Second Kenyan minister defects to opposition

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NAIROBI, Oct 12 (Reuters) A second Kenyan cabinet minister has defected to the opposition after President Mwai Kibaki fell behind in opinion polls ahead of elections expected in December, local media said today.

Minister for East African Cooperation John Koech said he would join the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), whose leader Raila Odinga has surged ahead of Kibaki according to surveys.

''My main reason for not supporting President Kibaki - who is a good man and very helpful - is that people around him do not understand the plight of many Kenyans as they secure plum jobs and financial power in a government they did not fight to bring to power,'' Koech told the Daily Nation newspaper.

His move follows the defection last Saturday by former health minister Charity Ngilu, also to Odinga's ODM.

Kibaki sacked Ngilu after she called Odinga ''the second Mandela of Africa,'' at an opposition rally.

Kibaki's government has been lauded for revamping the economy and introducing free primary education, but the opposition says he has fanned tribalism and corruption.

The president is expected to dissolve parliament soon, heralding elections in December.


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