/ 11 March 2008

Kenya Parliament to speed peace deal through

Kenya’s new Parliament sought on Tuesday to speed up legislation ratifying a fragile power-sharing deal intended to guarantee the peace after a post-election crisis that killed more than 1 000 people.

Members of Parliament proposed procedures so that two Bills enshrining the new arrangement and amending the Constitution could be approved within a five-day limit rather than the usual two weeks after their publication.

Speaker Kenneth Marende was expected to ratify that on Wednesday, meaning the Bills would probably pass early next week, analysts and politicians said.

President Mwai Kibaki and former opposition leader Raila Odinga signed a pact two weeks ago to end a crisis that also displaced 300 000 people, damaged Kenya’s reputation as one of Africa’s most stable nations and dented its promising economy.

Odinga had accused Kibaki of stealing the December 27 vote through fraud, while the government accused the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) of fomenting violence.

Despite optimism over the political accord, there is growing unease among some Kenyans that leaders are now focused on how to divide top jobs rather than tackle deeper issues of ethnicity, land distribution, poverty and corruption.

”Now we are hearing all this talk about expansion of the Cabinet to grotesque proportions just so that there can be a slot for every man and his dog,” political commentator Macharia Gaitho wrote in Kenya’s leading newspaper, the Daily Nation.

All parties had promised in their pre-election manifestoes to streamline government, but under the new power-sharing deal, the Cabinet would swell to 38 members. There would also be no official opposition, which is worrying many in Kenya.

”Discussion on a new governance structure should not be about sharing power — it should not be about sharing the spoils, ‘jobs for the boys’, or ‘eating together’; it should be about sharing responsibility,” Gaitho added.

Economic recovery

Odinga (63) a former political prisoner, is expected to take the prime minister’s job once it is ratified by Parliament. But his ODM has reacted angrily to a government statement that Kibaki (76) will retain power to appoint the prime minister.

The accord says the post should go to the party with the largest number of parliamentary seats, which is currently ODM.

Monday’s statement by the head of the public service Francis Muthaura also implied the prime minister’s position would be third in rank after the vice-president, currently Kalonzo Musyoka, the third-placed candidate in the December vote.

ODM spokesperson Salim Lone said Muthaura’s interpretation of the accord was ”mischievous”.

”Kenyans have begun the slow process of healing, reconciliation and rebuilding their shattered lives. They will not accept to be dragged back to the period of mayhem, violence and disruption by retrogressive forces,” he added.

Despite the politics, Kenya’s economy is recovering quickly from the crisis, with the local shilling currency back to pre-election levels and stocks also making a recovery.- Reuters