Jeffrey Gettleman brings breaking news of renewed rioting in Kenya.
Riots erupted in Kenya on Tuesday as opposition leaders announced that they were suspending talks with the government over a stalled power sharing agreement.
According to witnesses, dozens of young men stormed into the streets of Kibera, a sprawling slum in the capital, Nairobi, lighting bonfires, ripping up railroad tracks and throwing rocks at police officers in a scene reminiscent of the violence that convulsed Kenya in the wake of the Dec. 27 election.
“No cabinet, no peace!” the protesters yelled, referring to the stillborn cabinet that has yet to be formed because of bitter divisions between the government and the opposition.
The spark behind the violence — the first such incident since Kofi Annan helped broker a shaky peace deal over a month ago — seems to be the question of assigning cabinet positions equitably between both sides. The elected president, Mwai Kibaki, is pushing for a larger cabinet, but is withholding the keys to the more powerful positions, such as the ministries of finance, foreign affairs, and internal security. The specific issue that plagued Annan’s mediations — the question of how much power to assign to the newly created position of prime minister, slated to go to opposition leader Raila Odinga — does not seem to have resurfaced yet, and, according to Gettleman, opposition leaders deny instigating the protests.
Assigning cabinet positions is no trivial matter, though, and opposition leaders will have to work together to come up with a proposal that reflects their parties’ near equal levels of support. A similar problem has persisted in Sudan, where one of the most frequently voiced complaints of previously marginalized Southerners is that, even with the signing of a major peace deal in January 2005, many of the most powerful ministries remain in the hands of Northern elites. Best for the international community to invest as much as it can in resolving this problem now, or else it will risk poisoning Kenya’s new government.