Kenya : Compromise on cabinet ministers reached

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Kenyan leaders appeared to inch closer to a deal on power-sharing Saturday after six weeks of straight bargaining over the sharing of five key ministerial posts that the former opposition leader said was critical to the running of government.

Sources said the deal was struck after a six-hour meeting in the remote Sagana state lodge, near President Mwai Kibaki’s hometown of Nyeri, where he met the Prime Minister designate Raila Odinga to deliver on a power-sharing pact agreed upon in February.

Odinga, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader, insisted a deal was not possible on the cabinet until President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) agreed to relinquish its iron grip on the ministries of foreign affairs, local government and energy.

President Kibaki had dismissed as ‘preconditions and ultimatums’ earlier demands by the ODM leader to win an equal number of senior ministerial appointees, chief executives of state firms and chairmen/women of parastatal boards and diplomatic appointees.

President Kibaki’s party insisted this week that the current constitution provides the president with exclusive rights and powers to exclusively appoint the ambassadors.

At the secret talks in Sagana, about 230 kilometres outside Nairobi, the two leaders are understood to have reached a compromise on the composition of the new cabinet.

Sources said the details of the compromise would be announced at a news conference at the State House lawn in Nairobi Sunday, ending weeks of deadlock and speculation on who would ascend to the top executive jobs in the new Kenyan government .

It would be the first time that a Kenyan government would be run by the President and a Prime Minister who wields partial control over the cabinet.

Kenya’s founding President Jomo Kenyatta was named Prime Minister in June 1962 b ut the post was later scrapped.

Odinga, whose job-description would include supervising and coordinating the government ministries and government departments, has already insisted that his new position does not mean he would become what he termed as ‘the President’s errand boy’.

The two political parties, both claiming to have won the 27 December presidential polls, will form a joint cabinet of 40 ministers despite hue and cry from most Kenya’s taxpayers who have demanded that the number be reduced to less than 30 ministers.

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