Leaders mull over return of Prime Minister's office

NASA leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga addresses mourners at the burial of Professor Oeri Tumbo at Mosocho, Kisii County on 16/3/2018. (Sammy Omingo/Standard)

As Kenyans grope in the dark over the newfound alliance between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition Chief Raila Odinga, the thought of getting a third Prime Minister just won’t go away.

Every possible hint dropped from the closely guarded unity talks between the two sides is suggestive of creation of new positions, alteration of existing governance structure and concession from both ends.

But even as Kenyans anticipate the political rat-race coming full circle to where it started, observers are cautioning that the same ends could be achieved by creation of ad hoc positions like that of a Chief Minister.

The ingenuity of Jubilee government in creation of constitutionally vague positions is not in doubt. But also, Raila’s power-sharing experience is unlikely to afford him loose deals not insulated in law.

Already, parliamentary leadership of the two Houses have buttressed the theory of constitutional or legal changes that could alter the structure of government.

“It’s a moment of truce. Let’s re-look at the Constitution and see if a parliamentary system is good,” Senate Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki said in a Thursday debate that partially exposed the long and short of the deal.

The Tharaka Nithi Senator expressly proposed that the size of the executive can be reduced to pave way for the creation of the Prime Minister and two deputies positions. The move would strike a double blow to a political problem and a financial one (bloated wage bill).

Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo/Marakwet) said the country needed a turn around.

“The people of Kenya must go back to the first love,” he said in a language reminiscent of the post-2008 political deal when the position of the PM was reintroduced after four decades of pure presidential rule.

“There is no mention of losers, what we have is a win-win situation.”

But quite telling is the National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi’s action of putting the assembly on notice of playing a role in the success of the pact. 

“First, as the sole law-making body, the House shall provide legislative support to the initiative. The resolution is a pointer to the role(s) that, though still in its formative stages, the concept and motivation behind the initiative as announced is well received and regarded by the Members of the Assembly and the public,” said Muturi in a statement.

Muturi said it was inevitable that the efforts towards fostering inclusivity and cohesiveness shall culminate in one or more pieces of legislation.

“The assistance of the House will be key in that regard and the National Assembly has committed to lend its full legislative support to the initiative as and when its intervention is required,” he said.

Constitutional referendum

Majority Leader Aden Duale and his Minority counterpart John Mbadi on Wednesday asked MPs from both Jubilee Party and NASA to be ready to effect any constitutional amendments or structural adjustments that will make the deal.

“We are aware that this extraordinary opportunity will enable Kenyans to face and address the challenges currently faced, and openly and honestly discuss successes and failures and finally formulate and implement the necessary corrective measures,” said Mbadi.

Political analyst Herman Manyora says a constitutional referendum to create new positions may not be necessary as the Constitution is capable of accommodating Raila in government.

“What I think is more likely is to form positions such are Chief Minister. It only requires interpretation of the Constitution to exploit loopholes in law like was the case with the president’s Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS),” says Manyora.

Still, he is not ruling out constitutional amendments to further entrench the positions if they are determined to do so.

“They can pull a constitutional amendment in less than nine months. By the end of the year, we can have a referendum if serious MPs are rallied to support the crusade,” he said.

The exigencies for new positions are not new though. Since 2014, various change-the-constitution movements have grappled with the question of addressing the political problem of inclusion.

This was the case with the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) Okoa Kenya initiative, the Pesa Mashinani initiative by the governors and the Constitution of Kenyan Amendment Bill 2015 sponsored by senators.

Before the new constitution was promulgated in August 2010, Kenya had a hybrid system of governance necessitated by the 2008 post-election violence.