KISUMU, Kenya – In a severe setback for U.S.-backed peace efforts in Kenya, President Mwai Kibaki filled key positions Tuesday in a new government that excluded members of the powerful opposition party, which claims that he stole last month’s election.
Ignoring the explicit request of the Bush administration, Kibaki handed 17 influential Cabinet positions to allies, who finished behind his party in an election last month that foreign observers say was deeply flawed.
The surprise announcement immediately reignited protests in the western city of Kisumu, a stronghold of opposition leader Raila Odinga.
“No Raila, no peace!” chanted dozens of young Odinga supporters, who took to Kisumu’s streets after nightfall, erecting roadblocks and hurling stones at passing cars, witnesses said.
Hundreds already have died in the election aftermath as opposition supporters targeted Kikuyus and other ethnic groups seen to be loyal to Kibaki. U.S. and European diplomats have been applying pressure on the two rivals to reach a political settlement that would end the fighting, which has shattered Kenya’s reputation as a model African democracy.
There was no immediate U.S. reaction Tuesday. But diplomats said that Kibaki’s announcement – including his choice for vice president, Kalonzo Musyoka, who finished a distant third in the presidential race – was a slap in the face to Odinga and to the internationally backed mediation efforts.