/ 12 April 2008

Kenya’s Kibaki, Odinga reach Cabinet deal

Kenya President Mwai Kibaki and would-be prime minister Raila Odinga on Saturday reached a coalition government agreement and a new Cabinet will be announced on Sunday, political and diplomatic sources said.

”The two leaders held talks today and agreed on a new coalition Cabinet that will be unveiled tomorrow around lunchtime,” a top Kenyan political source, close to one of the leaders, said.

A Western diplomat, whose government has been pressing for a deal, confirmed that an accord had been reached.

”We have been informed that a Cabinet deal has been reached and we expect [it to be] announced tomorrow. The two leaders are keen to have a Cabinet before Parliament resumes on Tuesday,” added the diplomat.

The agreement was struck after Kibaki and Odinga held closed-door talks in Sagana State Lodge in central Kenya, they said.

The much-delayed unveiling of a unity government is a key step in implementing a February 28 power-sharing deal aimed at quelling violence that broke out following Kenya’s disputed December polls, killing at least 1 500 people and displacing hundreds of thousands.

The Cabinet, which was scheduled to be announced Sunday last week, was put off after the two leaders failed to agree on a 50-50 sharing of key posts.

The new line-up will effectively replace the current 17-member Cabinet that Kibaki hastily assembled after he was controversially declared re-elected in the December 27 polls.

It was unclear whether they will name a 40-member Cabinet, a number that had initially been agreed, but opposed by many Kenyans, notably civil society groups and newspapers.

Odinga, the leader of the Orange Democratic Movement party, is expected to become prime minister under the power-sharing accord that has been entrenched in the Constitution.

Western powers have piled pressure on the pair to implement the accord, mediated by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan, which curbed tribal fighting, revenge killings and police crackdowns that erupted following the elections which Odinga accused Kibaki of rigging. — Sapa-AFP