Cabinet stalemate stokes violence in Kenyan slum

Other News Materials 8 April 2008 17:46 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Kenyan opposition supporters hurled rocks and burnt tires Tuesday demanding a new cabinet be named after weeks of wrangling over ministries, even as their leader suspended talks meant to bring about a new cabinet.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga failed to show up to a meeting with President Mwai Kibaki Monday, saying Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU) was not willing to share power, despite an accord brokered in February that would create a coalition government between their parties.

On Tuesday, Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) said it would suspend all talks until PNU agrees to a 50-50 split of ministries, as per the peace deal that ended two months of bitter political and ethnic violence over disputed elections.

"We regret that PNU's refusal to equally share power with ODM ... now threatens the future stability of this country and that of the grand coalition," said ODM party secretary Anyang Nyong'o.

Meanwhile, in scenes reminiscent of post-election violence earlier this year, uniformed school-children were chased away by a truckload of riot police who fired tear gas at the protestors in Kibera, Kenya's largest slum and an opposition stronghold.

"They are protesting the whole story with the new cabinet. They want equal sharing. If not, there will be violence," said a local resident, as rocks flew overhead.

Protestors chanted "no cabinet, no Raila, no peace" as they faced scores of policemen in the shantytown.

Similar rioting shook the ordinarily peaceful East African nation after disputed elections in December, which unleashed ethnic violence that left more than 1,000 killed and displaced more than 350,000, many of whom are still holed up in camps.

The goodwill between Kibaki and Odinga after the peace deal was signed has since faded and each leader has accused the other of impeding the political process.

A source close to ODM who asked to remain anonymous said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had phoned the two quarrelling leaders Monday, prodding them to come to a consensus on the cabinet.

Rice jetted into Kenya at the height of the conflict to meet Odinga and Kibaki and is credited, among other international actors, with forcing an end to the crisis.