Wrangles stall giant cabinet announcement

Kenya’s giant cabinet is yet to be named as the president and the opposition argue on its composition and the responsibilities of the Prime Minister.

Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) has accused President Mwai Kibaki and his Party of National Unity (PNU) of seeking to keep all the influential ministries for themselves, leaving the ODM as a “passenger” in the proposed coalition. The ministries in dispute are those of Finance, Energy, Local Government, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Internal Security and Transport. Both ODM and PNU would like control of these ministries in order to influence government policy.

On the other hand, President Kibaki said the ODM undermined the coalition talks by introducing fresh demands. ODM is seeking to cut down the coalition cabinet from 40 to 34, a demand that Kibaki allies, who make up the current cabinet of 17, view with suspicion.

Mr Odinga is slated to become Prime Minister in a coalition with President Kibaki. That itself is another source of conflict over the duties and responsibilities of the proposed Prime Minister’s office. Kenya’s constitution vests the state’s executive authority with the presidency but Mr Odinga’s supporters want a ceremonial presidency, with executive authority shifting to the Prime Minister.

With full executive authority, ODM believes it can appoint its supporters to head the security forces, government departments, diplomatic postings and state corporations. Indeed, this was a significant campaign platform for the ODM.

Mr Odinga would be the first Prime Minister Kenya has had for 40 years. The creation of the Prime Minister’s position was the culmination of international mediation efforts that ended clashes in the country sparked by presidential elections in December last year. Both Mr Odinga and President Kibaki claimed victory, resulting in ethnic violence between rival ethnic groups. About 1,500 people are estimated to have died from the violence while 300,000 fled their homes and are camped in public grounds.

Mobs engaging in ethnic clashes in Nairobi during violence that erupted following disputed presidential elections on December 27th last year. Picture by AFP.

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