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From Suspension of Talks to Fragile Success

Inter Press Service (Johannesburg)NEWS
28 February 2008
Posted to the web 29 February 2008
By Kwamboka Oyaro

The signing of a power-sharing agreement to end the political crisis in Kenya has elicited a variety of reactions.

"It is a historical moment for Kenyans and we need to celebrate," political analyst Grace Mbugua told IPS.

"There have been hurdles and the two leaders were actually the impediment to the talks," she added, in reference to head of state Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, who have been locked in a dispute over the Dec. 27 presidential polls. Odinga claims that Kabaki rigged the vote to earn a second term in office, while international observers have expressed concern about the conduct of both sides during the ballot.

"But, since they have agreed, I am optimistic that the chaos will end and will never come up again," Mbugua said.

Motorists in the capital, Nairobi, hooted to express their appreciation of the deal, which came after more than a month of talks and was broadcast live. A number of people in Harambee Avenue, opposite the president's office, sang -- becoming the target of tear gas fired by police -- while in Odinga's western stronghold of Kisumu people immediately took to the streets to celebrate the accord between the opposition Orange Democratic Movement and Kibaki's Party of National Unity.

Other observers were more circumspect, emphasising that implementation of the deal was likely to be a delicate matter, and that many obstacles still had to be overcome in resolving the crisis.

The agreement, initialed Thursday in Nairobi, provides for the creation of a prime minister's post with "authority to coordinate and supervise the execution of the functions and affairs" of government. The position must be filled by an elected legislator who is parliamentary leader of the largest party in the National Assembly -- or of a coalition, in the event that the largest party does not constitute a majority.

Under these terms, Odinga will become Kenya's new prime minister.

Posts for two deputy prime ministers have also been created. The ODM and PNU will each be allowed to nominate someone from the National Assembly to one of these positions.

The prime minister and his deputies can only be removed from office through a motion of no confidence passed by majority vote in parliament.

Other aspects of the arrangement include a stipulation that the coalition government "will at all times take into account the principle of portfolio balance" and reflect the "relative parliamentary strength" of the coalition partners.

The deal is to be integrated in the constitution, which currently does not allow for a prime minister. Kenya's new joint government will only be disbanded if the current legislature is dissolved, if parties agree to the dissolution in writing, or upon the withdrawal of one of the coalition partners.

Former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan, who has been mediating in the talks, said that the PNU and ODM had agreed to take the agreement to parliament as soon as possible. It is expected to be put into effect through the 'National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008'.

Talks put on hold
The deal came after an exasperated Annan suspended talks on Tuesday, citing lack of progress. Negotiators from the two sides had reportedly deadlocked on a number of issues, including the extent of power that the new prime minister should exercise.

The PNU is said to have wanted a prime minister with limited powers -- and the ODM a head of government with considerable clout. To date, executive power has been vested in the presidency.

The erstwhile U.N. head then bypassed negotiators to start direct talks with Kibaki and Odinga, to give discussions new impetus.

"In all negotiations there is give and take. To those who feel their leaders gave too much I must say compromise was necessary for the healing of this nation," Annan said, Thursday.

For their part, Kibaki and Odinga struck a conciliatory note.

"My government will fully support the agreements reached until we realise what we have set out to," the president said.

Odinga indicated that he was committed to the agreement, noting that Kenya now had an opportunity to find "a firm foundation for a united country."

Dignitaries present at the signing included Tanzanian President and African Union chair Jakaya Kikwete, who joined negotiators Tuesday to help find a solution to the impasse.

"At long last you have an agreement to deal with the historical accident that occurred in December. It can now become a thing of the past," he said, urging leaders to ensure implementation of the accord. [??!!]

Former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa and leading children's rights activist Graca Machel have also assisted in the mediation effort.

Root causes
Annan said his team would resume talks Friday on ways of addressing poverty, constitutional change and land reform: "These issues underlie the tragic events that followed the December 27 elections and must be addressed once and for all."

The difficulties are also acknowledged in the preamble to the power-sharing accord, which notes that "The crisis triggered by the 2007 disputed presidential election has brought to the surface deep-seated and long-standing divisions within Kenyan society. If left unaddressed, these divisions threaten the very existence of Kenya as a unified country."

More than 1,000 people have been killed and up to 600,000 displaced in clashes sparked by the controversial polls, which have caused ethnic tensions in the East African nation to flare.

Kibaki is a member of the Kikuyu, Kenya's largest tribe, while Odinga is a Luo. The Kikuyu have considerable political and economic influence in this multi-ethnic country, making them a target of resentment on the part of other tribal groups.

The post-election violence has also dealt a blow to the economy, which grew at a brisk rate during Kibaki's 2002-2007 term, even though corruption continued to flourish in Kenya.

