Kenyan ministers to use one voice: Kibaki

Ministers in Kenya’s fractious coalition should stop squabbling in public because they risk doing further damage to the reputation of east Africa’s biggest economy, the president said.
The administration was formed last year to end ethnic and political violence that killed at least 1300 people after a disputed election, uprooted more than 300 000 and badly dented the country’s image as stable trade, tourism and transport hub.
But the government has since disappointed donors and many Kenyans because of delays to promised reforms, fresh corruption allegations, and above all its failure to prosecute ringleaders of the 2008 turmoil, some of whom are now in its ranks.
“You have the constitutional right to hold and express your personal opinion on any matter,” President Mwai Kibaki told ministers attending a two-day leadership retreat at a plush beachside resort on the Indian Ocean coast.
“However, we all have a duty to promote government policy in public and private fora and are in this regard bound by collective responsibility. We must speak in one voice on issues over which the government has taken a position.”
That appeared to be a veiled reference to discord over the fate of top suspects in last year’s bloodshed. The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) chief prosecutor said last week he had a strong case against a few individuals.
Kibaki and opposition leader-turned-Prime Minister Raila Odinga have both said they will cooperate with the world court, but the fear is that supporters of senior deputies who might be indicted could trigger a return to violence and ethnic clashes.
Meanwhile, a special local tribunal is supposed to try lower-level suspects, but three attempts to win parliamentary approval for the creation of the court have foundered so far, despite the backing of Kibaki and Odinga.
“Negative publicity”
Last week, debate on the tribunal was adjourned after just 19 of 222 members turned up in the house.
The repeated delays have stoked scepticism among many Kenyans, who doubt powerful figures in business and politics will ever face justice because of a widespread culture of impunity.
In Mombasa, Kibaki said last year’s clashes had shown their country in a bad light, hurting investor confidence and scaring off tourists, who are a vital source of income.
“As leaders, therefore, we have the responsibility to improve this image. Let us avoid utterances that will attract further negative publicity,” he said.
Among the topics under debate at the coast is a draft constitution, which will be a key element of the planned reforms. Last Friday, Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper said coalition leaders had agreed on most of the draft.
Citing an internal report by the unity government’s high level management committee, it said members were “near consensus” on all issues except the proposed structure and power of the executive, which it said remained contentious.
The Daily Nation said officials would consult during the retreat and were likely to amend the draft. In his opening comments, Kibaki said he was committed to delivering.
“Let us join hands towards the achievement of this noble endeavour, and give Kenyans a new constitution,” he said.

Pic: President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya -(Podium)