Kenyan Rivals Reach Accord on Makeup of Cabinet
Monday, April 14, 2008
LUBUMBASHI, Congo, April 13 -- Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and his political rival Raila Odinga agreed on the details of a 40-member cabinet Sunday, implementing a power-sharing deal they reached in February.
The two leaders had bickered for weeks over key ministries as Kenyans grew increasingly worried that the country was again slipping into the violence that killed an estimated 1,000 people and displaced as many as a million after the disputed Dec. 27 presidential election.
Last week, demonstrators took to the streets in two Odinga strongholds, the western city of Kisumu and Kibera, one of Nairobi's poorest neighborhoods, as people grew impatient waiting for the political announcement.
With international pressure mounting, Kibaki on Sunday announced the new cabinet and named Odinga as prime minister. Odinga will oversee and manage the cabinet.
"It's not a bad deal," said Salim Lone, a spokesman for Odinga. "It's an enormous relief."
The arrangement evenly divides the cabinet, with Kibaki's Party of National Unity getting the three heftiest ministries: security, finance and constitutional affairs. Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement gets planning, public service, local government and roads, among others.
Former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan, who mediated the power-sharing deal, is expected to attend the swearing-in ceremony Thursday.
The task of formalizing a new government is particularly urgent considering that the political crisis has drained the Kenyan economy of nearly $4 billion and 500,000 jobs. Sprawling tent camps full of people displaced by ethnic violence in the western Rift Valley still dot the countryside as the rainy season grinds on.
Whether the government will be able to tackle those problems "depends on goodwill on both sides," said Gitau Warigi, a contributing columnist with the Daily Nation, a leading newspaper. "And I don't see a lot of it right now."
Kibaki and Odinga have fought each other for decades and are among an old guard of politicians who have often relied on the politics of tribal difference to win elections and rally their supporters.
Warigi noted that already, ethnically tinged politics is coming into play as the leaders make speeches about rebuilding the country. Kibaki focuses heavily on the displaced, who come primarily from his own Kikuyu ethnic group, while Odinga has not addressed the issue of Kikuyu resettlement, focusing instead on economic development that would benefit his ethnic constituencies.
"The country has to confront the real question of whether we need a new generation of leaders," Warigi said. "Because I'm not sure these people can provide lasting answers."