Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Recurring Themes

I was going to continue blogging about Bahrain today but it looks like Kibaki and Odinga had different plans for me. It would appear that the only way these two children can agree on anything is to have an axe over both of their heads – wielded with great skill by Kofi Annan over several weeks during January and February of this year. After weeks spent debating who has the bigger… err… whose party will yield command over which cabinet positions, talks have broken down over certain fiefdoms including Energy, Transport, and Roads.

I find it somewhat amusing (which is to say depressing) that both of these men say that they intend to stamp out corruption and yet the cabinet positions in dispute are considered some of the most lucrative. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence, though…
Kenya opposition halts talks, protests flare
By Katie Nguyen and Daniel Wallis

Kenya's opposition suspended talks with President Mwai Kibaki's party on Tuesday and police fired teargas to scatter opposition supporters protesting at deepening deadlock over a power-sharing cabinet.

Kibaki and rival Raila Odinga delayed naming the new cabinet on Monday after disagreeing over how to share out ministries and traded blame over who was responsible. The cabinet is central to a deal on ending Kenya's post-election crisis

Anyang' Nyong'o, secretary-general of Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), said talks would be suspended until Kibaki's party "fully recognises the 50/50 power-sharing arrangement and the principle of portfolio balance".

As he spoke, Nairobi's sprawling Kibera slum was convulsed by the biggest protests since both sides signed a power-sharing deal in February to end turmoil that killed at least 1,200 people after Kibaki's disputed re-election in December.

Residents said angry youths looted shops and burned tyres. Some ripped up railway lines connecting the Kenyan port of Mombasa, the region's largest, with Uganda.

"Police are firing teargas and also firing in the air," said witness Justine Mokua.

The shilling currency weakened almost 3.8 percent to close at 64.70/80 on news of the opposition walk-out. It closed at 62.35/45 on Monday.

"These politics can do real harm to our economy," said Friday Mwafuga, head of trading at Cooperative Bank. "Until this problem is solved, we are in for a rough ride ahead."

Kenya, east Africa's biggest economy and an important regional trade, transport and tourism hub, suffered heavily from the post-election riots and ethnic violence -- the worst turmoil since independence in 1963.

N'yongo said the opposition was demanding a partial cabinet already named by Kibaki be dissolved before any more talks took place. He said the opposition would no longer respect an earlier agreement to a 40-member cabinet and wanted it to have 34 posts.

But some analysts believe that while Odinga's party is clearly stepping up the pressure to get what it wants, it has little room for maneuver.

"They can accept the offices offered, withdraw from the coalition or resort to mass action," said Kenyan political analyst Mutahi Ngunyi.

If they withdrew that would hand all power back to Kibaki, he said, but "mass action does not make sense at this time" because of the bloodshed it provoked in January.

Most of the recent disagreement centres on a handful of ministries that Odinga, the prime minister-designate, says Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU) had promised to give up.

PNU denies that, and Kibaki said on Monday he was ready to conclude the process of forming the cabinet as soon as possible.

One post not in dispute is finance, which means current Finance Minister Amos Kimunya is almost certain to keep his job.

Duncan Kimani, a senior currency trader at Bank of Africa Kenya Ltd., hoped the dispute would not degenerate further.

"Already the country has suffered enough in terms of tourism and the supply chain being cut off," he told Reuters. "So a prolonged deadlock would mean that even the 4 or 5 percent growth target we're looking at might not be achievable."

Wangui Mbatia, who works with families displaced by the post-election bloodshed, said many Kenyans feared both sides were most focused on taking control of lucrative portfolios.

"If there is a corruption-free government it shouldn't matter who has what," she said.

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