Power-Sharing Dynamics: At Long Last, after Intense Mediation by a Panel of Eminent African Leaders, Kenya's Main Political Parties Agreed to Meet Halfway and Share Power, with Opposition Leader Raila Odinga Becoming Prime Minister, While Mwai Kibaki Retains the Presidency. Dennis Onyango Has the Details of an Historic Deal

Article excerpt

President Mwai Kibaki, after reaching an agreement with Prime Minister Raila Odinga, finally named a cabinet of 40 ministers and 50 assistant ministers in mid-April. This is the largest ever in Kenya's history.


The cabinet, referred to in Kenya as a "peace cabinet", was crafted to address the strange circumstances Kenya found itself in after violence ran for two months following the declaration of Mwai Kibaki as the winner of the December 2007 presidential poll.

To placate the various regions and individuals, existing ministries were split and new ones created to ensure there were enough seats to go round for the different communities and their leaders.

The Grand Coalition Cabinet also made an attempt at gender balance, with the appointment of 13 women to full ministerial and assistant minister positions.

There were also cabinet positions created out of a genuine desire to address the needs of regions and populations that have been left behind over the years. One such ministry is that of Development of Northern Kenya and other Arid Lands, given to Ibrahim Elmi Mohammed.

Neglected over the years, Northern Kenya became a huge issue during the campaigns last year. Raila Odinga's party, the Orange Democratic Movement had promised to create a ministry to specifically deal with the development needs of that forgotten part of Kenya.

Odinga went ahead and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Muslim leaders, which included the development needs of the regions inhabited by the Muslim community in Kenya. Muslims occupy most of Northern Kenya and the Coast but are slowly spreading across the country, largely as a result of the influx of refugees from Somalia. Fearing that Odinga was running away with the Muslim vote, Kibaki visited Northern Kenya in the final days of the campaigns and also promised to give special attention to the region.

In the new arrangement, the Ministry of Education has been split into two: higher and basic education. Also new are the ministries of Fisheries and for Nairobi Metropolitan.

Fisheries had been a department within what used to be Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development. This year, it becomes a fully-fledged ministry. The Ministry of Nairobi Metropolitan was created following a visit by top government officials to Asian counties like Thailand and Singapore to study how they manage their major cities.

Until the formation of the new cabinet, Nairobi City was run by the Ministry of Local Government, like other towns across the country. But traffic congestion and crime in the city had led to calls for new thinking on how to manage Kenya's capital.

Tense lead up

The naming of the cabinet on Sunday, 13 April came as a surprise to the country but also brought a sense of relief that the worst may be over and Kenyans could move on, after four months of uncertainties.

But there were already murmurs, only hours after the formation of the cabinet, that Odinga had been shortchanged. Only days before signing the deal, Kibaki and Odinga were seen to be drifting even wider apart on the issue of how to share power.

Odinga insisted that cabinet slots and all government positions, including the civil service and diplomatic posts, be shared equally between the parties. He wanted ministries weighted and their functions harmonised to ensure no ministry was more important than the other, before they were shared out. This was after Kibaki insisted his NPU party would keep the defence, internal security, foreign affairs, finance, energy and local government portfolios.

Odinga and his party made claims to the same ministries, arguing that Kibaki was taking all the important portfolios that impact directly on people's lives, and only parting with insignificant ones. Kibaki's team, on the other hand, insisted that the civil service should not be shared out on political lines. …