Disputed MoU that denied Raila Odinga premiership in 2003

By Kenneth Kwama

Kenya: Who scuttled the plan agreed upon by the National Rainbow Coalition top brass to create the position of Prime Minister after the December 2002 General Election?

This is the question that caused the altercations between coalition partners Raila Odinga (for LDP) and Mwai Kibaki (for NAK) after the latter reneged on the plan to create the position of Prime Minister after taking over government.

The ensuing divisions over the creation of the post later spilled over to the Bomas of Kenya where delegates were discussing a new constitution for the country. By August 12, 2003, the spat had worsened.

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The East African Standard captured the happenings in a front page story titled Narc’s top guns differ over Prime Minister.

“Top guns in Narc sharply differed as the debate on the Prime Minister’s post reached new heights yesterday,” reported the paper.

As opposed to the current situation where the Constitution is clear on the appointment of officials to Executive positions like that of Deputy President, in 2003 the law was ambiguous, giving room for debate and speculation around how positions could be shared.

Inconsequential MOU

“Cabinet Minister Mukhisa Kituyi (now Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in Geneva) threw his weight behind Raila and said he is fit for the post but was quick to add that the position should not be Executive to avoid conflict in leadership between the President and his Premier,” reported the paper.

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Kituyi’s hindsight later proved itself after Raila was propelled to the position of Premier by fate and found himself sharing executive power with former President Kibaki after the formation of a coalition Government in April 2008.

Powerful politicians affiliated to Kibaki’s wing of the coalition who included former Finance minister David Mwiraria, Kiraitu Murungi and former Internal Security minister Chris Murungaru were later accused of frustrating the efforts by trashing the memorandum of understanding that promised LDP the post.

One of Kibaki’s henchmen at the time, Kipruto arap Kirwa, who was also a minister, was quoted saying the MoU was inconsequential.

“Kirwa termed as irrelevant the MoU signed between the parties forming the ruling Narc, which involved the appointment of a PM,” stated the paper.

But it is this debate that laid actual ground for the creation of the position in early 2003. It was intense and sometimes very loud, and in the end inspired more by selfish interests. Most of the Premier proponents were from Raila’s LDP while the opponents were from Kibaki’s NAK.

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Former minister Peter Ndwiga in 2003 was quoted saying, “The talk about the PM’s post at the moment is unwarranted and politicians should stop personalising it. Kenyans should be allowed to decide on the post at Bomas.”

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Raila Odinga Mwai Kibaki National Rainbow Coalition