Kenya's Kibaki unveils coalition cabinet

Sun Apr 13, 2008 10:36am EDT

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NAIROBI, April 13 (Reuters) - Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki named political rival Raila Odinga as head of a power-sharing cabinet on Sunday, ending weeks of impasse that threatened to undermine economic recovery after a deadly post-election crisis.

"I want to thank you, my fellow Kenyans, for your tolerance and patience during this period," Kibaki said in a televised speech. "I'll do everything possible to ensure that our country Kenya is steered along the path of peace, unity and stability."

He retained Finance Minister Amos Kimunya in the new 40-member government line-up, and confirmed Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement as prime minister.

The naming of a power-sharing cabinet is central to a deal ending the east African nation's post-election crisis. More than 1,200 people died and 300,000 were uprooted in what became the country's bloodiest episode independence in 1963.

Uhuru Kenyatta from Kibaki's coalition and Musalia Mudavadi of Odinga's party were named deputy prime ministers.

William Ruto, another senior opposition figure unpopular with many Kibaki aides, was appointed agriculture minister.

"My challenge to the new cabinet members, and to the entire national leadership at all levels, is let us put politics aside and get to work," Kibaki said.

"Let us build a new Kenya where justice is our shield and defender and where peace and liberty and plenty will be found throughout the country."

Violence exploded after Odinga accused Kibaki, Kenya's longest-serving politician, of rigging the Dec. 27 election, Kenya's closest-ever presidential poll.

The electoral fight degenerated into ethnic killings and riots that shattered Kenya's image as a stable tourism and trade hub, with one of sub-Saharan Africa's most promising economies.

Kibaki, 76, and Odinga, 63, met in secret on Saturday at Sagana State Lodge, a fishing retreat 100 km (60 miles) northeast of Nairobi to end a six-week impasse.

The two leaders had agreed to appoint a cabinet on April 6, but the deal fell apart at the last minute, unsettling Kenyans and investors fearful of a return to violence.

The two men have come under local and international pressure to break the deadlock on the cabinet, part of a deal brokered in February by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

During the week since the first cabinet agreement fell through, Kibaki and Odinga called for calm and argued that their positions were not far apart.

Violence erupted after Odinga accused Kibaki, Kenya's longest-serving politician, of rigging his re-election in the Dec. 27 vote, Kenya's closest presidential poll.

The electoral fight degenerated into ethnic killings and riots that shattered Kenya's image as a stable tourism and trade hub, with one of sub-Saharan Africa's most promising economies. (Writing by Daniel Wallis; editing by Sami Aboudi) (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: africa.reuters.com/) (For a timeline since the election, click on [nL12856367])

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