BY JAMES MBAKA
KENYA: President Uhuru Kenyatta’s appointments of his allies and political losers as heads of state parastatals have opened the lid for the boiling discontent within his Jubilee administration.
Curiously, a close look at the appointees is an ostensible face of a government struggling to consolidate support from across the country and tame threats of internal dissent.
President Kenyatta in his twin appointments rewarded his loyalists and those of Deputy President William Ruto who campaigned for the Jubilee coalition but lost their individual political bids.
But the appointments have sparked off uproar and discontent from across the country, with a cross-section of political leaders describing them rewards to political losers.
In his first batch of appointments the president named former Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura the chairman of the lucrative Lamu Port Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor Authority but the appointment elicited sharp reactions even in Amb Muthaura’s backyard.
Mixed reactions greeted Muthaura’s appointment with the Meru community divided over whether to support the president’s decision.
Earlier on Meru parliamentary Group chairman Mithika Linturi and Women Representative Florence Kajuju criticised President Kenyatta for overlooking the sub communities of Igembe, Tigania and Tharaka in sharing of the public service jobs.
They said they would rather consider being in opposition if the president does not rescind the appointments and said the community has over the years been used to propel the Kikuyu to power but left out in the sharing of the national cake.
But the leaders have since appeared to strike a reconciliatory tone after they agreed to back Muthaura before demanding for more appointments allegedly after Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi weighed in the matter.
This was seen as a comeback by the Senator in determining the direction the national government takes in decisions regarding the community with disgruntled leaders including Mithika Linturi (Igembe South) and Kareke Mbiuki (Maara) feeling shortchanged despite having played a key role in the Jubilee campaigns.
Recycling the old
Other leaders also questioned the age of Muthara in securing a civil service job saying the jubilee government was recycling the old.
But speaking to The Standard on Sunday TNA chairman Johnson Sakaja, defended the appointments saying they based on merit, experience and suitability.
“Some of those appointed have rich experience from their past assignments and that is what the Jubilee government wants to tap in,” Mr Sakaja said.
But even as Sakaja defended the appointments that also saw former ministers and MPs who lost in the March General Election rewarded with plum jobs, the appointments seem to have fallen short of quenching the thirst of political losers.
Before the dust could settle over Muthaura’s appointment, a new twist emerged after a costal scholar cried foul over the appointment of the former civil service boss saying he was also appointed to the same position.
Prof Shaukat Abdulrazak said his appointment was effective March1 last year through a gazette notice.
“I was appointed on March 1,2013, to the position for a period of three years,” Abdulrazak told The Standard on Sunday.
Pundits argue the appointments could cause fresh ripples within the jubilee supporters.
Navigating through the constitutional requirement on gender, regional balance, youth, women and special groups interests poses dilemma for the jubilee administration.
The appointments have elicited mixed reactions from across the country, but the reverberating voices of discontent seem to drown the claim by the jubilee administration of fairness and equity in distribution of the posts across the country to reflect the face of the nation.
The president is in a catch-22 situation to satisfy demands from other fringe parties that signed a postelection agreement with jubilee on the premise of plum state appointments.
The Amani, an umbrella coalition of United Democratic Forum (UDF), Kanu, and New Ford-Kenya, is among the parties which signed post election agreements with the Jubilee government.
But of the agreement was that Amani supports the Jubilee legislative agenda at the bicameral Parliament, while the government would reward its leaders or allies with state jobs.
UDF’s Lugari MP Ayub Savula told The Standard on Sunday that the coalition had tabled 22 names before the president and his deputy during a meeting with 16 MPs from Western at State House to be considered for state jobs.
But Savula said the president had failed to honour the gentleman’s agreement, so far with no one from the region or from the list appointed and UDF would petition its leader Musalia Mudavadi to sever links with the government.
“We want the president to respect the Luhya community as a people and have them benefit from the Jubilee Government,” Savula told The Standard on Sunday.
But Ford-People party which also signed a post election pact with the Jubilee government said the government was so far performing well in striking regional balance in the appointments but asked for more.
“We thank the government because it gave the community a Cabinet slot, and for rewarding us with three more appointment to parastatals but that is not enough,” Ford People National Secretary general engineer Albert Nyaundi told The Standard on Sunday.
The president appointed one of his defence lawyers in the case at the International Criminal Court (ICC) Mr Gershom Otachi who hails from Kisii as chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Policy holders’ Compensation Fund.
He takes over from Abdulmalek Janmohammed.
The DP’s two political allies Sam Nyangeso to head the National Library Service Board and Ruto’s former colleague in the youth for Kanu’92’ activist Patrick Osero as chairman of the Agricultural Finance Corporation taking over from Hesbon Kadullo Mariwa.
Osero is remembered for standing surety of Sh6 million to bail Ruto during a land case.
However leaders from the region including MPs Manson Nyamweya (South Mugirango), Timothy Bosire (Kitutu Masaba), and Richard Onyonka (Kitutu Chache South) said the government was being insensitive with the needs of Kenyans.
Nyamweya said the appointments were dominated by individuals from two communities and warned that is likely to ignite tribal animosity.
“The president and his deputy are only coming to the rescue of people struggling economically after they lost in elections, he must move above board to ensure that the appointments reflect regional and gender balance,” Nyamweya told The Standard on Sunday.
He said the appointments fall short of the expectations of Kenyans from a government that was elected on a youth agenda platform.
“The president should have looked at competitiveness, productivity and efficiency than recruiting people fighting economic hard times and the government’s well known handlers,” Nyamweya added.
Bosire and Onyonka faulted the government of ignoring the youth by rewarding the old guard.
Kisii council of elders chairman Mzee Araka Matundura praised the jubilee government for considering the community in state appointments and urged Kenyatta and Ruto to consider appointing former Cabinet minister Sam Ongeri and former Kitutu Masaba MP Walter Nyambati in government as a reward for the role they played in seeking support for jubilee in the region.
“We appreciate the slots given to our people so far but urge the president to return hand to the field that gave him a mashroom,” Mzee Matundura told The Standard on Sunday.
The appointments threaten to cause political divisions within the government and parliamentary support on legislative agenda in both Houses.
Human Rights activists have also joined the debate accusing the jubilee government of contradicting its promise of restructuring the management of State Corporations.
East Africa School of Human Rights through its Executive Director Atuti Atunga questioned why the president failed to involve the Public Service to ensure competitiveness before making the unilateral appointments.
“What does these appointments say about the Commission’s ability to transform the civil service? No country has ever made progress with archaic civil service. Kenya is condemned to the graveyard of new wine in old-wine skin,” said the lobby group.
But Sakaja said the jubilee government was considering merit, experience and suitability before making the appointments and would ensure that all communities are represented
“All parts of Kenya whether they voted for jubilee or not are part and parcel of the jubilee government and the government will ensure they receive services delivered to them,” he told The Standard on Sunday.
In a bid to quell the growing discontent of communities that were felt in the twin appointments, Sakaja said ”there are still many more to come.”
The president also appointed presidential loser Abduba Dida the new chairman of the Constituency Development Fund board replacing Jennifer Nafula Barasa.
The kitty distributes Sh21.97 billion across the 290 constituencies.
It is not clear why the president gave Dida eight months tenure instead of three years as stipulated by the law.
Kenyatta also named former Cabinet ministers Samwel Poghisio, Njeru Ndwiga, former assistant minister Danson Mungatana and former MP Fred Kapondi to head parastatals.