KENYA: Why Kibaki called off Cabinet talks


President Kibaki on Tuesday called off the meeting of a Cabinet team charged with managing the coalition Government, amid anger and recriminations in some quarters.

The meeting was put off to allow members to cool off after heated arguments over how to deal with the execution of NGO officials linked to Mungiki, according to a usually reliable Office of the President source, who cannot be named because of Civil Service rules.

Though many Cabinet ministers and top civil servants interviewed were confident that the government would weather the current storm, it was clear that both sides of the coalition were furious with each other over the handling of the killing of Oscar Foundation officials on Thursday.

The OP source said a crisis meeting was held at State House, Nairobi, on Saturday morning. It was attended by Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, among top coalition figures.

Mr Odinga, the source said, firmly asked for action to be taken against Government spokesman Alfred Mutua, over a statement he had issued hours before the killing of the Oscar Foundation activists.

The PM said the statement was not the official government position since he had not been consulted and that it was statements like those that were soiling the name of the coalition.

It was decided that an investigation would be conducted, the source said, though Dr Mutua apparently issued the statement on the instructions of a higher authority, possibly the National Security Committee.

Dr Mutua had on Thursday accused Oscar Foundation of having links to Mungiki sect and said appropriate legal action would be taken on the NGO.

The following day and after executions on Thursday night and the killing of a student by police, Mr Odinga said the spokesman did not speak for the coalition. He alone knows whom he speaks for. Whatever goes out as a government position must have been discussed by the parties and agreed on before it is announced, he said.

The Party of National Unity side was said to be livid with the PM's strong positions on issues which they said went against the spirit of partnership.

The PM has been strong in his condemnation of the killing of Oscar King'ara and Paul Oulu, both of Oscar Foundation. He also supported university student protests against the killing of a student by police and ordered police to accept an offer of help from the Federal Bureau of Investigations to probe the killings.

The FBI offer has been opposed by deputy PM Uhuru Kenyatta, Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua and their Environment counterpart John Michuki on grounds that Kenya has well trained investigators. FBI director Robert Mueller who was in the country last week met Mr Odinga.

On Tuesday, outspoken Nairobi Metropolitan Development Minister Mutula Kilonzo said: Inasmuch as the Prime Minister condemns extrajudicial killings, he should also condemn in a strong manner the killings that are carried out by armed gangs such as Mungiki. They have committed atrocities that are unspeakable.

Tension has been building in the coalition since last week, after ODM demanded fresh negotiations of the National Accord, which it said short-changed it. PNU leaders have reacted by challenging their ODM colleagues to leave the government if they were not satisfied.

It was against the backdrop of this acrimony that Tuesday's meeting had been convened to streamline the operations of the Grand Coalition.

It is understood that PNU leaders requested the President to call off the meeting.

Chaired by President Kibaki, the Permanent Committee on the Management of the Affairs of the Grand Coalition is composed of Mr Odinga, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, deputy PMs Musalia Mudavadi and Kenyatta, Mr Ruto, Mr James Orengo, Prof George Saitoti, Mr Chirau Ali Mwakwere, Mr Moses Wetang'ula, Mr Mohamed Elmi, Mr Jeffa Kingi, Mrs Charity Ngilu and Ms Karua.

However, Ms Karua on Tuesday said she will not be part of the committee. I am not aware of the meeting because I declined to be a member of the committee.

Mr Ruto, the Agriculture minister, said he had not been contacted over the meeting and stated that he was busy serving Kenyans on the ground.

Exports affected

Mr Kenyatta said coalition governments work through dialogue. What do you do if people choose to ignore the mechanism which has been set up for dialogue? When your own people call for demonstrations against their own government? It borders on the ridiculous.

Mr Kenyatta, speaking by telephone, said the country was faced with serious challenges requiring urgent attention, including dealing with the drought, constitutional review and the effects of the international financial crisis which were already affecting exports.

Everybody must play their part in this. Dialogue should be the way to go, he said, adding: We should stop posturing. If people are dissatisfied, they should work hard and finish the constitution and get a permanent solution.

Regarding his alleged ties with Agriculture minister William Ruto, Mr Kenyatta said they are working to rebuild trust and confidence among the different communities in the Rift Valley Province so that displaced people can go back to their farms.

Reports by Bernard Namunane, Eric Shimoli, and David Mugonyi

Daily Nation

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