updated 12/12/2005 8:20:39 AM ET 2005-12-12T13:20:39

One-time political allies of Kenya’s president refused to join his government Thursday amid corruption scandals and fallout from voter rejection of a constitution he had backed.

At least three people rejected President Mwai Kibaki’s appointments to his 29-member Cabinet, isolating him and moving his administration closer to a potential crisis. Kenyan TV stations reported that another 13 out of 47 proposed deputy ministers had said that they too were declining posts.

It was the first time since Kenya’s independence from Britain in 1963 that politicians have rejected Cabinet or government positions soon after they were announced.

No concensus
Most of the politicians who rejected their appointments said the once-popular president did not consult their parties or party leaders as he shaped his new Cabinet. They accused Kibaki of failing to lead by consensus and respect the coalition that brought him to power.

Charity Ngilu, Kenya’s first female presidential candidate, said she was not accepting her Cabinet post. She said her National Party of Kenya, a member of Kibaki’s National Rainbow Coalition, had asked her to first seek national consensus on how Kenya should move forward after a bitter constitutional referendum that divided the country along ethnic lines and led to the deaths of seven people in clashes with police.

“It will be very difficult to deliver services when there is so much hostility within and outside government,” Ngilu said at a news conference.

The draft charter would have created a prime minister appointed by the president, strengthened civil rights and decentralized the government. The Nov. 21 constitutional referendum was cast by both supporters and critics as a vote of confidence on Kibaki two years before the next presidential race. About 57 percent of voters rejected it.

Corruption scandals
Kibaki has also been hurt by corruption scandals that include allegations of illegal deals that benefited his allies in the security ministry and other government departments. He has not been personally implicated.

The president said he wanted a Cabinet that “works as a team and pulls together in the same direction” to meet his goals of achieving higher economic growth for Kenya and creating more jobs.

In forming it, he dropped a close ally, Chris Murungaru, whom Britain and the United States have barred for alleged corruption.

Corruption charges have haunted Murungaru since allegations became public about irregularities in the Kibaki administration’s handling of security contracts. Murungaru was the national security minister from January 2003 to February 2005, when he was demoted to the transport ministry.

Kibaki came to power in 2002 on an anti-corruption platform, but critics now question his commitment to dealing with high-level corruption within his administration.

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