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Kenya swears in new coalition cabinet

Latest update : 2008-04-17

Kenya's historic unity coalition was sworn in on Thursday, with opposition leader Raila Odinga taking the oath as prime minister. The power-sharing deal is an effort to put an end to the country's worst political crisis since independence in 1963.

Kenya's massive 42-member power-sharing cabinet, named to help restore stability after a bloody post-poll dispute, risks becoming crippled by inefficiency, analysts said Tuesday.
  
President Mwai Kibaki on Sunday appointed political rival Raila Odinga as his prime minister under a February 28 power-sharing deal that ended months of political violence sparked by disputed December elections.
  
In the new cabinet -- the biggest since its 1963 independence from Britain -- Kibaki turned departments into ministries in order to create room for allies and reward loyalties.
  
"The size is too big and the chain of command is not clear. It is going to bring about some confusion," said Jeremiah Owiti of the Nairobi-based Centre for Independent Research.
  
But Kenyan politicians offered an upbeat assessment of the new government.
  
"The process of reconciliation has begun and the cabinet must speak in one voice," Odinga told reporters Monday, while a Kibaki ally, Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula, vowed that if members work as a team "we will deliver."
  
The naming of the cabinet had been delayed when Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU) and Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) jousted for key ministries, leading to a collapse of negotiations on the government's make-up.
  
"I see the next two years as partly peaceful and partly chaotic and this will not augur well for economic growth," Owiti tole AFP.
  
More than 1,500 people were killed in violence that erupted after Odinga accused Kibaki of stealing his way to victory in the elections. International monitors said the polls fell below international standards.
  
Painstaking talks by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan resulted in a power-sharing agreement that was enshrined in the constitution.
  
The deal created the posts of two deputy prime ministers who were picked from the feuding parties.
  
Kenyan civil society groups lament that several ministries overlap, chiefly citing the ministry of public health and sanitation with that of medical services.
  
Others include lifestock, fisheries and agriculture which had been under the same docket, but are now separate. Roads was separated from public works, and industrialisation created from trade. Environment and mineral resources was separated from forestry and wildlife.
  
Gender and children's affairs was split from youth and sports while Nairobi metropolitan was under local government, according to lists compiled by civil groups.
  
"I am very sceptical about the efficiency of the cabinet. I am not holding my breath to see huge development," said Maina Kiai, who heads the state-run Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.
  
"This is a continuation of political patronage. The size of the cabinet shows that it is business as usual," Kiai added.
  
Western powers lauded Kibaki for naming a new cabinet, with Washington terming it an "important first step" toward a solving the country's political crisis.
  
But domestic reaction was more skeptical.
  
"Is this the cabinet that will fight corruption and drive meaningful reform? I doubt it," wrote Maina Gaitho, a columnist with the top selling Daily Nation newspaper.
  
He accused Kibaki of retaining several close allies "who absolutely add no value to the cabinet" and Odinga of bringing on board "some of the most disreputable faces" of former president Daniel arap Moi's regime.
  
"On both the PNU and ODM halves of the cabinet are well known thieves, plunderers and ethnic warlords," Gaitho said.
  
The new outfit replaces a 17-member cabinet Kibaki hastily assembled after taking office under a cloud of post-election controversy, but whose members nonetheless have been retained.
  
"It is very disappointing that we ended up with a top-heavy cabinet. There can't be any justification for that kind of cabinet," said Omweri Angima of the Centre for Multiparty Democracy.
  
In total, the new coalition government has 94 members, including the president.
  
With almost half of the 222 lawmakers in government, parliament will thus become inefficient, said Mwalimu Mati of the Mars Group, a local civil rights organisation.
  
"The government is overly advantaged over parliament. This undermines parliament," he told AFP. "This makes it easier for unpopular bills to be pushed through."

Date created : 2008-04-17

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