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Analysts: Kenya's Kibaki Went Too Far with Cabinet Dismissal, Parliament Suspension


Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki suspended parliament and dismissed his Cabinet following the defeat of a constitutional referendum that was seen as a vote of no confidence in Mr. Kibaki's rule. Some analysts say this week's events mark a setback in the country's efforts to establish democracy.

Mr. Kibaki's office issued a notice Thursday saying that, under the powers of the constitution, he was suspending Parliament.

The house was supposed to reconvene Tuesday, after taking a break so members could campaign in the lead-up to the November 21st constitutional referendum. In the vote, Kenyans rejected a draft constitution that Mr. Kibaki strongly supported.

Observers say that, since Mr. Kibaki fired his entire Cabinet on Wednesday, it was a logical move to suspend parliament, as the house cannot function without a Cabinet.

Publicly, most Cabinet ministers have taken their dismissals in stride, saying that it was Mr. Kibaki's prerogative to dissolve the Cabinet and that the government was so fractured and hostile as to lose its effectiveness.

William ole Ntimama, who was public service minister until Wednesday, tells VOA that, while he acknowledges that the president had to take strong action following the defeat of the government-sponsored draft constitution, he thinks Mr. Kibaki went too far in getting rid of the entire Cabinet.

“I think it is a serious overreaction,” said Mr. Ntimama. “To me, we have accepted it, because it has been pushed on us, but what we wanted was, if there was a way to negotiate the way forward. We think it was done haphazardly."

The local press is rife with speculation on which of the ministers will and will not be rehired in two weeks' time.

A senior lecturer with the University of Nairobi's political science department, Ludeki Chweya, says he was dismayed that Mr. Kibaki got rid of all the ministers, rather than carrying out a reshuffle, as is the common practice.

Mr. Chweya says Kenya has been getting more and more democratic. Having a president unilaterally suspend parliament and dissolving the Cabinet, he says, is a big setback to that democratic development.

"So, overall, with parliament prorogued [and] Cabinet dissolved, it means only one person is running this country. Now, that is closer to dictatorship rather than to democracy," added Mr. Chweya.

But Mr. Chweya stopped short of calling the situation a political crisis, saying that Mr. Kibaki needs time to reorganize his Cabinet.

Observers say tensions in the Cabinet date back to the 2002 elections.

When they formed a coalition government, political parties made verbal and written agreements with one another on different aspects of governing. Many of those agreements were subsequently not honored, causing deep rifts between individuals and parties.

Opposition official William Ruto tells VOA Mr. Kibaki has his work cut out for him, as he puts together a new Cabinet and heals the wounds of the past.

"I don't think the president has an option, but to begin to respect the institutions of governance that are there. The major split and confusion and quarrels over the last three years have basically been the president ignoring the institutions that are there. He needs to respect the agreements he has with his coalition partners," said Mr. Ruto.

Mr. Kibaki himself has not elaborated on his actions.

On Wednesday night, he gave a short address to the nation, saying that, in his words, "it has become necessary for me as the president of the republic to reorganize my government to make it more cohesive and better able to serve the people of Kenya."

Government spokesman Alfred Mutua has said Mr. Kibaki has acted according to the current constitution.

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