I would like to address some of the issues surrounding the current impasse on the implementation of the National Accord and the formation of the grand coalition government the Accord mandates for our country.
To begin with, let me emphasize two important statements made yesterday. The Prime Minister Designate Raila Odinga described the differences in the negotiation as “a small gap.” President Mwai Kibaki on his part indicated that the differences were “not insurmountable.” So clearly substantial progress has been made in these discussions and both sides are hopeful of a speedy conclusion.
The other point I want to address is the assertion yesterday by Government Spokesman Dr. Alfred Mutua that new conditions by ODM are not acceptable to PNU, and that there should be no pre-conditions. I am afraid Dr. Mutua is wrong on both these counts.
In our last letter to President Kibaki, dated 7 April, we wrote that “we look forward to availing ourselves at the earliest opportunity” to continuing the discussions.
In an earlier letter the same day, the PM designate proposed that in view of the numerous inconclusive meetings between the two principals, a joint team should prepare a series of agreements that would make it easier for the principals to conclude the negotiations. As I am sure you will all agree, each time a meeting between the President and the Prime Minister Designate is announced, Kenyans breathe huge sighs of relief. But when nothing concrete emerges, there is huge let down and even anger and frustration.
In neither letter was there a hint of new conditions or any pre-conditions.
Given the disagreement about what transpired in the one-on-one meeting on Thursday, we laid out in the letter the issues that needed to be addressed. NONE OF THE ISSUES WAS NEW. In a number of previous communications, we had indicated that the power sharing concerned not only the Cabinet but a range of other senior political appointments which have a direct bearing on the efficient running of the government.
Just as with the cabinet, these senior positions must also reflect the diverse face of our nation. At the moment, this is not all the case, and in fact is a source of immense concern in the country.
These issues remain on the table to be discussed.
So let me state clearly that the key stumbling block to an agreement is, first and foremost, the formation of a new Cabinet which reflects genuine power sharing as enshrined in the Accord and the Constitution. On this front, we have made numerous concessions in the hope that a final agreement would end the current anxiety and allow a new government to address the pressing priorities facing our nation.
On the basis of the portfolio balance we proposed, only five ministries are now at issue – Local Government, Foreign Affairs, Energy, Transport and Cabinet Affairs. We had gone to our very maximum in earlier negotiations by giving up the key Finance and Internal Security portfolios, even though we had previously insisted that one of these must come to us. That is why we refer to our position now as the “irreducible minimum”.
So let me conclude by saying that we, and all Kenyans, are extremely keen for the negotiations to move forward rapidly. We appeal to PNU to reconsider its position on the one immediate issue, portfolio balance, so that Kenyans can finally begin to feel that hope, and alleviation of their plight, is around the corner.