, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 15 – The bitter row pitting coalition partners in Kenya deepened further on Monday after Prime Minister Raila Odinga accused President Mwai Kibaki of ‘overstepping his powers.’
Mr Odinga told the British Broadcasting Corporation in an interview that President Kibaki was not mandated by law to overrule him as he did on Sunday when he reversed the suspension of cabinet Ministers William Ruto (Agriculture) and Prof Sam Ongeri (Education).
"I think that what I\’ve done actually has been within my constitutional powers and that the President does not have the powers to countermand what I have done," Mr Odinga told the BBC’s Network Africa programme.
He made the comments hours after President Kibaki issued a statement overruling his suspension of the two cabinet Ministers for three months to pave way for investigations over corruption allegations at the ministries of Education and Agriculture.
The Prime Minister had said there was need for Mr Ruto to step aside to enable investigators probe the maize scandal in his ministry while Prof Ongeri was supposed to pave way for a probe into the Free Primary Education (FPE) saga where officials there are accused of having obtained allowances fraudulently for non-existent conferences.
An audit on the maize scandal carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) that became public last week pointed at the loss of Sh2 billion through maize sales and imports.
It was on this basis that Mr Odinga suspended the Agriculture Minister while Prof Ongeri was sent home for the reported loss of more than Sh100 million which is said to have been misappropriated by officials in his ministry.
Prof Ongeri and Mr Ruto have both insisted they will not resign and would instead continue to discharge their ministerial responsibilities, in what is perhaps emerging as one of the most interesting political soap opera in the recent times.
Since signing a power-sharing deal in 2008, the two political rivals – President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga ¬- have often engaged in bitter wrangles, mainly resulting from political and governance disagreements.
On many occasions since 2008, the two partners appeared to engage in a struggle for supremacy, sometimes clashing openly at public forums where each one of them has been seen to state divergent opinions.
Most recently, the Prime Minister openly asked the President to ask the Education Minister and his Permanent Secretary Professor Karega Mutahi to step aside to pave way for an investigation, but the Head of State did not respond.
The political fights have been perpetuated by divergent stands taken by the Orange Democratic Movement MPs and those from the Party of National Unity.
Those in PNU have now thrown their support behind President Kibaki for his decision to revoke Mr Odinga’s directive and even suggest that he should resign from government as a sign of “political responsibility” since he oversees government functions.
Equally, Mr Odinga’s backers have been issuing statements since Sunday condemning the President’s actions while maintaining support for their party leader who on Monday called for the intervention of Kofi Annan and the African Union (AU) to resolve what he termed a “dispute in the Coalition.”