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What is the solution to Kenya’s political gridlock?

April 9, 2008

kenya_rioters_resized.jpgImplementation of Kenya’s peace accord brokered by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in February to end post-election bloodshed has hit a logjam over power sharing. The accord provided for power sharing based on a political party’s relative strength in parliament. President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) and opposition leader Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) both said in the first week of April that they had agreed on how to share 40 ministerial positions. But bickering started immediately. Both sides have traded accusations: the ODM said Kibaki’s side had reneged on a promise to cede key ministerial positions while the PNU accused the ODM of undermining negotiations with “new preconditions and ultimatums” in the 11th hour.

At issue is also the extent of Kibaki’s executive authority under the National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008, signed by both sides after post-election turmoil killed at least 1,200 people and uprooted some 300,000 from their homes.


Kibaki has called on the opposition to engage “constructively” and said he is ready and willing to conclude formation of the coalition cabinet at the earliest possible opportunity. Odinga has suspended participation in the power-sharing talks until there was “clarity” on the oustanding issues. But he insists he is committed to a speedy implementation of the accord. 

Protests flared again over the deadlock, and many Kenyans who endured six weeks of mayhem after the disputed December 27 elections fear for the worse. The Kenyan shilling, the strongest barometer of confidence, slumped further against the the dollar on April 8, trading at 62.85/63.05. That compared with the highest level this year of 61.75/85 on April 4 after Kibaki and Odinga said they were ready to announce the new cabinet.

The accord states that the coalition can be broken if parliament is dissolved, or if the parties agree to it in writing, or if one party withdraws. Is Kenya now in danger of sliding towards longer uncertainty? Is renewed unrest inevitable? What is the way out of this impasse? Have your say.


The cabinet stalemate can easily be resolved if both parties follow the National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008 that provided for the power sharing, to the letter. From the occurrences that led to the impasse, it can be deduced that PNU does not want to relinquish the 17 Ministerial posts that were appointed before the power sharing deal was signed. These are some of the most powerful Ministerial post in the government.

After signing the deal, ODM should have insisted on dissolving the cabinet, passing the entrenched law that elevated Hon. Raila Odinga to the Prime Minister post and have him sworn in before engaging in appointing the Ministers. I however applaud Hon Raila for ceding to the demands of PNU by dropping quest of some of the Ministries for the sake of peace. To the country’s disappointment, PNU took this as a weakness and kept shifting the goal post.

ODM should now not back down on their demand to have the cabinet dissolved and to have a lean government. They should also insist that 50-50 power sharing means exactly that and no one party should be more superior than the other. Both the President and Prime Minister have equal executive powers and not the other way round like the PNU hardliners are trying to imply.

Posted by Carey Bwana | Report as abusive

The prime minister should be part of cabinet ministers who helps in cordinating the running of the functions of the government. The executive power of the president still remains. ODM should not use ultimatum and demanding everything like the proverbial camel, this won’nt happen NOT EVEN WITH INTERNATIONAL SYMPATHY. There can not be two central powers at all neither can ODM undermine the presidency.

Posted by cephas njuguna | Report as abusive

I applaud the National Accord signed by President Kibaki and Hon. Raila Odinga but, with all due respect, it is a flawed document because it creates a divided house. No country can be governed well with two generally letigimate, but alternative, centers of power. The current arrangement should be treated as transitory with a clear timetable for elections in a shorter time than five years. Even if the parties agree to a grand coalition, the bickering will only get worse since the fight is not over power but over resources. With limited resources, there will always be jostling for control and there can only be one legitimate benevolent autocrat for the country to be governable.


PNU fails to realise that they in fact belong to the opposition and the National Accord & Reconciliation Act is technically intended to include them in Government – and not the other way round. It is therefore in their interest to have it implemented to the letter.

Given our country’s history of rampant corruption in Government, one begins to wonder whether there are “hidden treasures” in a couple of the ministries that are being fought over – derailing the whole process.

With Kibaki’s half cabinet and a way-past-retirement-age head of civil service comprising the craftsmen of the proposed cabinet, does he expect to resolve the impasse?

It is at times like this that I miss the good old “professor of politics”, retired President Moi. He always took charge and we all felt it!

Posted by Peter Baraza | Report as abusive

In Africa, we have yet to hold truly free and fair elections and therefore when results are announced the losing side often cry foul. For outsiders it is hard to be sure it is not just because they are bad losers. The truth of the disputed Kenya elections will probably never be known.

The Government of National Unity is clearly not working. Even if the two party were finally agree on power sharing; will they work together? What the people of Kenya want is an effective government to address the nation’s many problems. Kenya can not really afford to have a ineffective government for the next four, five years or whenever it is Kenya is due to hold its next elections.

For the good of the country both Kibaki and Odinga should agree on holding fresh election. This time there MUST be outside observers and both parties must make a commitment to accept the results!

Posted by Wilbert Mukori | Report as abusive

One, reduce the size of the cabinet proposed. That way each ministry will be substantive in its own right.They should be appended into the constitution
Secondly, remove any doubts about when the next general election will be by making the coalition an arrangement until 2012.
Thirdly, agree on a committee of 4 from either side that will deal with conflict management. Koffi should be included as the outside expert.
Fourth, when the two resume negotiations, create timelines for when everything will be done by. Cabinet, constitution changes et al.


Perhaps if they both agreed to put their personal and party interests out of they way, some deal could be reached.

Posted by Diana Ngila | Report as abusive

Kibaki agreed that he could no longer claim to derive any legitimacy from the December election results by agreeing to enter into a TRANSITIONAL power sharing government (not merely a cabinet sharing government) with ODM to implement reforms and review the constitution.

It is this accord that gives Kibaki legitimacy when fully implemented. If not the PM who derives his power from parliamentary electoral majority party will have to form a government pending a review of the electoral laws by
parliament to allow for fresh presidential election

Posted by Nina Wangui | Report as abusive

Kibaki need to understand that Majority of Kenyans are tired of his attics. Just like Mugabe he does not seem to appreciate the severity of his stance on common issue that negatively impact the average citizen. He needs to understand that overwhelming majority of Kenyan citizens have no faith in him nor his governement.

One wonders why Kibaki has not bothered to visit campsides where IDPs are being housed. What is he afraid of? He must understand that he is a servant of the people and vice versa. Kenyan tax payers shoulder the burden of subsidizing his cozy lifestyle while poor Kenyans survive on less than a dollar a day wage. What a shame!!

Posted by Ihachi Wa Lugonzo | Report as abusive

There are no more good leaders in most of the African countries. In kenya everyone is fighting to be an MP when they get there they forget the common man and start working for their own wealth. African leaders are greedy selfish and don not care about any humanitarian life.Mr kibaki and raila for instance; why dont they adress the issue of thousands of kenyans dispalced after the election? They were talking nice and sweet, especially Raila! you have really dissapoited many kenyans taking big raises and not raising a dime for common mwanchi! what kind of men are you? do you even get sleep at night knowing that there is an infants in your constituecy dying of hunger every minute ask that to yourself Mr. Raila Kibaki and every leader out there. It kills me to see what people go through everyday, wake up Africa Leaders stop the greediness and the selfishness.Take even a moment to think of another person rather than me! me! me!

Posted by fredah | Report as abusive

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