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Kenya 'faces constitutional crisis'

Kenya's prime minister has warned that Kenya faces a constitutional crisis after the president nominated individuals to top judicial, legal and financial posts without consulting him as required by law.

Prime minister Raila Odinga told journalists he was shocked to hear President Mwai Kibaki had announced nominees for chief justice, top prosecutor, attorney general and budget chief.

"Without a doubt this decision has thrown the country into a major constitutional crisis and may be the beginning of the end in respect of the implementation of the reform agenda if not corrected and reversed," Mr Odinga said.

He called on the president to withdraw the nominations or his party will pursue measures to block them, including legal ones.

The nominations were made on the eve of Mr Kibaki's trip to neighbouring Ethiopia, where the African Union (AU) is holding a regular summit.

At the summit, Mr Kibaki is expected to follow up on a lobbying mission the vice president led in recent weeks to seek the support of several African countries for a request to defer the cases of six prominent Kenyans at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Mr Kibaki's supporters argue a new constitution passed in August lays out far-reaching changes to the judiciary to be implemented within a year that will see Kenya able to handle the ICC cases.

Mr Kibaki's supporters want the AU to lobby the UN Security Council to pass a resolution in favour of deferring the Kenyan cases. The Security Council is the only body under international law that can request a 12-month deferral on an ICC case. Such a request can be renewed once.

Mr Odinga has said that the Cabinet has not discussed such a move. He argued that Kenya is better off applying to the ICC directly, but only after having implemented genuine reforms in the judiciary.

In December, ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo asked judges to charge a deputy prime minister, the secretary to the Cabinet, two former Cabinet ministers, a former police chief and a prominent radio journalist with crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and torture. The judges are expected to make their decision in the coming months.

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