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Power-Sharing Kenyans Seek Portfolio Balance


Kenya’s National Reconciliation Accord outlines a 50-50 percent power-sharing arrangement between President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) of Prime Minister-Designate Raila Odinga. What was not defined was how much influence ODM would get out of this power-sharing arrangement. Chief political reporter Ben Agina of Kenya’s Standard newspaper says that the main concern still to be worked out is achieving a portfolio balance. He notes that today’s cabinet apportionment comes several months after President Kibaki already handed out key political posts upon taking the oath of office in late December for his second term.

“There was something along the lines that it has to be real power-sharing. And the parties, with the cabinet positions that the president appointed, he already got his loyalists to the key positions in the cabinet, including the ministers of finance, internal security, education, which have some of the largest budgets. Portfolio balance that (mediator Kofi) Annan left was left between the two principals. But I think there’s too much shadow boxing here and there. The mood the president has set and the way he has been conducting business is like he’s giving in. He is really setting grounds on how he wants peaceful coexistence among the different political groups,” said Agina.

Parliament’s swift passage of the Reconciliation Accord on March 19 left little room for bickering over the fine points of a bill that effectively has amended Kenya’s constitution. Journalist Ben Agina says that in light of the two months of post-election violence endured by the country, the bipartisan accession to new demands signals a welcome change in mood.

“If the accords had come far, then that could have been challenged maybe by people of the parliament. But in the wisdom of those guys who drafted that thing in the house business committee of parliament, the Constitutional Bill Number 1 of 2008 had to come fast. Then the National Accord and Reconciliation Bill,” he said.

Kenya’s accord, signed on February 28, ended two months of violence in which more than 12-hundred people were killed and 350-thousand others displaced from their homes. With President Kibaki expressing joy last week over the new working relationship with his prime minister, Agina says Kenyans can look forward to a new striving for national unity that would signal an end to violence and permit the country to face the challenges ahead.

“With the entrenchment of the prime minister position in the constitution, it has given some ray of hope to Kenyans generally because initially, ODM, which was believed to have won the election, would have lost. But now that they have come together, they are seeing some hope in this government. I think that we will benefit in the long run, even with the position of the prime minister,” he said.

Overall, Agina says, Kenyans have drawn satisfaction and good will from the latest power-sharing moves, but they continue to watch the latest maneuverings quite closely and carefully.

“There has been a lot of good will, especially from members of parliament. Both parties have really tried to whip their members to support the accord. And even across the board, the religious community, the civil society, top civil servants, and Kenyans in general are really accommodating of the accord. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have some suspicion about the same because there has been one group accused of playing some cards under the table,” he noted.

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