Kenya parties break deadlock over coalition Cabinet

Kenya’s feuding political factions on Thursday announced the deadlock over a coalition government had been broken and that the new line-up would be announced on Sunday.

The breakthrough came after a meeting between President Mwai Kibaki and prime minister-designate Raila Odinga amid weeks of bitter wrangling over the size of the Cabinet and attribution of portfolios.

“I think that today [Thursday] we have agreed on some issues on the size of the Cabinet,” Odinga told reporters after the meeting.

“We have had, as you can see, a very lengthy discussion with President Kibaki ... these issues require time to discuss so that an agreement is reached,” he added.

The formation of a coalition government is key to the implementation of a February deal that ended two months of deadly post-election violence in the East African country.

“During the meeting, the president and prime minister-designate agreed on the way forward in the implementation of the National Accord and Reconciliation 2008,” a statement from Kibaki’s office also said.

“At the meeting the two agreed on a 40-ministry Cabinet that will be announced this Sunday, April 6. The new Cabinet will then be sworn in on Saturday April 12 2008,” the statement went on.

Talks on the government had collapsed last week, forcing former United Nations chief Kofi Annan to renew the pressure on both sides to find an agreement and implement the deal he brokered.

“Mr Annan calls on both leaders to implement both the spirit and the letter of the agreement signed and to resolve the issue of the number and the composition of the government expeditiously, since the main elements for concrete decisions already feature in the agreement,” he said in a statement.

A deal was reached on February 28 after weeks of mediation led by Annan whereby Kibaki’s Party of National Unity and Odinga’s party evenly split the Cabinet jobs.

The agreement, already enshrined in the Constitution, was reached in a bid to stem the unrest that flared after the incumbent was accused by rival and pre-poll frontrunner Odinga of rigging his way to re-election.

The international community also voiced concern over irregularities in the vote counting but urged both sides to stem violence that has left hundreds dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Kibaki had long insisted on a Cabinet comprised of 44 ministers, while Odinga demanded 34.

Both sides also bickered over the top portfolios, with Kibaki seemingly reluctant to reshuffle the ministers he had already appointed in the thick of the post-election crisis, only days after being sworn in.—AFP

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