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Former UN Secretary General to Meet Kenya Leaders Over Cabinet Stalemate

Former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan is expected to begin mediation efforts today (Friday) with Kenya’s government and the opposition to resolve a stalemate in naming a new cabinet. Annan helped broker the power-sharing deal credited with restoring Kenya to normalcy after the disputed December 27 elections. Some Kenyans are reportedly hoping that he will be able to help broker another deal to break the cabinet impasse, since both the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and President Mwai Kibaki’s allies are blaming each other for the current deadlock.

From the capital, Nairobi, ODM secretary general Peter Anyang Nyongo tells reporter Peter Clottey that the government failed to implement all the elements of the power sharing deal.

“The bone of contention is the interpretation of two key concepts in the accord, that is power-sharing itself, and two, portfolio balance. The power sharing means sharing the cabinet on a fifty-fifty. But that is not all apart from a fifty-fifty basis. There should be portfolio balance,” Nyongo noted.

He described as a joke the government’s interpretation of the power-sharing deal.

“Now what the PNU (Party of National Unity) did was just to take the existing ministries and split them up. So we are stuck there where the PNU has a different concept of power sharing and has very little appreciation of portfolio balance. We lay emphasis on both portfolio balance, and power sharing,” he said.

Nyongo denied the opposition threatened the government, which the government claims is inhibiting the naming of the new cabinet.

“We have not been issuing threats. I mean we issued a very strong statement because we thought it was cheeky and, I think, almost to the point of being contemptuous for the PNU to begin splitting ministries. That was ridiculous, especially splitting ministries such as fisheries and livestock from each other. And they begin creating some ministries like Ministry for Vision 2030 or Ministry of National Reconciliation. That was not being serious, and they are being frivolous. So we had to react very strongly for them to understand we want the consultation to begin at a much more serious level than that,” Nyongo pointed out.

On another question, Secretary General Nyongo turned his attention to the issue of how to manage the financial interests of the Kenyan telephone company Safaricom. He said the opposition is demanding transparency in the floating of Safaricom company shares.

“The bone of contention really started last year when we said Safaricom should be privatized within the framework of the law. And the law set by Parliament Privatization Act has been in the books for over two years. That the minister of finance for some odd reason decided not to gazette the commencement of the law after it was signed by the president, was of course was alarming. So we said, look, we you are not going to privatize or to put on the stock market the sale of shares of Safaricom. It’s just a question of making sure that the public gets its fair share and its fair role in this whole process. We think at the moment, some big fish are trying to shortcut that process and use inside information to get an unfair deal for themselves,” he noted.