Map of Kenya
Map of Kenya

The United States is calling on Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to resolve a dispute that could threaten the country's power-sharing agreement.

The two leaders are at odds over whether Mr. Odinga has the authority to suspend two Cabinet members whose ministries are enmeshed in corruption scandals.

In a statement late Monday, the U.S. government said it welcomes the decision to order certain officials to step aside while investigations continue.

It also urged the Kenyan leaders to work together to ensure that justice is served and to pursue the fight against corruption.

Mr. Odinga has called on former U.N. chief Kofi Annan to help end the standoff over the ministers.  Mr. Annan mediated the 2008 power-sharing deal that helped to calm Kenya after a disputed presidential election and weeks of deadly ethnic violence.

The standoff over the ministers began Sunday, when Mr. Odinga said he was suspending Agriculture Minister William Ruto and Education Minister Sam Ongeri because of the corruption allegations.  

Hours later, President Kibaki said he was lifting the suspensions because Mr. Odinga had not consulted him and does not have the authority to force a minister to vacate his office.

Mr. Kibaki said his actions should not be interpreted as undermining the fight against corruption.

Investigators say millions of dollars are unaccounted for in a subsidized maize [corn] program and Kenya's Free Primary Education program.  On Saturday, President Kibaki suspended eight top officials in connection with the scandals.