the six legislators from Murang’a County was headed for Cabinet as Kibaki embarks on his last year in office.

Kamau is one of Uhuru’s defenders in Central against the tide of political challenge led by Karua and Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, who both are gunning for the presidency like Uhuru.

It was not immediately clear if Balala was dropped just because of his criticism of Raila and ODM, or also because of his call on government to listen to and negotiate with renegade Mombasa Republican Council, blamed for the violence and secessionist attempts at the Coast. However, on this issue, Balala has not contradicted the PM for, he too, supports talks with MRC.

Source The Standard


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