/ 6 April 2008

Kenya delays new Cabinet announcement

The announcement of Kenya’s new coalition Cabinet has been delayed indefinitely over disagreements on its composition, both sides said on Saturday.

“The widely expected announcement tomorrow [Sunday] of a new Cabinet that all Kenyans were so keenly awaiting has been delayed,” Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) spokesperson Salim Lone said in a statement.

The announcement had been scheduled to take place by midnight on Sunday.

Lone said both sides had disagreed on the sharing of portfolios in the 40-member Cabinet, which is expected to be the first constitutional coalition government in the country since independence from Britain in 1963.

“We are getting frustrated,” said an ODM top official, who asked not to be named.

But the government blamed the ODM, saying it had failed to present its list of would-be ministers to President Mwai Kibaki.

“Today [Saturday], President Mwai Kibaki requested Raila Odinga to submit his proposals for appointments into the Cabinet. The president is yet to receive the list,” government spokesperson Alfred Mutua said in a statement.

“In situations where there is sharing, neither party can be satisfied 100%, because of the spirit of give and take,” Mutua said.

“The consultations for the formation of Cabinet have gone on for over a month and have to end at one point.”

Mutua said Kibaki has invited Odinga, who has been named as prime minister-designate, for talks on Sunday.

According to the government statement, Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) is to cover the finance, defence, foreign affairs and justice portfolios, while ODM is to take others including roads, public works and tourism and agriculture.

The delay is a major setback in the implementation of a deal reached on February 28 to end the violence that erupted following disputed December polls, which Odinga accused Kibaki of rigging.

The violence killed at least 1 500 people, displaced hundreds of thousands and affected the country’s mainstay tourism and agricultural sectors.

The two leaders have been wrangling over the composition of the coalition government, notably over its size and the attribution of key portfolios.

The ODM blamed the Kibaki camp for the delay, saying it had already made numerous concessions in the talks to form a new government.

“Honourable Raila finds the new position adopted by PNU on portfolio balance unacceptable. The prime minister-designate has already made numerous concessions, such as a bloated Cabinet of 40 members, which have gone against the strong wishes of our party members, and indeed most Kenyans,” Lone’s statement added.

“Those concessions reflected the irreducible minimum that ODM can agree to.”

Church and civil groups have threatened mass action if Kibaki and Odinga fail to reduce the new Cabinet to 24 members.

According to independent watchdogs, the average cost of running a ministry in Kenya is about eight billion shillings ($130-million) a year.

“We will not pay taxes if we have to. This is the time to tell them that we are the masters,” said Cyprian Nyamwamu, speaking on behalf of the civil groups. — AFP