Kenyans in subdued mood as giant cabinet takes office

Ministers of Kenya’s giant cabinet took office yesterday amidst grumblings and a subdued mood among their supporters.

Supporters of the ODM party have criticized the coalition as being heavily in favor of Kibaki’s PNU which got to keep most of the key ministries it held before the coalition agreement was sealed by President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga. A veteran politician, Mr Martin Shikuku, who threw his weight behind ODM in December’s election, lamented that ODM was duped into signing the coalition agreement. In ODM strongholds of Kisumu, Eldoret, Kakamega and at the coast, there was little celebration over the naming of the giant cabinet.

Kibaki’s PNU kept the key ministries of finance, transport, energy, internal security, defence, education and home affairs. In addition to the Prime Minister’s post, ODM got Local Government, Agriculture, Medical Services, Water, Tourism, among others. The somber mood of ODM supporters is due to the fact that the ministries the party got are seen as minor.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga, however, sought to assure the party’s supporters that the giant cabinet was the best deal anyone could get in the prevailing circumstances. Mr Odinga said that neither the PNU nor the ODM got everything it wanted. Mr Odinga called on his supporters to support the giant cabinet in order to realize the reforms the party wanted to institute had it won the elections outright back in December.

Ministers from the ODM led by Prime Minister Raila Odinga joined President Mwai Kibaki’s PNU party in forming a giant cabinet which was announced last Sunday. The 40 member cabinet has drawn protests from civil society and from business organizations who have criticized it as extravagant. However, both ODM and PNU said the expanded cabinet was necessary in creating a government where all sectors of society feel represented.

Meanwhile, there’s trouble among President Kibaki’s ethnic political base as it opposes the deal that brought the ODM into government. The Kikuyu ethnic group of President Kibaki perceive the ODM as inimical to its interests. The Kikuyu were attacked in ODM strongholds in the Rift Valley, Western, Nyanza and Coast provinces following disputed polls. Between January and February this year, an estimated 1,500 people lost their lives while about 350,000 were rendered homeless. The attacks against the Kikuyu in ODM dominated areas resulted in revenge attacks against Raila Odinga’s Luo ethnic group within the Kikuyu heartland.

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