Kenyan PM urges unity in power-sharing govt

Newly appointed Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Monday urged the new government, comprising former rivals, to work together to enhance reconciliation in the deeply divided nation.

“The process of reconciliation has begun and the Cabinet must speak in one voice,” Odinga told reporters, a day after he was named prime minister under a power-sharing arrangement.

Odinga said the Cabinet was in good shape despite protests from some lawmakers, who claim leaders failed to equally distribute portfolios on a regional basis.

“Some people will be happy, others will be disappointed, but we cannot all be in the Cabinet,” he added.

On Sunday, President Mwai Kibaki named a 42-member coalition government, a key step in resolving the deadly crisis that erupted over the disputed December elections when his chief rival, Odinga, claimed he was rigged out of a presidential victory.

Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula, a Kibaki ally, foresaw a trouble-free marriage with his ex-rivals.

“We have worked together before and if everybody is committed to working as a team we will deliver,” said Wetangula while meeting envoys from the Latin America.

But talks over the line-up were acrimonious and protracted while public fears of a divided and ineffective government were further fuelled by the record number of portfolios eventually handed out.

Kenyan editorialists on Monday cautiously welcomed the naming of the new Cabinet while warning ministers to forego partisan politics and help the country recover from deadly poll violence.

“The Cabinet is not an end in itself. It is the beginning of a long journey to take Kenya back to the path of peace, prosperity, stability, equity and justice,” the top-selling Nation daily wrote.

The Nation expressed fears that the Cabinet would turn out to be a “two-in-one government” and urged its members to “stick together through thick and thin”.

The violence that erupted after Odinga claimed the elections were rigged has killed at least 1 500, displaced hundreds of thousands and rattled East Africa’s largest economy.

The Standard newspaper was equally guarded, describing the new government was the result of “an unhappy compromise”.

With the annual cost of a ministry estimated at about $130-million, the newspaper warned that Kenyan taxpayers would not be prepared to let the government off easily.

“Rest assured that your attendance and performance at question time will be closely watched,” the newspaper wrote in its lead editorial.

“The temptation to create rival centres of power or to behave as if we have two governments should be resisted ... Simply put, you succeed together or fail together,” it said.

Meanwhile, the United States, United Nations and the European Union and the Commonwealth welcomed the Cabinet and pledged to assist the country reconstruct infrastructure that was damaged in the violence.

“The EU looks forward to working with the new government of Kenya, and states its readiness to support it in the implementation of a coherent and far-reaching reform agenda, to address the fundamental root causes of recurrent conflict,” it said in a statement.

Japan also weighed in, again urging the government to stick to reforms.

“Japan hopes that the new coalition government of Kenya will make concentrated efforts to tackle the remaining challenges of reforms under the new Cabinet,” its Foreign Ministry said in a statement.—AFP

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