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PM asks Kofi Annan to mediate growing row over graft allegations


Latest update : 2010-02-16

Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga (pictured) has asked crisis mediator, and former UN chief, Kofi Annan to help resolve a growing row between the coalition government's two main parties over corruption allegations.

AFP- Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Monday called on former UN chief Kofi Annan to intervene in a stand-off with the country's president over a graft probe that has sparked deep rifts in the government.

Odinga said his party in the fractious unity government needed Annan's "immediate intervention" after President Mwai Kibaki overruled his attempt to remove the agriculture and education ministers to allow them to be investigated for corruption.

Annan helped secure a power-sharing deal between the political rivals after successfully mediating in talks to end post-election violence in 2008.

Odinga "declared a dispute between the coalition partners and seeks the immediate intervention of the African Union, in particular... the Office of the Eminent African Personalities chaired by... Kofi Annan," a statement from his office said.

"The national accord expressly stipulates that both principals agreed to share power equally in order to bring peace to this country," said the statement read out by Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi.

"Legally and constitutionally, neither the president nor the prime minister is superior to the other," added the statement.

Attorney General Amos Wako warned that the stand-off "can very easily move into a constitutional crisis."

Kibaki on Sunday revoked the suspension of two ministers within hours of Odinga's announcement that he was suspending them during an investigation into the disappearance of millions of dollars in foreign aid.

He said Odinga had no power to suspend the ministers, and contradicted the prime minister's assertion that he had consulted the president.

But Odinga insisted Monday he had complied fully with his responsibilities as prime minister, which include supervision of ministries and coordination of government affairs..

"The law is clear: on matters of discipline, suspension or interdiction of public officials including cabinet ministers, the prime minister has exclusive authority," his office said.

The clash reopened old wounds between the rivals, forced to work together after the devastating violence sparked by Odinga's allegations that Kibaki rigged his re-election in the December 2007 presidential polls.

"The power struggle between them is indicative of the deep-rooted suspicion within the coalition partners," said Evans Monari, a Nairobi-based political analyst. "Without a dispute resolution, Kenya is between a rock and a hard place."

Odinga had suspended Agriculture Minister William Ruto, a member of Odinga's coalition bloc, and Education Minister Samuel Ongeri, a Kibaki ally.

He said two recent investigations -- a 26-million-dollar subsidised maize scam and the disappearance of 1.3 million dollars at the education ministry -- had "laid credible foundations for the two ministers to be investigated".

The move came after the United States, Kenya's largest single aid partner, in January withdrew seven million dollars in assistance to the education ministry.

Since becoming prime minister, Odinga has faced opposition from Kibaki's camp over his exact role in government, with critics charging that his post rivals that of the vice president's and other senior government officials.

The infighting also sparked criticism by Nairobi's Western allies of the slow pace of implementing reforms to prevent a repeat of the post-election violence.

"The two principals have elevated themselves from the problems facing this country. You get the distinct feeling that they are divorced from the needs of the population," said Jacob Ogonda, director of the Kenyan chapter of Transparency International. "We are at the risk of being a failed state."

Some observers said Odinga's move was linked to Kenya's next elections in 2012.

"Odinga has never shown much zeal in the fight against corruption," said Francois Grignon, the International Crisis Group's director for Africa.

"Therefore if he is taking such a lead at this time, it is because he has a political interest in the matter.

"Odinga's objective is to stoke a crisis two years after the signing of the (power-sharing) accord to regain political capital," he said.

In addition to the two ministers, eight senior government officials, including two from Odinga's office, have been suspended over the two scandals.

Date created : 2010-02-16