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PM post? Rivals dangle fat carrot rejected in BBI

Post of Prime Minister and an expanded executive was a key feature in BBI proposals. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Introducing the prime minister position was one of the most contested proposals of President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga’s bid to amend the Constitution through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI). 

Yet, from formation of their governments suggested by two leading contenders - Mr Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto, Kenyans could still find themselves with a prime minister, or a version of it.

Dr Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance intends to create the position of Prime Cabinet Secretary, which will go to ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi. Mr Mudavadi will be expected to coordinate and supervise national government functions and oversee implementation of government policies and programmes.

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya proposes a similar role for Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka to be known as the Chief Cabinet Secretary. Mr Odinga said Mr Musyoka would have the responsibility of coordinating and supervising functions of the government.

Kenya has been leaning towards the return of the post that Mr Odinga held in the coalition government from 2008 to 2013 as President Kenyatta suggested that an expanded Executive would reduce the notion of ‘political scarcity’ and electoral violence every five years.

The change was first proposed in the BBI which had set out to create the post along with two deputies. But August 9 could bring a variation of the office nonetheless. The agreement signed between Dr Ruto and his allies in Kenya Kwanza - Mr Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula - states that within 14 days of being sworn in, Ruto will create the position of Prime Cabinet Secretary.

Divided opinions

“The legislation so introduced shall amend the National Government Coordination Act of 2013 to include the office of the Prime Cabinet Secretary and incorporate and align the functions,” reads the agreement. 

The proposals have divided opinions. Some say that it is within the president’s right to create the position while others say that the office would be unconstitutional.

Lawyer Donald Kipkorir argues that the office would be legal once created by way of an executive order by the incoming president.

“We don’t need to amend our Constitution to call the senior-most Cabinet minister prime minister. It is done by executive order. Where an amendment is required is when proper restructuring and transfer of powers as either Head of State or Government are intended,” he said.

Raila Odinga Presidential Campaign spokesman Makau Mutua said there was a distinction between the position offered to Kalonzo and the prime minister. He said the proposal would be within the law since it would not create a new office but merely give more status to an existing one.

“What we have done is offer the chief minister position to Kalonzo. It does not create a new office. All it does is elevate one minister above the rest, which is completely within the law. I don’t know if anyone has announced the office of the prime minister,” said Prof Mutua.

He, however, said that it was necessary to have the leadership reflect the face of the country.

Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe said there was precedent to elevate on CS above their peers and have them coordinate government functions. “With the coordination role given to Interior CS Fred Matiang’i, government operations have been seamless without memos flying left right and centre,” he said.

But he said Ruto, who had opposed BBI, was being disingenuous by proposing the same thing he opposed. 

“It is laughable that the same Ruto who criticised the executive order that reorganised government is now promising to issue a similar executive order as his first order of business,” said Mr Murathe.

Download the BBI Judgement by all seven Judges - Civil Appeal No. E291 of 2021