28 April 2009

It just keeps getting better

Key ruling in Kenya coalition row

Raila Odinga in Nairobi on 11 January 2008

Raila Odinga has said fresh elections may be needed

The Kenyan parliament's speaker is to rule on who will chair a key committee at the heart of the latest dispute to hit the fragile coalition government.

Both Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka say they must lead the House Business Committee.

It is the latest stand-off between the prime minister's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and President Mwai Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU).

The two parties agreed a power-sharing deal last year to end poll violence.

But relations have soured and crisis talks have failed to improve relations.

Unprecedented

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

The BBC's Josphat Makori in Nairobi says it is difficult to guess in whose favour the speaker could rule because such a dispute is unprecedented in the history of the country.

KENYA'S COALITION CRISIS

Dec 2007: Disputed elections spark ethnic violence

Feb 2008: Mediators broker power-sharing government pact

April: Unity cabinet naming delayed amid last-minute dispute

5 Jan 2009: Odinga holds crisis talks; says ODM being sidelined

13 Jan: Inquiry amid claims of agriculture ministry maize cartels

4 April: Kilanguni retreat collapses in disarray

6 April: Odinga labels Kibaki's governing style "primitive"

15 April: Odinga tells Kibaki ODM will boycott cabinet meetings

26 April: Odinga says fresh elections may be needed

Does Kenya need new elections?

He says the ODM wants to bring the contest to parliament in order to use its majority to try to have its way.

Our correspondent says this row matters because it has virtually paralysed the business of parliament.

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.

The prime minister recently complained that the vice-president should not be getting paid more than him.

Mr Odinga - who has claimed he is being sidelined in the unity government - has said fresh elections may be needed if the rift cannot be solved.

Over the weekend, President Kibaki's party accused the ODM of "fomenting a coup".

Earlier this month, Mr Odinga's party said it would boycott cabinet meetings, leading to inconclusive crisis talks.

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

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.

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