NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki named a power-sharing cabinet on Sunday making his rival Raila Odinga prime minister and ending deadlock that threatened the economic rebound from a bloody post-election crisis.
The naming of a coalition cabinet was key to a deal to solve the east African nation’s post-election unrest. More than 1,200 people died and 300,000 were uprooted in what was the country’s darkest episode since independence in 1963.
“I want to thank you, my fellow Kenyans, for your tolerance and patience during this period,” Kibaki said alongside Odinga, who had accused him of rigging his December 27 re-election.
“I’ll do everything possible to ensure that our country Kenya is steered along the path of peace, unity and stability.”
Finance Minister Amos Kimunya, who kept his job, has said the crisis forced the government to trim its growth forecast to 4.5-6.0 percent from a previous estimate of 6.9 percent.
Kenya’s shilling currency and stock market have both been on the rebound since former U.N. chief Kofi Annan brokered a February 28 deal to create the coalition cabinet and launch a constitutional review addressing long-simmering issues.
The election crisis exposed decades-old disputes, which 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 urged his new ministers to “put aside politics”.
“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,” he said in his televised speech.
Uhuru Kenyatta from Kibaki’s coalition and Musalia Mudavadi of Odinga’s party were named deputy prime ministers.
William Ruto, a senior opposition figure despised by Kibaki supporters who blame him for attacks on the president’s Kikuyu tribe during the crisis, was appointed agriculture minister.
Ruto, who hails from the Rift Valley, which is Kenya’s agricultural breadbasket, denies any wrongdoing. John Michuki, a Kibaki ally equally disliked by Odinga supporters, was named environment minister.
Sunday’s announcement brought relief and wariness to Kenyans, long used to the same cast of politicians enriching themselves from the public coffers.
Celebrations broke out in Nairobi’s Kibera slum, an Odinga stronghold. But some feared the 41-member cabinet, which is the country’s biggest, would prove too expensive.
“It’s laughable that a country like ours, that needs to move forward yesterday, will spend so much money on the cabinet,” said Koki Muli of the Institute for Education in Democracy.
The new government line-up includes several politicians accused of corruption in past administrations.
“I doubt they will be able to work together, since they tried and failed before, but I hope they will. This country is suffering,” said laborer John Muchiri.
Odinga was in Kibaki’s first cabinet after his election in 2002, but they fell out over a 2005 constitutional referendum.
Odinga, a 63-year-old former political prisoner and son of an independence hero, has accused Kibaki, 76, of reneging on a deal to make him prime minister in 2002. That sense of betrayal drove Odinga’s challenge at the 2007 poll.
The two men must now get down to the contentious work of drafting a new constitution within 12 months to address the long-standing and divisive issues of land, wealth and power.
(Writing by Bryson Hull and Daniel Wallis, editing by Mary Gabriel)
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