Friday, February 19, 2010



By Martin Mutua
The Standard
Nairobi, Kenya

President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga have agreed to meet and resolve disputes that have rocked the Grand Coalition Government.

The planned meeting, The Standard learnt, follows intense pressure from President Barack Obama’s administration asking Kibaki and Raila to deal with grand corruption in Government.

Chief Mediator Kofi Annan and Obama stepped in and appealed to the two principals to dialogue and stifle rising tension brought about by the maize and free primary education funds scandals. Although pressure from the international community and local religious leaders stressed the importance of dialogue, they were all emphatic on the need to fight corruption.

Despite agreeing to meet, fresh differences between the two principals shifted to the date and time when the meeting is scheduled to take place.

President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga during better times. They are set to meet over wrangles in the coalition. [PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD]

"It is true they spoke and agreed but I don’t want to create an impression that the meeting will take place on Sunday because no date was set," said the source.

On the other hand the Obama administration expressed its concern over what it called "serious differences" regarding the handling of the recent corruption scandals that have emerged in the coalition government.

"We urge the leaders of the coalition to resolve these differences, which must not derail efforts to implement critical reforms and move Kenya forward," said the statement signed by US Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs P J Crowley.

The US government said this was not the time for political posturing when the process towards of a new constitution was progressing.

"We want to see Kenya’s leaders work together in a non-partisan spirit to achieve a new constitution, address corruption, strengthen the economy and help resolve regional conflict," said Crowley.

The US official said both Kibaki and Raila share responsibility to maintain the momentum in the constitutional review process and implement the reform agenda.

"The people of Kenya deserve a government that successfully addresses the fundamental challenges central to Kenya’s long-term interest. Kenya’s future should not be held hostage to these disputes," he said.

President Kibaki later released a statement from State House saying there was no crisis and that his Government would intensify the fight against corruption.

In Japan, Raila issued another statement saying he had spoken with President Kibaki on telephone on Wednesday evening over the unfolding events in the country and that they had agreed to meet on Sunday to dialogue.

"It was an extremely cordial conversation as well as an extremely useful one," said Raila.

The PM further said Kibaki emphasised that dialogue was the only way to address the challenges facing the country as well as the misunderstandings between them.

Strong nation

Raila said they agreed with Kibaki that there were no "intractable" issues that stood in the way of the coalition continuing to work closely together to forge common ground on which to build a stronger Kenya.

Said Raila: "The central priority of this co-operation is giving Kenyans a new constitution, a process which had been deeply divisive for more than decade."

Raila is expected to hold a press briefing this morning in Tokyo, Japan, before he flies out. He arrives in Nairobi tomorrow.

The PM raised a storm last Sunday, when he announced the suspension of ministers William Ruto (Agriculture) and Prof Sam Ongeri (Education) to allow for investigations.

President Kibaki later sent a statement from State House nullifying the action.

It has also emerged that President Kibaki cancelled the Cabinet meeting scheduled for yesterday, because of the boycott threat by ODM ministers.

A minister allied to PNU who did not wish to be named because he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the Cabinet office told The Standard that the meeting was called off on Wednesday evening.

"There were genuine fears by the President that the ODM ministers would boycott the meeting even though he had expected to be told so by the Prime minister himself," added the minister.

PNU and ODM ministers who negotiated the Serena agreement with Annan also called off a meeting that should have been held on Tuesday.

The ODM side led by Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi failed to confirm their attendance to the panel of Eminent Persons headed by Ambassador Nana Effah.

No crisis

Kibaki’s statement from State House yesterday said over the last few days there had been heated debate about the cohesion of the Grand Coalition Government.

"In that regard I wish to assure Kenyans that there is no crisis," he said hours after he had spoken with Raila.

The President explained that there was need to focus more on improving the welfare of Kenyans and speed up implementation of ongoing development programmes.

"I appeal to all Kenyans to remain united as we pursue the completion of a new constitution," said Kibaki.

The statement from Annan said: "The Panel is calling upon President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga to meet urgently in order to agree on a practical and workable application of the principle of collaboration," said Annan.

The former UN Chief appealed to the two coalition partners to focus on the difficult tasks ahead and re-dedicate themselves to the full and speedy implementation of the reform agenda for the sake of Kenyans (See separate story).

Meanwhile 24 Catholic bishops faulted President Kibaki and Raila on wrangling in the government and lack of commitment to fighting corruption.

The 24 bishops said the good of the country must be put before any other priority and noted that the Grand Coalition Government was formed to keep the country united and peaceful.

"The two principals must avoid abdication of duty which may delay action in the fight against graft. We urge them to sit together and work with advisors who are genuine and honest and have the interest of the country at heart," they said in a statement read by John Cardinal Njue.

They said the PM and the President should take the lead in the fight against corruption, which had greatly affected the country worsening the plight of the marginalised and the poor.