Tuesday, April 8, 2008

April 8, 2008 - Political News

You may have heard in the news today that protests and demonstrations took place in Nairobi. I just wanted to assure you that they took place in Nairobi's slums and we were not close to them at all, and also that we have not heard any reports of fatalities. The situation is getting more tense, though, and the country is fearful of what a continued political deadlock will mean for the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) who want to return home, and for possibly renewed violence.
The issue at hand is this: Kofi Annan brokered an agreement between the government (PNU) and the opposition (ODM) at the end of February, and the agreement implied that there would be equal power-sharing between the two parties. There has been significant difficulty, however, getting both sides to agree to the make up of the Cabinet. Already, President Kibaki had the largest Cabinet in Kenya's history at 34 ministries (with 34 ministers, 34 deputy ministers, 34 permanent secretaries, and 34 of many other positions). In order to reach an agreement last week, a "bloated" Cabinet of 40 ministries (et al) was agreed to. The public has been very upset about this because taxes will need to be raised in order to pay the salaries of all of these new people, and because it makes Kibaki and Odinga (the Prime Minister designee) look like they are just fighting to give all of their friends important jobs (which they are). So everyone thought that they had this agreement of 40 ministers in the Cabinet who would be announced two days ago, but then everything fell apart when both sides started accusing each other of changing the composition of the Cabinet and changing their public stance, etc. At this point, ODM has refused to continue talks with the government until they meet some demands (firing the 17 ministers appointed in January and starting the Cabinet negotiations fresh) and the government is bad-mouthing ODM all over the place.
So here we are: deadlocked once again.
We are watching the situation closely, and are otherwise doing well. Kristoffer returned on Saturday night from his week in Rome, when he finally got to see the Sistine Chapel, and bearing appropriate gifts for his wife who was left to fend for herself all week. And fend well I did! This week we have joined the United Nations Recreation Center (gym/health club) because the stationary nature of life for us here is driving us crazy! I have never been one for the gym, but I really feel the need to move so I will give it a try and, lucky for me, I have a very enthusiastic partner. The center has a gorgeous pool, nice equipment, and a variety of classes - hopefully it will become part of our routine here and maybe we will make friends there too (friends? what a concept!).

1 comment:

Joanna & Dave said...

The political situation there has been back in the news a little bit here in the States, but it's definitely lost momentum now that it's "old news." Too bad it sounds like THIS is when the people of Kenya need an international voice more than ever! In a way, you are doing that with this blog, so thanks for keeping us current and aware.