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Kenyan Leaders Discuss Forming New Cabinet


Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has discussed the formation of the country's abinet with Raila Odinga, the opposition leader expected to take up the post of prime minister in a coalition government, but the two have not reached agreement. Meanwhile, as Derek Kilner reports for VOA from Nairobi, civil society leaders have called for the leaders to appoint a smaller Cabinet and to avoid picking politicians with records of corruption.

Many Kenyans had expected President Kibaki to announce the members of the country's new power-sharing Cabinet. But Raila Odinga left his meeting with the president saying discussions were still underway and that he did not know when the announcement would come.

A power-sharing agreement between President Kibaki's Party of National Unity and Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement calls for Cabinet ministries to be evenly divided between the two. Analysts have expected intense wrangling between the two over the distribution of posts, with both leaders attempting to steer allies into key positions.

President Kibaki had already appointed roughly half the members of the Cabinet, including in top ministries such as finance, internal security, and foreign affairs. The president is expected to concede some of these posts, but the existing appointments likely added to the difficulty of the current process.

With both Kibaki and Odinga seeking to award jobs to their supporters, the Cabinet is expected to have at least as many ministers as the current 34. But civil society groups have urged the leaders to resist the temptation to form a large Cabinet, saying resources could be better spent on things like development projects.

Cyprian Nyamwamu is executive director of the National Executive Convention Council and a leader of the National Civil Society Congress, which has advocated reducing the number of Cabinet posts to 21.

"They have blackmailed Kenyans. If you want this coalition to work, it can only work if it is large, if everyone is in," Nyamwamu said. "So you have to choose whether we allow the coalition to collapse then we go back to war, or you allow us to create a bigger one and then there is peace for you, even if that peace is pyrrhic and is just a feel good factor which does not come with concomitant reforms and changes."

Nyamwamu also highlights the importance of picking ministers without a history of corruption, especially given the worry that with no real opposition party in the proposed coalition government, it will be more difficult to bring government misconduct to light.

"This country has documented evidence, stories and records of people who have run down ministries, stolen money, promoted ethnic chauvinism and nepotism in ministries. These people should be kept out of public office at least at the ministerial executive level to show that we are expecting a corruption free government," Nyamwamu said.

Civil society groups have also called for strong representation of women and younger politicians in the Cabinet.