Monday, April 27, 2009

AFRICA: Kenya's Odinga Calls for New Polls

In Kenya, Prime Minister Raila Odinga says that if the divide in the power-sharing government cannot be fixed, Kenya should go back to the polls to elect a new government (The Nation). Odinga has been feuding with President Mwai Kibaki over control of the National Assembly. Kibaki's party accused Odinga's of "fomenting a coup" (BBC).

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By NATION Posted Sunday, April 26 2009

The divide within the coalition government over the control of the National Assembly widened further on Sunday when Prime Minister Raila Odinga demanded fresh elections.

Mr Odinga’s demand came as President Kibaki’s PNU arm of government accused ODM of trying to mount a coup.

Speaking in his Lang’ata constituency, Mr Odinga said ODM will not retreat on its push to take the two positions of Leader of Government Business and chair of the House Business Committee held in the last session of Parliament by Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka.

Mr Odinga led the crowds in his constituency in showing support for fresh elections through a show of hands.

“We shall not relent in our quest. We have had enough. Therefore, if this issue cannot be resolved and our partners see the sense, we should go back to the ballot for an election. That’s our message,” he declared.

The PM, who was accompanied to the rally by Higher Education minister Dr Sally Kosgei and MPs Yusuf Chanzu (Vihiga) and Rachael Shebesh (Nominated) scoffed at claims that his party was out to wrestle power from President Kibaki.

Mr Odinga spoke just a day after the President wrote to the Speaker of the National Assembly Kenneth Marende, informing him that there was nothing new to consult about since he had appointed Mr Musyoka as the Leader of Government Business and also nominated him to chair the House Business Committee as required by the relevant Standing Orders.

President Kibaki said he had fulfilled his constitutional duty and would not be available for any other consultations.

When the matter came to a deadlock in Parliament last Thursday, the Speaker announced that he would seek the audience of both the President and the Prime Minister in an effort resolve the situation.

Mr Marende is expected to make a ruling in the matter on Tuesday, but has already warned Parliament that the Chair cannot adjudicate on political disputes within the government or between political parties.

Even as Mr Odinga spoke on Sunday at a rally at the Kamukunji grounds in the sprawling Kibera slums, Mr Musyoka led a group of 20 PNU MPs in dismissing his quest for the seat of Leader fof Government Business, saying that it was “illegal, unconstitutional and unacceptable.”

And later, while addressing a rally in Lari constituency, Mr Musyoka said the President’s word on who should be the Leader of Government Business in Parliament “was final.”

His views were shared by Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta who said the PM was greedy for power.

The VP and Nairobi Metropolitan minister Mutula Kilonzo said Parliament and the Speaker had no option but to obey the President’s choice.

They said that President Kibaki’s letter to the Speaker designating Mr Musyoka as the Leader of Government Business and the chairman of the crucial House Business Committee was final.

“That letter is final; we either follow the rule of law or go for the rule of the jungle,” the VP said.

Mr Musyoka took a swipe at Mr Odinga for slighting him as a “stranger” in the coalition. The Vice President is a member of ODM Kenya and was invited into the Kibaki government before the National Accord that brought ODM into the grand coalition.

He said if he had not joined hands with President Kibaki prior to the formulation of the National Accord, then “things would have been different.”

Describing Mr Marende as a very “consistent and neutral speaker”, Mr Kilonzo said he expected him to endorse Mr Musyoka as the bonafide Leader of Government Business.

Central Imenti MP Gitobu Imanyara said that even though the speaker must make a ruling, it was not his duty to appoint the Leader of Government Business.

“I can only see him making a ruling that is geared towards facilitating Parliament to conduct its affairs,” he added.

Mr Imanyara said Parliament can approve the names of the committee members on the direction of the Speaker then leave that of the Leader of Government Business.

But in Kibera, Mr Odinga said: “According to the National Accord, we agreed on a 50:50 power sharing formula. We gave them the Presidency and we took the PM’s position,” said Mr Odinga.

“My position entails the supervision and coordination of government affairs both within and out of Parliament. This automatically makes me the Leader of Government Business in the House,” he added amidst cheers from his supporters.

Mr Odinga added that there was no country in the world with a parliamentary system where the PM was not the leader of government business.

He also sought to clarify perceptions that he was “given” the PM’s job by President Kibaki, saying he was there by right because his party had the majority of MPs in the House.

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BBC - Monday, 27 April 2009

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has said fresh elections may be needed if the rift in the power-sharing government cannot be solved.

He is demanding that he be put in charge of government business in parliament, to replace Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka.

Mr Odinga and President Mwai Kibaki agreed to share power last year to end months of post-election violence.

But relations have soured and the two parties have held crisis talks.

Over the weekend, President Kibaki's Party of National Unity accused Mr Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement of "fomenting a coup".

The president's allies say he has the power to decide who should hold the crucial position of leading government business in the house.

The speaker of parliament is due to issue a ruling on Tuesday.

In response, the prime minister told a meeting of his constituents in Nairobi's Kibera slum:

"We have been pushed around enough. We have reached this point and we cannot retreat. We shall stand firm. If others do not want this then let us go back and hold elections."

Mr Odinga has previously said he was being sidelined in the government.

Earlier this month, his party said it would boycott cabinet meetings, leading to inconclusive crisis talks.

Mr Odinga recently complained at a public rally that no red carpet or toilet were provided for him during an official visit.

The prime minister has also said that the vice-president should not be getting paid more than him.

Mr Musyoka used to be a senior ODM official but split to form his own party - ODM-Kenya - and is now seen as close to the president.

About 1,500 people were killed and 300,000 forced from their homes after Mr Odinga's supporters said he had been cheated of victory in the December 2007 presidential election.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan managed to broker a power-sharing deal in February 2008, which ended the violence.