Subdued Cabinet protests felt on Wednesday

April 10, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, April 9 – Protests over the delay in naming the Grand Coalition Cabinet continued in various parts of the country for the second day running on Wednesday, mainly in Nairobi and Kisumu.

In the Kibera slum, demonstrators blocked traffic and chanted slogans demanding the announcement of an incorporated Cabinet.

They also destroyed part of a railway line cutting through the slum, an extension of damages caused on Tuesday, before the demonstrators were dispersed by the police.

“They have done it again today (Wednesday) but they have been dispersed,” said Richard Mwara, the Kilimani divisional Criminal Investigations Department chief.

Police were put on high alert Wednesday following fears of the planned protests by opposition supporters in various parts of the country.

In Nairobi, anti-riot police were strategically placed on roads leading to the Kibera and Mathare slums to ensure rioters did not get onto highways leading into the heart of the city.

“We concentrated much on the outskirts of the slum; perhaps that is why they resorted to uprooting the railway line. Their main target was to get to town to cause chaos,” he said on telephone.

Violence was also reported in Kisumu but not much destruction was reported there.

“We were on high alert. We could not allow them to get to town. They only chanted slogans and blocked traffic on some roads leading to the slums, but we managed the situation,’ said Simon Kiragu, the Kisumu divisional Police chief.

Protesters staged their first demonstration on Tuesday on a limited scale, demanding the appointment of a new government, as Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leaders were announcing their withdrawal from the Cabinet talks elsewhere.

On Wednesday, truck loads of armed police officers were parked on Lang’ata Road, Ngong’ Road and Mbagathi Way, which from previous protests are known to be the main targets for the demonstrators.

“We are well prepared today (Wednesday). We do not want to be caught unawares like yesterday (Tuesday),” Julius Ndegwa, the Nairobi Provincial Deputy Police Chief said before the demonstrators engaged officers in running battles.

Hundreds of police officers were also spotted near the Muthaiga police station, while others were at Huruma Estate and the Mlango Kubwa area.

Tension was also reported in Eldoret where youth were said to have re-grouped as early as 9am ready to stage demonstrations.

Business in the town was slow, and many shops and supermarkets failed to open for fear of raids.

The much-delayed unveiling of a Grand Coalition Government is a key step in implementing a power-sharing deal signed between President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister-designate Raila Odinga aimed at quelling deadly violence that broke out following the disputed December polls.

Many Kenyans reacted angrily to last week’s announcement that feuding factions had agreed on a 40-member cabinet, a number of portfolios that observers argued the wobbling economy could ill afford.

And even as ODM pulled out of the talks, President Kibaki’s PNU said it was prepared to support any decision reached by the Head of State.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka who chaired a meeting of the party members at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) said: “Even if the President has to end up with a cabinet of 20 Ministers, we shall support him.”

Musyoka added that they would even back the President if he called for fresh elections, should the Cabinet talks collapse.

A section of Members of Parliament from ODM seconded that notion, but not without their usual list of demands.

According to Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba, the party wants the Electoral Commission of Kenya to be disbanded and a new one appointed, as well as the enactment of an electoral minimum reforms package.

Diplomats accredited to the country and other leaders meanwhile mounted pressure on President Kibaki to speed-up the formation of the new government.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned both principals and urged them to reach an agreement urgently.

Other development partners, including Britain, the World Bank and United Nations, have also insisted on a genuine power-sharing deal which is needed to restore Kenyans’ faith in the government.


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