Cabinet fallout over probes, Mau bodes ill for country

Hundreds of members of the Maasai community holding demonstrations in support of the government's move to evict thousands of illegal settlers from the Maasai Mau forest. [Robert Kiplagat/Standard]
If one gets the impression the government is at war with itself, there is justification for it. A lot has been playing out in the public gallery that has led to speculation Jubilee, the ruling party, is undergoing self-immolation. The principle of collective responsibility so crucial to the running of government has been eschewed as leaders go for each other over what really should be handled with measured soberness.

It was for good measure that the office of the Government Spokesperson was created to harmonize communication from the government to avoid conflicting reports, yet even there, the message sometimes leaves us with more questions than answers.

Only recently, for example, Government Spokesman Eric Kiraithe came out to trash an expose by our sister publication The Sunday Standard revealing serious claims of racism and discrimination at Jubilee's signature project the SGR.

Worst of all, the Cabinet has, of late, has been speaking at cross purposes. This came to light after tonnes of illicit sugar were impounded in police swoops.

Indeed, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i told an anxious country that preliminary tests had revealed traces of mercury in the sugar, believed to have been smuggled into the country.

Not long afterwards, Industrialization Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohammed negated Dr Matiangi’s assertion. In fact, the Kenya Bureau of Standards which falls under Mr Mohammed's ministry denied the claims. These conflicting statements caused a public uproar. When a parliamentary committee summoned Dr Matiang’i later, he recanted his earlier statement.

But the damage had already been done and this is not helped by the latest report from the Government Chemist affirming that indeed, there are traces of mercury in the sampled illicit sugar.

But of more concern to Kenyans is the ongoing blame game between Cabinet Secretaries that threatens to conceal the truth behind some of the scandals being investigated.

While Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich has sought to distance himself from the ignominy surrounding the importation of the illicit sugar; choosing instead to lay the blame on Dr Matiang’i, Mr Mohamed and Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri, the Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale has weighed in heaping more blame on Dr Matiangi and accusing him of not sharing intelligence on the impounded goods. Up to now, Kenyans don't know who to believe.

And on a matter still before court, Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed left Dr Matiangi holding the baby in the Ruaraka Secondary School land where it is claimed that the government bought its own land.

This transaction was approved during Dr Matiangi’s tenure in the Education ministry. Apparently, according to Ms Mohammed, Dr Matiang’i ignored the recommendations of a five-member team that warned the land in question was public property.

Before then, Energy CS Charles Keter, in a moment of unguarded candour seemed to deplore the mass arrests of top management of the Kenya Power Company.

Added to these; the Mau Forest evictions continue to depict a dysfunctional government at war with itself. It is not for the first time that the government has attempted to evict people encroaching on the vital water tower. But as has happened before, politicians in the Rift Valley have taken the chance to exact political capital. On this, Kipchumba Murkomen, the Senate Majority Leader has contradicted and countermanded orders from Deputy President William Ruto to evict the trespassers.

Meanwhile, Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju has received a lot of flak from leaders allied to Mr Murkomen (a senior member of government) for admonishing him for linking the evictions to the March 9 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

To gain public trust, the government ought to speak in one voice. It is hard to ascertain the truth in such an environment. In fact, the truth being sought becomes the first casualty.

Where everybody assumes the role of Government Spokesman, articulating the government’s position on national issues becomes difficult. This shouldn’t be the case. Ultimately, the buck stops with President Kenyatta. As the maestro, he needs to ensure that the orchestra performs in harmony.

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corruption scandalsmau evictionswar against corruption