Violence breaks out as Kenyan leaders fail to agree cabinet

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The Independent Online

Fresh violence has broken out in parts of Kenya as the country's fragile power-sharing deal appeared to be on the brink of collapse. Raila Odinga's ODM party suspended talks with President Mwai Kibaki yesterday, accusing him of trying to "monopolise power".

Almost six weeks have passed since Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga agreed to share power, but they have yet to agree on a cabinet. Under the terms of the deal struck by Kofi Annan, the two sides were supposed to share cabinet positions 50/50. Crucially, it was also agreed that there would be "portfolio balance" to ensure that the largest ministries were shared equally.

ODM has accused Mr Kibaki of trying to keep the most influential ministries for his own party. One official close to the Annan talks said Mr Kibaki appeared to be breaking the spirit of the deal. "We all know what real power-sharing looks like. You can't give one side the ministry of finance and the other side the ministry of chickens," he said.

A Western diplomat in Nairobi said President Kibaki had been "got at" by hardliners in his PNU party. At a meeting with Mr Odinga on Thursday, Mr Kibaki had agreed to give two prominent ministries – Local Government and Foreign Affairs – to ODM. But following a meeting with his own ministers Mr Kibaki changed his mind.

After Mr Odinga's announcement, violence broke out in Nairobi and the western city of Kisumu. Young men in Kibera, a Nairobi slum, burned tyres and shouted "No Cabinet! No peace!" Paramilitary police fired tear gas in a repeat of the original skirmishes that broke out after the announcement of the presidential result in December.

Mr Annan last week expressed his frustration at the inability of Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga to make any progress since he left at the end of February. There have been calls from civil society activists for him to return but he has limited his involvement to phone calls with both leaders.

Both sides still appear hopeful that an agreement will be found, but if it takes this long to agree on a cabinet, few Kenyans expect their new government to be able to agree on more important matters.

Hundreds of thousands of people remain displaced following the violence in January. Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga last month asked the international community for almost £250m to help rebuild the country.