Thursday, April 11, 2013

Untying the Gordian Knot

Untying the Gordian Knot of pre-election promises in his quest to form a Cabinet will be no easy task for the President. He has vital political interests to protect, not least when he has Najib Balala and Charity Ngilu, erstwhile ODM rebels, as his points-persons in key electoral zones (Coast and Ukambani). But President Kenyatta should not fall into the trap of keeping his political promises at the expense of crafting a dynamic team of go-getters who will implement his visions for the country.

Daniel Toroitich arap Moi and, to some extent, Mwai Kibaki relied on suspended terror to keep their Cabinet Ministers in line. The fear of losing their flags kept their Ministers on their toes. In his second administration, the little leeway Mwai Kibaki had allowed his Minister flourished into an almost flagrant disrespect for the principle of collective responsibility. While his two administrations had achieved a lot, in the end, especially with the Grand Coalition Government, it became a hotbed of infighting, intrigues and conspiracies. John Githongo did a lot to make Ministers suspicious of each other, as well as ensure that senior civil servants were unable to collaborate even where collaboration was a necessity in implementing Mwai Kibaki's vision.

There are calls from all and sundry for Uhuru Kenyatta to accommodate minor political functionaries who lost elections in his administration. He should resist this. There are also desires by some newly elected representatives to resign their positions for a place in his Cabinet. He should discourage this too. The former have been rejected by the people; it is unconscionable that they should be allowed a say over the fate of the same people who rejected them. The latter are a vital cog in the implementation of his vision; if he allows them to resign and they are approved by Parliament before appointments to the Cabinet, there is no guarantee that Jubilee will keep its majority in the National Assembly or the Senate. The risks of losing seemingly safe seats remains high in light of the desire by CORD to win back whatever advantage it has lost since the Supreme Court ruling.

Many will suggest that Uhuru Kenyatta must appoint a generally youthful Cabinet as well as in the senior ranks of the public and diplomatic services. This is a valid point. However, he should ensure that the men and women he appoints not only have proven records both in the private and public sector, but that they share his vision as encapsulated in the Jubilee manifesto. They must also be prepared to take a huge pay-cut in some instances; public service is not the road to self-aggrandizement it once was, but a means of giving back to society for all the advantages they enjoy. These are the people he must identify and persuade to join his administration. He must not, however, ignore experience. In some cases old is not necessarily a byword for old ideas. By now, given his more than a decade of senior public service, President Kenyatta must have a list of senior public officers who have proven themselves in the service of the country. These are men and women who will help navigate the treacherous waters of the public service and he needs their counsel and assistance in meeting the objectives he has laid out for his administration.

Finally, he must keenly see to it that some of the softer requirements of governance are met. He must appoint a Cabinet that represents the face of Kenya. He must give the female gender prominent positions in order to inspire even more women to go into public service. He must give at least one or two positions to really youthful persons so that we too are inspired. Finally, he must make it a priority to ensure that persons with disabilities are no longer treated as lesser Kenyans. This will especially be reflected in how he makes it easier for them to communicate, travel and access public services or institutions. He must, after all, start thinking of re-election.

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