Making Power Sharing Work: Kenya’s Grand Coalition Cabinet, 2008–2013


Following Kenya’s disputed 2007 presidential election, fighting broke out between supporters of incumbent president Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga. Triggered by the announcement that Kibaki had retained the presidency, the violence ultimately claimed more than 1,200 lives and displaced 350,000 people. A February 2008 power-sharing agreement between the two leaders helped restore order, but finding a way to govern together in a new unity cabinet posed a daunting challenge. Under the terms negotiated, the country would have both a president and a prime minister until either the dissolution of parliament, a formal withdrawal by either party from the agreement, or the passage of a referendum on a new constitution. The agreement further stipulated that each party would have half the ministerial portfolios. Leaders from the cabinet secretariat and the new prime minister’s office worked to forge policy consensus, coordinate, and encourage ministries to focus on implementation. The leaders introduced a new interagency committee system, teamed ministers of one party with deputy ministers from the other, clarified practices for preparing policy documents, and introduced performance contracts. Independent monitoring, an internationally mediated dialogue to help resolve disputes, and avenues for back- channel communication encouraged compromise between the two sides and eased tensions when discord threatened to derail the work of the executive. Despite the odds firmly stacked against it, Kenya’s Grand Coalition cabinet was largely able to govern according to a unified policy agenda. As a result, the coalition managed to implement some of the important reforms stipulated under the power-sharing deal, including the adoption of a new constitution. However, the level of political corruption remained high.


Leon Schreiber drafted this case based on interviews conducted in Nairobi, Kenya in September 2015. Case published March 2016.

This series highlights the governance challenges inherent in power sharing arrangements, profiles adaptations that eased these challenges, and offers ideas about adaptations.

government transition
democratic transition
power sharing
unity government
caretaker government
coalition cabinet
opposition parties
Focus Area(s)
Centers of Government
Power Sharing
Critical Tasks
Building inter-agency cooperation
Building trust
Election schedules
Inter-ministerial coordination
Peace councils
Political liaison
Priority setting
Securing elections
Core Challenge
Credibility (trust)
Dispute resolution (compliance)
Country of Reform
Case Studies
Leon Schreiber