Opinion and Analysis
Kibaki appointments uncalled for
Posted Thursday, May 24 2012 at 19:29
The current debate over President Kibaki’s recent appointment of county commissioners appears to be a replay of typical Kenyan political struggles which often take place during or before the General Election.
If one were to take a historical perspective, there would be nothing radical about the president’s appointing individuals to senior positions on the eve of elections without any public scrutiny.
However, the difference this time is that the Constitution empowers ordinary people to question executive decisions and requires state office holders to demonstrate a level of transparency and accountability that does not give them a carte blanche.
Some of my friends in the government claim that these appointments are a reflection of the struggle between reformers and non-reformers.
Apparently, the non-reformers believe that civil society activists and their supporters within the political class have gone too far and are making such appointments to halt the pace of political reform.
They further claim that the appointments have to be seen in the light of the recent Cabinet changes that resulted in the promotion of Eugene Wamalwa to the Constitutional and Justice portfolio as well as the falling out between Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Deputy PM Musalia Mudavadi.
Whether these claims are true or false does not make a difference. In circumstances like these, where the winner of presidential polls would exercise considerable political influence, perceptions can be as powerful as reality.
Some other government insiders suggest that the recent county appointments resulted from the enthusiasm of inexperienced personnel at Harambee House who gave the president poor advice, and that there was no sinister motive behind the decision.
They appear to blame the crisis on the absence of former head of civil service Francis Muthaura, who left a big bureaucratic void when he resigned earlier this year following confirmation by the ICC that he would face criminal charges at the Hague.
If this account of the situation was true, it would imply that those advising the president on crucial decisions have not read the 2010 constitution and do not possess the humility to seek legal advice even when they are entering an unfamiliar political and legal landscape.
A third of account of the county appointments saga suggests that the key to understanding the problem revolves around determination of a few people in the Office of the President to ensure that they retain considerable influence after President Kibaki’s retirement.
Some of these people appear to believe that county commissioners are likely to influence the outcome of elections and thereby ensure that as many of their supporters as possible are elected governors, senators, and MPs.
This interpretation of the situation implies that President Kibaki endorsed the list of appointees without fully understanding the suitability or qualifications of each individual on the list.
Having watched Mr Kibaki closely, I am reluctant to accept any claim that he could make appointments without knowing what they were about.