Kenya: Cabinet sacked after gov't loses constitutional referendum

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
NAIROBI, 24 November (IRIN) - Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki sacked his entire cabinet on Wednesday, two days after the draft constitution he strongly supported was rejected in a national referendum.

The debate over the new charter had split Kibaki's administration, with seven members of his cabinet spearheading a vociferous campaign against it.

"Following the results of the referendum, it has become necessary for me, as the President of the Republic, to re-organize my Government to make it more cohesive and better able to serve the people of Kenya," Kibaki said in a terse statement broadcast on radio and television.

"Accordingly, in accordance with the powers conferred upon me under the Constitution of Kenya, I have directed that the offices of all Ministers and all Assistant Ministers become vacant. Consequently, the occupants of the said offices cease to hold their respective offices with immediate effect," he said.

The president added that a reconstituted government would be announced within two weeks.

Some 3.5 million people voted against the draft constitution, compared with 2.5 million in favour.

When Kibaki's administration came into power at the beginning of 2003, it pledged to give Kenyans a more democratic constitution within the first 100 days of its term.

Internal wrangling within the lose alliance of disparate political parties that make up the governing National Rainbow Coalition, however, seemed to have thwarted all efforts at forging a consensus on several contentious issues in the draft constitution.

Members of the cabinet who opposed the proposed basic law argued that the draft maintained a presidency with overriding powers. They asserted that Kenyans started agitating for a new constitution more than 15 years earlier because they believed that Kibaki's predecessor had misused his presidential powers to undermine democracy and weaken the economy.

Supporters of the draft constitution, on the other hand, maintained that presidential powers had been significantly curtailed in the proposed basic law.

They pointed out, for example, that under the new document all presidential appointments were to be subjected to vetting by parliament and that the president was required to share executive power with a prime minister, various constitutional commissions and proposed district governments.

The rejection of the proposed constitution was widely seen as a significant blow to Kibaki and a boost for Roads and Public Works Minister Raila Odinga, the de facto leader of the ministers who waged an unrelenting campaign against the document.


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