Kenya coalition retreat flops

April 4, 2009 12:00 am

, VOI, Kenya, Apr 4 –  A meeting of Kenya’s grand coalition management committee collapsed on Saturday after the two main parties failed to agree on the agenda of the meeting essentially called to build up unity in the shaky government.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga told a press conference that both sides of the coalition management committee went to the venue with a separate agenda than the one that had been agreed jointly in Nairobi and failed to synthesis the three agendas into one.

“We told them that we agree on the agenda. We explained to them that we were ready to remove anything from our agenda that they did not want if they could agree to do the same. Even that became difficult,” the Premier said shortly after jetting into Nairobi from Voi.

The morning session ended without any deliberations following the disagreement. A brief session in the afternoon sealed the meetings fate when the ODM brigade – comprising of Mr Odinga, William Ruto, Charity Ngilu, Amerson Kingi and Mohammed Elmi – walked out of the meeting hall and proceeded to board an aircraft for Nairobi.

However President Mwai Kibaki deliberately played down the differences, saying the meeting helped both sides to see and hear different opinions.

“The consultations will continue in future meetings to foster understanding among members,” he said in a Press conference at Kilaguni immediately the ODM team left.

“As we do so, we will fast track reforms, the constitution review and the development agenda to address the many challenges facing the country. The challenges include drought and famine as well as unemployment among our people.”

ODM’s list for the agenda included government appointments, the professor Philip Alston report on extra judicial killings and security organs.

The Party of National Unity (PNU), on the other hand, wanted to discuss harmonisation of the grand coalition government. The only thing the two parties seemed to have agreed on the agenda items was the fast tracking of agenda 1 to 4 of the peace accord.

“We intend to take this up with the party and report back to Kenyans on our next course of action,” Mr Odinga said. He however denied that his party wanted the renegotiation of the accord. “It is our position as ODM that the peace accord was good enough to help us address our challenges as a nation.”

Ministers Mutula Kilonzo and Noah Wekesa were kicked out of the retreat before lunch after ODM questioned their presence. Mr Kilonzo was in the meeting by virtue of being part of the Serena Mediation team while Dr Wekesa was there owing to his post as the PNU Vice Chairman.

The meeting comes at a time when the partners have remained divided over government policies and suspicious of each other. ODM has continually accused its partner of taking sidelining them in key government decisions and appointments.

It also comes at a time when public image of the government has remained at an all time low owing to perceived faded commitment on the implementation of long term reforms envisaged in Agenda Four. Mr Odinga had earlier in the week intimated that the meeting would strive to come up with clear bench marks and timelines for the implementation of the reforms while Mr Musyoka had said that the meeting would seek unity within the government.

Agenda Item Four envisages police, judicial, land and electoral reforms as long-term solutions to avert a repeat of the crisis experienced in the aftermath of the 2007 general election. However the government’s commitment and pace on these reforms has remained under heavy scrutiny. An audit of the performance of the coalition government commissioned by the National Dialogue and Reconciliation Team concluded that the coalition government had failed to deliver as divisions have dominated its operations.

Mr Odinga signed the peace accord with President Mwai Kibaki in February 2008 agreeing to share power following the disputed Presidential election results. A total of 1,133 people lost their lives while more than 300,000 were displaced from their homes.

In January, Parliament rejected an attempt to constitute a Special Tribunal to try perpetrators of the post election violence as recommended by the Waki Commission into the Post election Violence. Mr Musyoka however said that the government would work hard to push through in a second attempt when parliament reopens.

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