BY NGUNJIRI WAMBUGU
Last week Parliament, led by the President’s own Jubilee MPs, ganged up to reject the nominee for Secretary to the Cabinet. They did not reject this nominee because President Uhuru Kenyatta had missed some flaw in her resume when nominating her; or because they had come across some information that the President might not have been privy to, that indicated she was unqualified. They also did not reject this nominee because she does not fit her position.
In fact Parliament confirmed that the nominee had the requisite qualifications and experience. They also confirmed that she has served the government well, including as the Kenyan Ambassador to Ethiopia and as Permanent Secretary in the Ministries of Defense and Interior.
The problem Parliament had with the President’s nominee was that she was arrogant and inaccessible. According to them the nominee displayed arrogance and was insensitive to the needs of the people … and their elected leaders; lacked a practical approach in dealing with the public … and elected leaders; and lacked demonstrable passion to serve the public … and elected representatives.
My first reaction was that the MPs did not see the irony of the phrases they used. It is our MPs who are arrogant, inaccessible, insensitive to the needs of the people, lack a practical approach in dealing with the public, and lack demonstrable passion to serve the public. Unbelievable how they projected themselves on innocent Monica Juma!
However the MPs did not mean what they were saying. Let me unpack the nice-sounding words. When they said the nominee was ‘arrogant’ they meant that she does not get intimidated by the Very Important People (VIP) that they are. ‘Insensitive’ meant that the nominee does not get concerned when these VIPs express some unrealistic whim; e.g.; a desire to determine who gets to join the security agencies from their area or which security officers should serve in their jurisdictions. ‘Lack of demonstrable passion to serve’ meant that the nominee is not willing to bend over backwards to serve these VIP whims whenever asked to do so. ‘Needs of the people’ is easy. It means the needs of the VIPs.
‘Lack of a practical approach’ was the most transparent. What the MPs meant was that this nominee does not understand that money makes the world go round; and that VIPs are the world. She had refused to allow them access to funds in her docket when they faced some real or imagined political threat.
Now that we are all on the same page; what does this mean for the President?
First, if I was the President I would look very closely at the list of people who voted against my nominee. It would be important to know my enemies within. I would also consider each person on that list the reason why my government is not making any progress on the two main issues that Kenyans are grappling with; Security and Corruption. Why do I say this?
It is now clear that there is no substantive reason why the MPs, especially those from the President’s party, rejected the nomination of Monica Juma. This means that there might be some truth to the rumor that they expected to be bribed to do the right thing. This also means it could be true that their problem with Monica is she will not provide them with funds from her office to do politics. If this is the case then clearly Parliament is the kitchen in which corruption deals are cooked. This means that for as long as some of these MPs are in office the fight against corruption is lost.
Second; if Jubilee MPs have the audacity to gang up against one of the President’s ‘men’ on such flimsy reasons; a government technocrat who the President himself has confirmed he has complete faith in; an officer who the President has relied on to coordinate both the defense and security ministries; can the President really trust his MPs to support and defend sensitive government security policies that are necessary to expeditiously, effectively and efficiently deal with insecurity? I doubt it.
In Kikuyu after a painful lesson one says ‘nindekunya gutu’ (I have pinched my ear). Mr. President; I hope you have.
Last Saturday the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) held a meeting in Thika where close to 200 Muslims Imams from Western, Nyanza, Eastern, Rift Valley and Mt Kenya declared war on radicalization and terrorism in their regions. The Imams committed to partner with the government to expose terrorists trying to hide under their religion; work hand in hand with Christian leaders to restore religious tolerance; and publicly denounce Muslims and Muslim institutions supporting religious extremism, radicalization and terrorism.
Well done CIPK.
Hopefully Muslim leaders from North Eastern and Coastal regions will make the same public commitments … soon.
(Wambugu is a Director of Change Associates, a Political Think Tank).