Raila succumbs to ODM job promises

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, must be ruing that day in December when he promised top government jobs to the ODM rank and file.

“The government is very big and there are enough jobs for everybody in ODM,” said Raila in Kiswahili when he was running for the presidency. ODM aspirants who had lost the party primaries would be employed in the civil service, diplomatic corps, judiciary, security services and state-owned corporations.

It is because of this promise that rumbles are being experienced not only in the civil service but within the ODM party. Its obvious that some people currently in top public positions will have to give way to political appointees. On the other hand, its also rather obvious that there are only limited positions to be distributed among ODM hopefuls.

Matters are made worse by the fact that ODM is in a coalition with President Mwai Kibaki’s PNU and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka’s ODM-Kenya. They are all eyeing the top jobs in order to reward their own followers.

Its largely because of delays in awarding government jobs that ODM is experiencing a crisis. Indeed, the Grand Opposition of legislator Abaabu Namwamba is a product of politicians disappointed at being left out of the cabinet. Amidst growing dissent, ODM is moving fast to assuage discontent within its masses.

With impending retirements and reshuffles within the public service, the party may have found the opportunity to deliver on its December promise. Top jobs at the Kenya Revenue Authority, KenGen, Posta among other large state-controlled organizations are up for grabs. The party also wants to appoint permanent secretaries, diplomats, military commanders and judges. Already, ODM friendly lawyers are lobbying for the removal of Chief Justice Evans Gicheru.

Recent changes are a pointer of things to come. Kenya Ports Authority’s Abdullah Mwaruwa was retired last month and a replacement is yet to be found amidst lobbying that the job should be taken by someone from a coastal ethnic group.

At the Rift Valley Railways, South African Roy Puffet, was fired and his seat given to ODM backer, Mr Brown Ondego. Meanwhile, the government declined to extend the contract of a Canadian chief executive at the Kenya Power and Lighting Company. Mr Don Prescott’s job went to a Kenyan from the president’s ethnic group.

Last week’s debacle at the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) over its chief executive provided a glimpse of the tussles within government over political appointments. Labour Minister, John Munyes, used corruption allegations to dismiss NSSF Managing Trustee, Mrs Rachel Lumbasyo. The Labour Minister immediately appointed Mr Fred Rabong’o in her place.

The decision was met with uproar by NSSF’s staff. While Mrs Lumbasyo had spent years at the corporation before her appointment as Managing Trustee, Mr Rabong’o is a public relations consultant with no known experience in pension funds administration.

NSSF’s board of trustees, consisting of the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) and the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) immediately rejected the appointment by Munyes. The situation became complicated because a Managing Trustee in NSSF cannot make decisions without the approval of COTU and FKE.

The matter went to Raila’s office at Treasury Building and it was resolved that Mrs Lumbasyo complete her term at NSSF. However, almost immediately, Raila overturned the consensus and sent Mrs Lumbasyo packing. Raila instructed Munyes to recruit a new Managing Trustee in coming months. Canvassing for the job among the pool of political appointees is in high gear.

Within the same week, the government swept out the command of Kenya Prisons and replaced it with outsiders. The new prisons commissioner, Mr Isaiah Osugo, was an officer with the Criminal Investigations Department (CID). He will be assisted by former Administration Police commandant George Macgoye. Reaction from prison warders has been muted so far. The warders went on a mutiny several months ago protesting poor housing and corrupt leadership.

The Kenyan people are concerned that politicians are sacrificing merit and technical ability for the sake of pleasing their cronies. Truth is that the ordinary Kenyan is unlikely to get a civil service job any time soon. Majority of people whose names are being floated for top government jobs are individuals who were in public service since independence and who were previously fired for mismanagement.

It is these same individuals that are responsible for Kenya’s downturn as indicated by depressing economic and social statistics. State corporations took a downward plunge from which recovery has been difficult, if not impossible.