Hovering over Thursday's events was the spectre of an earlier, failed agreement between Kibaki and Odinga.

This deal, reached by the leaders ahead of the 2002 polls, was to have made Odinga prime minister in exchange for his support of the National Rainbow Coalition, which Kibaki led to victory. However, the agreement crumbled amidst increasing acrimony between the two men.

"Having witnessed another agreement just before the 2002 elections between the same leaders which was trashed soon after winning, I think now they must keep the public in the know about the progress," said Mbugua. "For sure, this will reduce the tension that has been building up in the country."

Copyright © 2008 Inter Press Service. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (

Google News Alert for: Kenya
2/29 - noon

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Google News Alert for: Kenya
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And now the hard part begins in Kenya
Toronto Star - Ontario, Canada
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While tensions were visibly soothed once Kibaki and Odinga signed the deal, it remains to be seen whether the promises made will be kept and if Kenya – torn apart since the disputed Dec. 27 election – can return to its former prospering self.

"I have faith in the agreement, but not in Kibaki's government," said Ezekiel Isanda, who works for a non-governmental organization and lives in Kibera, one of Africa's largest slums.
"Let this agreement serve Kenyans and not their politicians' stomachs."

Observers welcomed the deal but warned that some of Kenya's power-hungry politicians may stand in the way of its full implementation.

"If (politicians) start showing a unity of purpose and togetherness, this thing might hold," said Maina Kiai, chair of the state-funded but independent Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.

Paul Waweru, 56, among 19,000 people living in a camp in the western town of Eldoret, said "the deal between Raila and Kibaki will help to cool down the situation but I doubt if it will enable us to get back to our homes."

Diana Murugi, 72, whose two sons were killed in the bloodshed, said the deal was meaningless.
"The coalition is about Kibaki, Raila and the big men," she said. "What about those of us here in the camp? How will I reconcile with people who killed my sons? It is impossible, even if Kibaki and Raila are in the same government.''

The deal was a major breakthrough for mediator Kofi Annan, who had suspended stalled negotiations on Tuesday in frustration and demanded the two leaders end the standoff themselves.

Kibaki and Odinga must try to repair the lives of more than a half-million people who have been displaced from their homes and require food, water and medical care. Kenya's Red Cross says it knows of at least 500 youngsters who were separated from their families.

There is also the matter of restoring one of Africa's most promising economies. Kenya, one of the most prosperous and tourist-friendly countries in Africa, has seen up to $1 billion in losses linked to the turmoil.
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Kenya Muslims back protests over Obama picture
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By Jeffrey Gettleman NAIROBI, Kenya: Kenya's rival leaders broke their tense standoff on Thursday, agreeing to share power in a deal that may end the ...
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Kenya: Deal Done - Washington,USA
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The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga Thursday described the signing of the deal as historic moment for Kenya. Mr Odinga said for the ...
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Coming just a fortnight after Tusker FC were dismissed from the Africa Champions League, after the Kenya Football Federation’s failure to pay a Sh450,000 ...
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This as-it-happens Google Alert is brought to you by Google.

Beautiful story of peacebuilding across lines of ethnicity:

KENYA: Friends united

Damaris and Nancy were friends and neighbours in Nairobi's Mathare slum before Kenya was plunged into a post-election crisis in late December 2007. They have remained friends despite their different ethnic backgrounds and are now among hundreds of people internally displaced at the Huruma chief's camp near Mathare.

Nancy Wanjiru is a Kikuyu while Damaris Angulu is Luhya. Their communities took opposing stands in the aftermath of the general elections held on 27 December.

"When I reached the Air Force compound on 3 January after our home was looted and burnt, it was Damaris who welcomed me, she shared her mattress with me," Wanjiru told IRIN on 27 February. "Since we were moved to the Huruma chief's camp, Damaris has been there for me, she is like my mother." Their friendship illustrates how ethnicity has ceased to be a key issue in the face of hardship.

Full report

KENYA: Healing the children

One of the greatest challenges following the post-election violence in Kenya is to restore the physical and mental wellbeing of 150,000 displaced children, many of whom have witnessed atrocities and lost contact, in many cases permanently, with their families, humanitarian workers told IRIN.

"The future of Kenya is very dark because the children we are bringing up, the things they saw, we don't know how those things are going to [affect] their lives," said James Riako, a volunteer counsellor with the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), working in a transit camp for displaced people in the grounds of St Stephen's Cathedral in Kisumu, the capital of Nyanza Province in western Kenya.

"The children are harbouring a lot. They were drawing pictures for us. One child said: 'Somebody came and killed my parents when I was there. We were burnt and I am the only one who survived.' Another one could not talk.

Full report

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