Kenyan Cabinet missing faces of opposition
Appointments appear to rebuff calls for coalition
NAIROBI - Kenya's president named half his Cabinet yesterday, angering opposition leaders who accuse him of stealing the recent election and undermining mediation attempts for a power-sharing agreement to end violence that has left more than 500 dead.
In the hours after President Mwai Kibaki announced his Cabinet appointments, police fired over the heads of youths who set up a roadblock of burning tires in the western town of Kisumu, according to a resident there.
In Nairobi's oldest slum, Mathare, a witness reported hearing the first gunshots in three days just an hour after the announcement.
Political violence in some areas since the East African nation's disputed Dec. 27 presidential election had deteriorated into clashes between other tribes and Kibaki's Kikuyu, which has long dominated Kenyan politics.
Salim Lone, a spokesman for opposition leader Raila Odinga's party, repeated the party's call for no demonstrations, saying it did not want to undermine African Union-mediated talks expected to begin today.
"We think that the announcement of the Cabinet was a slap in the face for all the effort that Kenyans and the international community is making to avoid the crisis," Lone said.
Earlier yesterday, Odinga rejected an invitation from Kibaki for talks, calling it "public relations gimmickry" and charging the president with "trying to deflect attention from and undermine" international mediation.
One proposed solution has been for Kibaki and Odinga to share power.
But the Cabinet members announced by Kibaki, among them his vice president, included no portfolios for members of Odinga's party.
Most posts went to members of Kibaki's party, although Kalonzo Musyoka, a minor presidential candidate who won just 9 percent of votes, was named vice president and another member of Kalonzo's party was named information minister.
According to a Kenyan government website, Kibaki won 4,584,721 votes or 47 percent of the ballots cast, against Odinga's 4,352,993, or 44 percent.
However, the chairman of the country's electoral commission has said he is not sure Kibaki won.
The top American envoy to Africa, Jendayi Frazer, said this week that the vote count at the heart of the dispute was tampered with and both sides could have been involved.
Odinga's party won 95 out of 210 parliament seats and Kibaki's party won 43 in legislative elections held the same day as the presidential vote, meaning it will be difficult for Kibaki to govern without making some overture to Odinga.
Martha Karua, reappointed as justice minister yesterday, said the opposition should take its complaints to the courts.
"I am certain they have no evidence upon which a credible court can nullify a Kibaki win," she said.
Diplomatic efforts continued.
The chairman of the African Union, President John Kufuor of Ghana, arrived on a mediation mission, and President Bush and Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain offered support to the African Union effort.
Kenya is a US ally in the war on terror and has turned over dozens of suspected terrorists to the United States and Ethiopia.
The country allows American military forces to operate from Kenyan bases and conducts joint exercises with US troops in the region.
The United States is also a major donor to Kenya, long seen as a stable democracy in a region that includes war-ravaged Somalia and Sudan.
Aid amounts to roughly $1 billion a year, said T.J. Dowling, US Embassy spokesman.