The Nation (Nairobi)

28 March 2008

Kenya: Cabinet - Annan's Plea to Kibaki And Raila

Nairobi — Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan has urged President Kibaki and Prime Minister-designate Raila Odinga to resolve emerging differences and give Kenyans a new Cabinet, UN sources have said.

The sources in Kenya said Mr Annan had told the two leaders to ignore the demands of their allies and agree on the line-up for the grand coalition Cabinet.

The two leaders on Tuesday failed to agree on the size of the Cabinet and balancing of portfolios between PNU and ODM.

Mr Annan is said to have made it clear that the fate of Kenya's political future lay in the hands of the two leaders and that only the two could take the strides needed to end the row.

Taking the next step

"Annan said he believes the process of constituting a Cabinet can be successfully completed by the two principals," said the UN source.

"He also holds that the task of taking the next step remains in the hands of President Kibaki and Hon Odinga."

It is understood that Mr Annan, who has been keenly following the implementation of the agreement he presided over, had stated that the issue of sharing and distributing Cabinet positions was a matter that could be easily solved by President Kibaki and Mr Odinga.

Delays, he said, should not block the steps that the country was taking towards recovery from post-election violence in which over 1,200 people were killed and more than 350,000 displaced from their homes.

The renewed pressure came as President Kibaki and Mr Odinga failed to meet for a second consecutive day to conclude talks on Cabinet size and portfolio balance.

Both PNU and ODM have been demanding the key ministries of Finance, Internal Security and Local Government. Both Finance and Local Government exercise some executive powers while Internal Security is crucial as the police and provincial administration fall under its docket.

ODM had also held that the current size of the Cabinet should be retained.

While presiding at a passing out parade for police officers in Nairobi Thursday, President Kibaki called for patience as the country embarked on fostering peace and reconciliation among Kenyans.

He reiterated his commitment to an amicable settlement that would in the long run propel the country to prosperity.

And he appealed to Kenyans to play their individual roles in ensuring that the peace that the country has enjoyed over the years prevailed.

In response to the President's offer, the ODM press secretary, Mr Salim Lone, said: "Mr Odinga welcomes President Kibaki's optimism that a deal can be reached on the outstanding issues on the Cabinet and look forward to speedily concluding negotiation so that a coalition government can be formed and Kenya can get back on track again."

Blamed each other

Both PNU and ODM on Wednesday blamed each other for the standoff over the new Cabinet line-up. Some party leaders are reported to have asked Mr Annan to help resolve the standoff.

Mr Annan helped broker the deal which ended a month of violence following the disputed presidential election results.

And Thursday, President Kibaki said: "I appeal to Kenyans to be patient as we embark on the painstaking journey of entrenching peace, reconciliation and resettlement of displaced individuals.

"I also want to assure all Kenyans of my personal commitment to an amicable political settlement that will get the country back on the path of rapid and equitable economic development and social cohesion." The President was presiding over the passing out parade of 2,135 Administration Police officers and 36 cadets at their training institute in Embakasi. Present during the ceremony were Internal Security minister George Saitoti and Public Service minister Asman Kamama.

During the ceremony the President also announced that the Government would recruit additional officers besides those recruited annually to help combat rising crime in parts of the country.

The recruitment is expected to improve the country's police to population ratio, which is currently below the UN standard of one officer for every 450 people.

"The provision of security and maintenance of law and order are essential to the creation of a conducive environment for the country's social and economic development, outlined under the Vision 2030," said the President.

And to achieve this, the Government would continue increasing funding to the security arms to ensure accelerated improvement in professionalism in the force.

"We want to give them competitive remuneration and decent housing, effective communication equipment and other critical infrastructure," he said.

He disclosed that the Government had introduced a University Graduate Entry Scheme to attract more professionals into the police service.

The President further stated that several Bills had been lined up for debate in Parliament to create a legal environment conducive to fight crime.

The Bills include the Organised Crime Bill, Firearms Amendment and Traffic Bill and Amendments to the Armed Forces Bill to facilitate the recruitment of National Youth Service graduates into the Armed Forces. He also revealed that the Chief's Act, the Administration Police Act, the Evidence Act and the Kenya Police Act would be reviewed to include modern technology in policing.

This he added would facilitate rapid response to emerging crimes and enable digital tracking of criminals.

Unemployment

"This is due to technological developments compounded by unemployment which has led to the emergence of sophisticated crimes," said the President.

And speaking on the dispute over the Cabinet line-up, former Health minister Charity Ngilu said: "I am sure the issue of the Cabinet will be sorted out soon by the two principals. We should not put pressure on them to urgently name a Cabinet, neither should we invite Mr Annan to come and mediate. What we need is to have him join in the celebrations."

She said Kenyans were yearning for a Cabinet that can stand the test of time.

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