Accessibility links

Kenya Cabinet Selection Encounters Troubles

The distribution of ministries in Kenya's proposed power-sharing government is encountering difficulties. As Derek Kilner reports from Nairobi, both sides have blamed the other for the lack of progress.

The selection of cabinet ministers is the next step in a power-sharing agreement signed in late February by President Mwai Kibaki and his main challenger in December's disputed elections, Raila Odinga. Parliament endorsed the arrangement earlier this month.

But while both sides continue to pledge support for the agreement, they have so far been unable to agree on the assignment of the top jobs in the government. Both President Kibaki and Mr. Odinga want to steer their supporters into key positions.

Local media have reported that the most contentious argument has been over control of the finance ministry, as well as the local government and public service portfolios.

Mr. Kibaki named 17 ministers before the agreement was signed, and Mr. Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement has complained that Kibaki's Party of National Unity has been reluctant to give up those posts.

ODM Secretary-General Anyang Nyong'o also criticized President Kibaki's party for trying to create unessential ministries to increase the number of jobs that can be doled out to supporters, warning of a return to mass protests if there is no progress.

"If they begin becoming frivolous about how many ministries be created and they insist on that of course we would consider other options," said Nyong'o. "Like saying we want to create a ministry for 2030 Vision, that is just not serious at all, or creating a ministry of livestock and fisheries into livestock and fisheries, that is being frivolous."

Civil society and religious groups, along with the country's major newspapers, have also called for reducing the number of ministries from the current 34, saying the resources needed to sustain such bureaucracy could be better spent elsewhere.

Government spokesman Alfred Mutua, meanwhile, said ODM leaders have been avoiding continued discussion over the composition of the cabinet.

Politicians have raised the question of whether former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who mediated the talks that led to the power-sharing agreement, should be called back to facilitate discussion on the cabinet. Nyong'o said he was in favor of renewed involvement by Mr. Annan if negotiations fail to move forward, but urged patience in letting discussions continue.

"If you compare that Angela Merkel and Schroeder took about a month to form a similar type of government in Germany, I think a week here is not terribly long," said Nyong'o. "Better for the two principles to take their time and name a lean and clean and well-balance cabinet than rush to it and have to visit those problems later. I think the more careful the discussion are now the better for the working of the coalition afterwards."

Observers say announcement of the new cabinet is not likely to come before next week at the earliest.