NAIROBI, April 7 – Opposition leader Raila Odinga failed to meet President Mwai Kibaki as planned on Monday to resolve a stalemate over the Cabinet, causing further delay to the unveiling of the new grand coalition government.
The row continued even as President Mwai Kibaki expressed his commitment towards the implementation of a power sharing deal signed between him and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Odinga in February.
The deal provides for a 50:50 power sharing between the Government Coalition and ODM.
In a live telecast from his Harambee House office at about 7.30pm, the President said he was willing to discuss a fresh list of demands sent to him by ODM.
Expressing his displeasure that Monday’s meeting did not take place, the Head of State said: “I was surprised to receive a letter this morning with new preconditions and ultimatums which are clearly not envisaged by the National Accord and Reconciliation Act.”
In the letter sent from the ODM secretariat, the party wanted the number of ministries reduced from 40 to 34. The party continued to lay claim over the ministries of Local Government, Foreign Affairs, Energy, Transport and Finance.
They are also demanding that Permanent Secretaries, Ambassadors and Head of Parastatals be equally shared out.
With the new demands on the table the Head of State however stressed the need for a speedy end to the impasse.
“This matter must come to a close without further delay in order for us to move forward and focus on urgent matters facing our people, the priority being the resettlement of Internally Displaced Kenyans,” he stated.
He invited Odinga to the negotiating table so that the two can iron out their differences.
But in a statement earlier the ODM leader said he had failed to turn up for the planned meeting at Harambee House due to what he termed as a misunderstanding on the portfolio balance and constitution of the new Government.
ODM’s top leadership was locked in a crisis meeting for the better part of Monday, that decided to send five officials led by ODM Deputy Leader Musalia Mudavadi to meet the Head of State.
Those in Mudavadi’s delegation included William Ruto, Najib Balala, Charity Ngilu and Dalmas Otieno. They paid a five-minute visit to Harambee House and upon their exit Mudavadi told reporters that they had come to deliver a message from their Captain.
“We felt that under the kind of conditions there was no need of a meeting since we are not reading from the same script,” Odinga had stated.
The President had arrived at his town office at 4pm and immediately went into a meeting with Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Cabinet Ministers Martha Karua, George Saitoti and Uhuru Kenyatta.
He had cancelled a foreign trip to India to handle the crisis over the naming of the coalition Cabinet that was to see ODM incorporated in the administration.
ODM Spokesman Salim Lone earlier on Monday said that members had been consulting since Sunday and was optimistic that a way forward would be reached.
“The two principals do not have to meet in person for us to make progress we have been communicating via phone and fax,” Lone told journalists at Pentagon House.
He however hinted out that they were not willing to yield any more ground in terms of Ministries allocated to them, and added that disagreements over positions in the civil service were also taking shape.
In the spirit of Cabinet formation, Party of National Unity (PNU) MPs cancelled a parliamentary group meeting that was scheduled for Monday afternoon.
Government Deputy Chief Whip Johnson Muthama told Capital News that the meeting was cancelled due to unavoidable circumstances.
“The meeting was to be chaired by Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka but was postponed indefinitely,” Muthama said, without giving more details.