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Monday, February 25, 2008

Fresh dispute over PM deal

The illegitimate Government and ODM on Sunday differed over the number of concessions made so far in the talks aimed at ending the post-election political crisis.

Leaders from both sides accused each other of failing to cede the necessary ground to pave the way for a coalition between PNU and ODM. The deal is expected to heal the wounds caused by the crisis sparked by the disputed presidential elections. On Sunday, the Government team denied press reports that only one issue was standing in the way of a political settlement. "We have noted with grave concern a growing trend of misleading reports on the progress of the mediation talks. We want to make it clear that there are issues which we have agreed upon and there are others that are still on the negotiations table at Serena (Hotel)," said Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua, the leader of the Government team at the talks.

Earlier, Eldoret North MP William Ruto had said only one or two issues were yet to be agreed on.

But Karua, who was accompanied by Cabinet ministers Moses Wetang'ula, Sam Ongeri and Mbooni MP Mutula Kilonzo at a press conference at Harambee House, said the PNU and ODM negotiators had agreed on the creation of the post of prime minister and his two deputies. She also said the responsibilities of the prime minister had been agreed on. "The prime minister will coordinate performance of Government ministries and perform any other roles assigned by the President."

The third issue that had been agreed on was how to dissolve the coalition.

Karua said the mediation team agreed that the coalition will stand dissolved either at the end of the life of the 10th Parliament; or if the coalition parties agree in writing or when the top organ (the national executive council) of one of the parties decides to pull out of the arrangement. "All others issues are still under negotiation," she said. "We have been holding our consultations and we will get to the negotiations table tomorrow (Monday) with clear instructions," she said.

She was referring to the sharing of Cabinet slots between PNU and ODM; the proposal to give the PM more powers; holding of a General Election if the coalition collapses and entrenching the political deal in the Constitution. "We wish to clarify that there is as yet no agreement on these issues," Karua said.

However, ODM said the mediation talks had cleared the majority of the issues and the remaining items touched on enhancing the PM's position and entrenching the agreement in the Constitution. "There are only one or two issues that are yet to be agreed upon and one has to do with how the deal will achieve its legality," said Mr Ruto.

Ruto and fellow MPs Musalia Mudavadi, Sally Kosgei and James Orengo form the ODM team at the talks chaired by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan. The teams spent the weekend consulting the principals - President Kibaki on the Government side and Lang'ata MP Raila Odinga on the ODM side.

The mediation talks began on January 29 and they have scaled a number of obstacles.

When the talks adjourned on Friday, Mr Annan appealed to President Kibaki and Mr Odinga to give clear instructions to their negotiators to enable the talks to move forward. "I urge the principals to now take definitive decisions and to give their negotiators clear instructions so that we can move swiftly to a conclusion. We must give the Kenyan people what they are hoping and praying for," he said. On Saturday, the President issued a statement saying he was committed to the talks and expressing optimism that a lasting solution would be found. Mr Odinga has also said his party was committed to the talks.

On Sunday, the Government team said it had been given clear instructions for Monday's talks but accused ODM negotiators of maintaining hard-line positions at the talks. "We have taken clear instructions and we hope our colleagues have taken the same. They are the ones who are stuck in one position while we have been giving in to some of the things they want," they said before they headed for State House for further consultations with the President.

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