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Kenyan leaders in talks to break cabinet deadlock

Latest update : 2008-04-07

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and would-be prime minister Raila Odinga held crucial talks Sunday to break a deadlock on creating a new coalition government. They are expected to make an announcement Monday.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga on Sunday held new talks on breaking a deadlock over the makeup of a coalition government, but with no clear sign that agreement is near.
   
The rivals met at the president's office to hammer out a portfolio-sharing deal for a 40-member cabinet made up of Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU) and Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).
   
"We have made substantial progress, but we have decided to adjourn the consultations until tomorrow (Monday) afternoon. We appeal to all Kenyans to be patient and assure them that expected to successfully concluded the consultations tomorrow," the two leaders said in a joint statement.
   
"We would also like to assure Kenyans the final outcome will be in the best interest all all wananchi (citizens)," it said, without elaborating on the nature of progress they claimed to have made.
   
The cabinet was scheduled to be announced on Sunday, but delayed over disgreements over sharing portfolios.
   
According to a separate government statement, the PNU is to cover the finance, defence, foreign affairs and justice portfolios, while ODM is to take others including roads, public works and tourism and agriculture.
   
Both sides are trying to implement a February 28 deal, which has been enshrined in the constitution, to end tribal fighting and revenge killings that erupted following disputed December polls which Odinga accused Kibaki of rigging.
   
The violence killed at least 1,500 people, displaced hundreds of thousands mainly in the capital and the western region and affected the country's mainstay tourism and agricultural sectors.
   
Kenyan newspapers said the new cabinet might produce an unstable government because it will be a product of "horse-trading, political blackmail and tribal bargaining."
   
"It will therefore not necessarily be made up of people who, by virtue of their ability, experience and values, have earned their place in it, but by the people who must be included to secure peace," the mass circulation Sunday Nation said in a blistering editorial.
   
"No one should be surprised, therefore, to see in the cabinet people who have destroyed -- through theft -- both ministries and parastatals and those condemned in official inquiries for inciting war," it added.
   
The Standard newspaper pressed for action against the perpetrators of the violence that rocked the country, tarring its reputation as a bastion of stability in a region blighted by conflicts.
   
"Today, we embark and hopefully without wavering or faltering focus on the harder road of seeking justice for the murdered, dispossessed and displaced," it said in an editorial.
   
"And even as we do, we must strive to get to the bottom, and put faces to the mess that was the flawed general elections."
   
On Saturday, church and civil groups threatened mass action if Kibaki and Odinga fail to reduce the new cabinet to 24 members, saying the country is too broke to fund a bloated government.
   
According to independent watchdogs, the average cost of running a ministry in Kenya is around eight billion shillings (130 million dollars) a year, a figure they say is too high for a country where the majority live on less than a dollar a day.
   
Meanwhile, the government has been under pressure to resettle hundreds of thousands of Kenyans still living in squalid conditions in camps, many of whom abandoned their farmlands in the country's breadbasket area.

Date created : 2008-04-07

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