By VITALIS KIMUTAI
Even as President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga grapple with the devastating loss of Internal Security minister Prof George Saitoti and his assistant Joshua Orwa Ojode, attention shifts to vacant positions in Government.
What is clear is that given the sensitivity of the positions the two held, Kenya’s military operation in Somalia, a breakaway threat at the Coast and the need for a peaceful election, a Cabinet reshuffle is inevitable.
In fact the question in Government circles now is when not whether it shall be affected, and interest is now on who Kibaki is likely to succeed Saitoti, and for Raila, who he shall name to take over Ojode’s slot in the Grand Coalition.
This is because the Ministry that suffered the numbing loss following the Sunday, June 10 helicopter crash that also claimed the lives of two pilots and two bodyguards, also bears the unwieldy docket of Provincial Administration. The security and provincial dockets make the Ministry the heartbeat of Government and that is why it is under the President’s watch.
It is also likely that the two principals will effect changes that will give Kenya a substantive Head of Civil Service and Sectary to the Cabinet, which Mr Francis Kimemia took over from Mr Francis Muthaura, albeit in acting capacity. It is quite unlikely that the President would want to walk Kenya into a heated election season, especially given the nasty experience of 2007-2008 post-election violence, with the current status of this crucial office.
Sources told The Standard that although President Kibaki flew out last evening to Brazil for a global environment conference and is expected to be away for a week, discussions on the vacancies have already started.
The sources revealed the Head of State would convene a meeting with the Prime Minister as soon as he returns from Rio to announce the changes. On the other hand, Raila is also faced with a delicate balancing act in filling the slots for Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in a bid to appease his supporters in the Rift valley where his former ally Eldoret North MP William Ruto is pulling the other way.
Raila also has another challenge of ensuring that he tames the wave excitement touched off by the departure of Mr Musalia Mudavadi from ODM, in the Western political block.
Pick one of allies
It is expected that Raila will demand that he be allowed to replace Mudavadi as Deputy Prime Minister, an office the Sabatia MP clung to despite quitting as Local Government minister and ODM member, whilst arguing, like Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, that this position is assured by the National Accord.
In the event he succeeds in shoving Mudavadi out, this could bear pressure on Kibaki, who only accepted Uhuru’s exit as Finance minister, to also ask the Gatundu South MP to leave the office.
The vacant positions in Government that will be attracting the attention of the two principals also include Ministry of Industrialisation, which is an ODM portfolio, currently held by Fisheries minister Amason Kingi in acting capacity.
Tinderet MP and ODM chairman Henry Kosgey, who had to step aside after he was arraigned in court, held the post. The abuse of office case is still ongoing, and the question remains how long Raila will keep it vacant, despite elections approaching and the end of Kosgey’s case and the likely verdict still being unclear.
In the event that Raila will have to appoint someone to the position, he is likely to pick one of his allies in Rift Valley in a bid to wrest back a little of the ground he has lost to Ruto, who plans to run for the presidency on a United Republican Party ticket.
On this front there are several names that are being mentioned, and they include Energy Assistant minister Magerer Langat and Sotik MP Dr Joyce Laboso who sits in the Speaker’s Panel in Parliament and has of late endeared herself to her colleagues for the manner in which she moderates debate in the House.