A large percentage of candidates being mentioned for political reward appointments have been implicated in corruption scandals that led to the collapse of strategic organizations. The irony is that these individuals are extremely wealthy and they don’t really need their old jobs back.

It appears that political appointees will get their wishes while qualified and hardworking citizens stagnate in the morass of unemployment. For such is the state of Kenya.


Mungatana a nuisance to Coast province

The raving antics of Danson Mungatana provided an amusing side show in the past but by purporting to “report” Prime Minister Raila Odinga to President Mwai Kibaki, the Garsen MP is certainly over-reaching himself.

Danson Mungatana

Danson Mungatana

Coast people are openly expressing widespread disgust concerning Mungatana’s latest tantrums. His utterances are made worse by the fact that he is considered a Kibaki ally in a region that was solidly behind Raila’s presidential ambitions. While Raila’s ODM won the hearts and minds of the Coast through its Majimbo crusade, Mungatana was like a lone voice in the wilderness as he crowed on the merits of a unitary system of government which the Coast blames for backwardness in the province.

Incidentally, the threats by Mungatana against Raila have now put the two in a reversal of opinions. Prime Minister Raila Odinga wants the chief executive of the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) to be appointed on merit, regardless of ethnicity. Mungatana and his new found allies maintain that the head of KPA must come from a coastal ethnic group.

Raila says that KPA is a national asset where every Kenyan has a right to employment. “No,” says Mungatana, who has stated that KPA is an asset for the exclusive benefit of the Coast.

Coast people are beginning to see Mungatana as an opportunistic politician who is now jumping onto the bandwagon of Coast nationalism in order to win popularity. Yet, in previous years, Mungatana has dismissed the nationalistic sentiments at the Coast as a waste of time. In his six years as MP, Mungatana has supported a unitary system of government. His own cross cultural parentage could have been the reason why he opposed regionalism.

Mungatana became a critic of Kibaki after the naming of the giant coalition cabinet in April this year. He was among young MPs who were disappointed by not being named ministers in spite of having put up a tough fight for their godfathers. To be fair, Mungatana was not the only Young Turk to face a crushing disappointment last April. The so-called grand opposition is composed chiefly of people who had expected bigger takings.

So bloated has Mungatana’s ego become that he is now challenging his mentor, President Kibaki, in the battle for the presidential succession come 2012. Mungatana has said he is interested in high office, either the premiership or the presidency. But it’s not Kibaki that Coast people care about.

Raila’s intervention in KPA matters is viewed as a sign that the Prime Minister is implementing ODM’s agenda in the region. During last year’s campaigns, ODM promised to revive stalled industries at the Coast, such as cashewnut farming and the Ramisi Sugar factory. ODM also promised to revamp the ailing tourism industry and to improve roads, railways and other infrastructure at the Coast. Thus, Raila’s intervention in KPA affairs is seen as a welcome move in that direction. As usual, Mungatana is, once again, frustrating the aspirations of the Coast.

Mungatana’s political flip-flopping is symptomatic of Kenya’s leadership characteristics. By expressing disgust with Mungatana, Coast people are really voicing frustration with Kenya’s political class. People who were regionalists of the past are now proponents of the unity state. Others who were solidly for a unitary state are now die-hard Majimboists. The reformists of the past are the oppressors of today while the oppressors of yesteryears pretend to be champions of democracy. People who used to condemn genocide just a decade ago now support ethnic clashes as a legitimate tool for achieving power.

There’s nobody left to condemn anything. Kenya has become a society where might is right. Social values are so hideously tarnished that wrong has become right and to do the right thing is to be condemned for foolishness. For all these, the politicians are to blame. But Kenya’s citizens are also to blame for voting unscrupulous characters into office.

Meanwhile, former colleagues of Mungatana at the University of Nairobi’s School of Law can be found wondering at the transformation of the formerly shy student. His college years were largely uneventful and non-controversial – a stark contrast to the man he has grown to become.

By Stanley M. Mjomba – Coast affairs correspondent.