Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Breaking News - Parliament backs deal Tues 3/19/2008

Kenya's parliament backs power-sharing deal - Reuters Alertnet

18 Mar 2008 18:04:59 GMT
Source: Reuters
(Adds background)

By C. Bryson Hull and Wangui Kanina

NAIROBI, March 18 (Reuters) - Kenya's parliament on Tuesday unanimously approved a power-sharing deal designed to end the post-election crisis that killed at least 1,000 people in the east African country.

Legislators passed the legal changes needed for a coalition government in which President Mwai Kibaki can bring in rival Raila Odinga as prime minister following their agreement last month.

Investors in Kenya's economy -- knocked hard by the crisis but still seen as being among Africa's most promising -- are keenly watching whether the deal will go through smoothly.

Violence erupted after Odinga accused Kibaki of stealing the December election. In addition to the killings, at least 300,000 people were left homeless.

Odinga's party and Kibaki's coalition will each name a deputy prime minister. The cabinet will also be split evenly between both sides to form a unity government. It was not immediately clear when that would happen.

The new administration must then tackle the bigger task of changing Kenya's constitution within 12 months to address underlying issues of power, inequality and land which the eruption of political violence laid bare.

"Where we have come to now is a joy," Kibaki told parliament before Tuesday's vote, making a rare appearance in his capacity as a legislator.

"We are genuinely seeking a solution to our problem. I am quite sure myself that we have found an answer."

Odinga also addressed the chamber before the vote:

"We know why we are where we are, but let us get out of this place. We need to feel part and parcel of one and the same. Let us now fuse together as one people who want to do something for the people of Kenya," he said to loud applause.

Matters of land, power and inequality had cropped up during violence in earlier elections, but never on the scale they did this time around -- dealing a big setback to an economy powered by tourism, trade and agriculture.

Parliament has come under widespread criticism from Kenyans in the past.

Legislators have often failed to make the quorum needed for decisions to be taken despite working two days in each week and only 26 weeks a year. With salaries on par with U.S. senators and home loans plus generous car allowances, members of parliament are in the ranks of Kenya's rich elite.

(Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

AlertNet news is provided by

FACTBOX-What next for Kenya's power-sharing deal?

18 Mar 2008 13:30:50 GMT
Source: Reuters

March 18 (Reuters) - Kenya's parliament on Tuesday discussed the legislation needed to enshrine a power-sharing pact between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to end the post-election crisis.

Below are answers to some questions about what happens next with the deal to create a unity government tasked with carrying out reconciliation and overhauling Kenya's constitution to prevent similar crises:

Kenya's parliament must ratify the agreement through passage of a law and a constitutional amendment to put it into the existing charter.

The National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008 will establish the office of a prime minister and two deputies and their powers. The act will also establish power sharing, based on a political party's relative strength in parliament, through the apportionment of cabinet posts.

The Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2008, requiring a two-thirds majority (144 of 216 legislators), will amend the constitution so that the prime minister and his deputies will be members of the cabinet.
Both sides agreed to pass the constitutional amendment first and then tackle the bill -- which is likely to involve a lot more debate.

In public, both sides say they are behind the deal and most expect swift passage despite a lot of backroom wrangling and the presence of hardliners in both camps
. Although Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party has the most members, Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU) and affiliate parties have almost as many seats taken together.

A new prime minister's post, along with two deputies, will be created. Odinga, as leader of the party with the most seats in parliament, will take the premiership.
The prime minister will have "the authority to coordinate and supervise the execution of the functions and affairs of the government", the deal says, but exactly what that means will be part of the debate.

Odinga would become Kenya's second prime minister -- founding president Jomo Kenyatta was premier for a brief time after independence in 1963, until his post was changed to president. ODM and Kibaki's side will each nominate one deputy prime minister.

When the cabinet is formed, it must reflect the parties' strength in parliament and the apportionment of key portfolios must be balanced, the deal says. Political wrangling and cutthroat deal-making have long been a feature of Kenyan politics, but already some key figures have publicly given up their aspirations for the deputy prime minister slots -- a sign of the conciliatory mood.

Passing the first part of the deal is the easy part for parliament. Next, the legislators must turn toward amending Kenya's constitution within a year. Since the early 1990s, Kenyans have been calling for changes to the 45-year-old document.

ODM defeated a 2005 draft backed by Kibaki, and many expect a lot of acrimonious debate over the new one. The changes are supposed to address issues of land, inequality, and power that most Kenyans believe the current constitution encourages by placing so much power in the presidency.

The deal says the coalition can be broken three ways -- if parliament is dissolved, the parties agree to it in writing or one party withdraws. Much still depends on good faith on both sides.

(Writing by Bryson Hull; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

No comments: