Kenya opposition suspends talks, protests flare
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya's opposition suspended talks with President Mwai Kibaki's party on Tuesday and police fired teargas to disperse opposition supporters protesting at deepening deadlock over a power-sharing cabinet.
Kibaki and his rival Raila Odinga traded blame on Monday after a disagreement over how to share ministries delayed the naming of the cabinet for the second time in two days.
"We have resolved that negotiations ... be suspended until (Kibaki's party) fully recognises the 50/50 power-sharing arrangement and the principle of portfolio balance," Anyang' Nyong'o, secretary-general of Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement, told a news conference.
The protests in Nairobi's Kibera slum were the biggest since Kibaki and Odinga reached a power-sharing deal in February to end a crisis that killed at least 1,200 people after Kibaki's disputed re-election in December.
"People are burning tyres and shouting. Police are firing teargas and also firing into the air ... I think there are over 100 protesters," said witness Justine Mokua.
The tough words from both sides have revived fears for political progress and modest economic recovery in Kenya.
"I believe the temperature is rising among Kenyans and so I pray things won't get out of control," said John Mwangi, a 50-year-old businessman in Nairobi.
Most of the disagreement centres on a handful of ministries that Odinga's ODM said Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU) had promised to give up.
Odinga, the country's prime minister-designate, said he was ready to discuss the cabinet again with Kibaki once there was "clarity" over the disputed ministries. Kibaki said he was ready to conclude the process at the earliest possible opportunity.
"The reason they want them is because there's money there," she said. "If there is a corruption-free government it shouldn't matter who has what. It seems everybody is bent on securing something for themselves and that's what makes us upset."
Mmmm, 'corruption' - you don't say!
.... and then this from our own Nation Media Alerts:
Message from PNU MP's to ODM: Drop conditions and resume talks, Kibaki hands not tied by current Cabinet, ready for lean Govt - or even fresh elections.
It really sounds like we are not just stepping backwards, but running at high speed !