Kenya parliament to speed peace
By Wangui Kanina and Andrew Cawthorne
11. March 2008
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya's new parliament sought on Tuesday to
speed up legislation ratifying a fragile power-sharing deal
intended to guarantee the peace after a post-election crisis that
killed more than 1,000 people.
Members of parliament proposed procedures so that two bills
enshrining the new arrangement and amending the constitution could
be approved within a five-day limit rather than the usual two
weeks after their publication.
Speaker Kenneth Marende was expected to ratify that on Wednesday,
meaning the bills would probably pass early next week, analysts
and politicians said.
President Mwai Kibaki and former opposition leader Raila Odinga
signed a pact two weeks ago to end a crisis that also displaced
300,000 people, damaged Kenya's reputation as one of Africa's most
stable nations and dented its promising economy.
Odinga had accused Kibaki of stealing the December 27 vote through
fraud, while the government accused the opposition Orange
Democratic Movement (ODM) of fomenting violence.
Despite optimism over the political accord, there is growing
unease among some Kenyans that leaders are now focused on how to
divide top jobs rather than tackle deeper issues of ethnicity,
land distribution, poverty and corruption.
"Now we are hearing all this talk about expansion of the cabinet
to grotesque proportions just so that there can be a slot for
every man and his dog," political commentator Macharia Gaitho
wrote in Kenya's leading newspaper, the Daily Nation.
All parties had promised in their pre-election manifestoes to
streamline government, but under the new power-sharing deal, the
cabinet would swell to 38 members. There would also be no official
opposition, which is worrying many in Kenya.
"Discussion on a new governance structure should not be about
sharing power -- it should not be about sharing the spoils, 'jobs
for the boys', or 'eating together'; it should be about sharing
responsibility," Gaitho added.
Odinga, 63, a former political prisoner, is expected to take the
prime minister's job once it is ratified by parliament. But his
ODM has reacted angrily to a government statement that Kibaki, 76,
will retain power to appoint the prime minister.
The accord says the post should go to the party with the largest
number of parliamentary seats, which is currently ODM.
Monday's statement by the head of the public service Francis
Muthaura also implied the prime minister's position would be third
in rank after the vice-president, currently Kalonzo Musyoka, the
third-placed candidate in the December vote.
ODM spokesman Salim Lone said Muthaura's interpretation of the
accord was "mischievous".
"Kenyans have begun the slow process of healing, reconciliation
and rebuilding their shattered lives. They will not accept to be
dragged back to the period of mayhem, violence and disruption by
retrogressive forces," he added.
Despite the politics, Kenya's economy is recovering quickly from
the crisis, with the local shilling currency back to pre-election
levels and stocks also making a recovery.