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Annan charm: Cabinet to be named Sunday

NAIROBI, April 3 – President Mwai Kibaki will announce the new Coalition Cabinet on Sunday, breaking a deadlock over the core component of a landmark power sharing deal reached in February.

After a near two hour meeting with the President, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) boss Raila Odinga told journalists that they had finally agreed on the size of the new cabinet, a statement which signalled the end of an anxious and uneasy two weeks for Kenyans.

The merged government structure will be made up of 40 ministers.

"I told you people that these issues need time to discuss so that an agreement is reached. Today we have reached some agreement about the size of the cabinet," Odinga stated after the meeting.

The agreement comes only a day after Chief Mediator, Kofi Annan, stepped in to spur on President Kibaki and Odinga who had failed to agree on the size of the Cabinet and the sharing of ministries.

They are yet to comment on the portfolio balance, which has also been a sticky issue surrounding the new Cabinet structure.

The Finance, Internal Security, Foreign Affairs and Local Government Ministries have been the bones of contention between the Government and ODM. 

The ODM leader confirmed that the new ministers would be sworn in on Saturday, March 12.

Under pressure

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President Kibaki and Odinga had resumed negotiations Thursday, a day after civil society groups and the international community raised the red flag over the delay in naming the unity government.

The latest pressure came from Annan, the European Union (EU) and the United States (US).

In a statement sent from Geneva and read out by the spokesperson of the mediation team Nasser Ega Musa Wednesday, the Chief Mediator said the two principals should not keep Kenyans waiting any longer.

"Annan calls on the two leaders to implement both the spirit and the letter of the agreement signed, and to resolve the issue of the composition of government expeditiously," read the statement in part.

He also said the situation in the country dictates a coalition government in which the two parties would be equal partners.

EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel on the other hand noted that the impasse was causing "uncertainty and anxiety" in the country and beyond.

Michel said in a statement that the two principals ‘should assume fully their joint responsibility and come to definite decisions for the sake of Kenya’.

But in a dispatch the Presidential Press Service said that during the meeting, the President and Prime Minister-designate agreed on the way forward in the implementation of the National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008, and time was not being wasted.

"Both parties were pleased with the outcome of the discussions in the spirit of give and take and expressed their appreciation to Kenyans for their patience during the period of consultations. Both parties noted that the long consultations were necessary to enable there be an agreement that is amicable and good for the country," read the statement.

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Sticky foreign affairs

Elsewhere, earlier in the day on Thursday, Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula dismissed ‘undue pressure’ on the President and Odinga to name a Cabinet.

"The President and Honourable Raila will give this country a cabinet without pressure from anybody. The two do know and appreciate that this nation needs a functional government," he said.

The country’s top diplomat called on foreign missions to weigh their comments on the issue.

"Ambassadors must observe diplomatic etiquette in dealing with us. This idea and habit of calling the media and constantly talking on anything and everything is totally unhelpful and is highly discouraged," he said.

Wetangula also said that those with court cases, especially revolving around corruption, and those involved in the recent post poll violence over disputed elections that claimed more than 1,000 lives, should not be in the new government.

The new cabinet will have 40 members, six more than the current structure, raising fears that it may weigh heavily on the taxpayer, who already has rising inflation and soaring food prices to deal with.

Though the government spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua was quick to assure Thursday that the expanded Cabinet would not be a burden on Kenyans.

He stressed that no new ministry would be formed but rather the existing ones would be divided into various sections for easy management. He added that each ministry’s budget would remain the same.

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"When you talk about budget let’s say you split a ministry that was ministry A and you make it ministry A and B the budget still remains of A and B as of A, so the cost of the new expanded ministry is not higher on the tax payers," Mutua explained.

During his weekly press briefing, Mutua stressed the government’s commitment to look after Kenyans.

"We are coming from a period where the country was fractured on tribal lines, on ethnic lines. It is very important at this time to tell Kenyans at this time that inclusion is better than seclusion," he stressed.


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