Challenge to Odinga role
threatens Kenya pact
By Barney Jopson in Nairobi
March 12 2008
A dispute over the role of the new prime minister is emerging as a
potential obstacle to agreement on a coalition government in Kenya
even before the constitution has been amended to allow for its
Mwai Kibaki, the president, and Raila Odinga, the opposition
leader, have sought to promote a spirit of bipartisanship since
signing a power-sharing deal in -February to end two months of
But the amicable mood began to sour after the head of the civil
service infuriated the opposition by saying the new post of prime
minister - due to be filled by Mr Odinga - ranked third in the
government hierarchy after the vice-presidency.
Salim Lone, spokesman for Mr Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement,
said: "The notion that the principal power-sharers are President
Kibaki and [Vice-President] Kalonzo Musyoka, and that Odinga is a
minor hanger- on, is a deal breaker.
"The whole world, from President [George W.] Bush downwards, was
engaged in trying to strike a power-sharing deal. If that
power-sharing deal made Odinga number three, we'd have never
Mutula Kilonzo, a member of the government negotiating team, said
that Monday's statement from Francis Muthaura, the head of the
civil service, was correct. He went on to challenge Mr Odinga's
assertion, made to the Financial Times last week, that he would be
involved in policy formulation at the ministry level.
"The prime minister's role starts at the cabinet level," he said.
"Ministers, with the assistance of their staff, formulate policy
and then present it to the cabinet. At that point, Raila becomes a
very important person."
Mr Kilonzo is from the same party as Mr Musyoka, who ran as a
third candidate in the December election but joined forces with Mr
Kibaki in January to boost the president's strength in parliament
and secure the vice-presidency for himself.
The relationship between Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga has shifted
radically following the anger unleashed by the flawed election. On
Sunday, they were pictured chatting together at a golf tournament.
However, the deal is still viewed with suspicion by hardliners on
Najib Balala, a leading member of the opposition, said some Kibaki
allies had not overcome doubts about Mr Odinga's suitability as a
Mr Kilonzo said: "In ODM and PNU [the president's party] there are
lingering doubts. We're being asked: 'Have you sold out? Have you
given too much? Have we received enough?' "
The agreement, brokered by Kofi Annan, the former United Nations
secretary-general, said the prime -minister would have the
authority to "co-ordinate and supervise the execution of the
functions and affairs of government". Lawyers for both sides have
drafted parliamentary bills to amend the constitution and pass the
agreement into law, but the dispute shows there is still scope for