/ 14 April 2008

Kenyan leader unveils power-sharing Cabinet

Kenya’s president unveiled a power-sharing government on Sunday, with opposition leader Raila Odinga as Prime Minister, aimed at ending a long-running political crisis sparked by contested elections.

”Let us put politics aside and get to work,” President Mwai Kibaki said in a live televised speech announcing the Cabinet line-up that had been the subject of heated negotiations between Kenya’s rival political camps.

”Let us build a new Kenya where justice is our shield and defender, and where peace, liberty and plenty will be found throughout our country,” he added.

The new, 42-member Cabinet replaces the 17-member government that Kibaki had hastily assembled after his contested re-election in December.

Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) had accused Kibaki of stealing the election and both parties blamed the other for the ensuing eruption of violence that claimed 1 500 lives nationwide and left hundreds of thousands displaced.

The power-sharing agreement was brokered by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan amid intense international pressure for Kibaki and Odinga to bring an end to the unrest.

In the expanded Cabinet, Uhuru Kenyatta of the ruling Party of National Unity (PNU) and Musalia Mudavadi of the ODM were named deputy prime ministers as well as ministers for trade and local government respectively.

Kalonzo Musyoka, who also lost in the chaotic presidential race, was named Vice-President.

According to a poll released on Saturday, 75% of Kenyans support the power-sharing government, but 50% fear it will not last a full five-year term given the underlying rivalries.

Expensive Cabinet

Critics like Cyprian Nyamwamu, leader of the National Civil Society Congress, have complained that the Cabinet is too large and too expensive.

”Of course, this is a disappointment to the people of Kenya. The cost of maintaining this bloated Cabinet will go to the people of Kenya, who should now brace for hard times ahead,” Nyamwamu said.

Independent watchdogs say the average cost of running a ministry is about eight billion shillings ($130-million) a year, in a country where 60% of 35-million people live on less than $1 a day.

Kibaki urged donors to help and vowed to assist those displaced by the violence to return to their homes. ”As we welcome foreign nationals to partner with us in developing our country, so must we welcome and embrace one another as brothers and sisters,” he added.

”We are also facilitating the displaced people to resettle back on their farms as we support them and the surrounding communities with farm inputs such as seeds and fertilisers.

”The new cabinet will prioritise resettlement of the displaced people so that they can resume normal lives and play their part in nation-building,” he said.

Last week, the government issued a cholera outbreak alert, compounding the threat facing hundreds of thousands still living in displacement camps. Many had refused to return home until the power-sharing accord was cemented.

The UN has appealed for $150-million to help meet the needs of up to 500 000 people affected by post-conflict issues, and says a further 840 000 people are at risk from drought.

The post-election unrest stripped Kenya of its reputation as a relatively peaceful haven in the conflict-torn Horn of Africa region.

It also choked the mainstay tourism and agricultural sectors, pushing inflation to a record 21,8% owing to steep food and fuel prices, prompting the government to scale down the 2008 economy growth forecast from 8% to between 4,5% and 6%. — Sapa-AFP