Thursday, March 20, 2008

Today's Headlines - Thurs 3/20/2008

Kenya relieved after parliament backs power-sharing deal - AFP

17 hours ago

NAIROBI (AFP) — Kenyan media on Wednesday welcomed parliament's ratification of a deal aimed at ending deadly political turmoil while new violence rocked some regions.

A rare conciliatory mood marked Tuesday's parliamentary session in which lawmakers backed the power-sharing deal reached on February 28 but warned that land and ethnic disputes need urgent attention.

The problems were highlighted by the deaths of eight people in East Pokot district as the parliament session went ahead.

Ethnic Turkana cattle rustlers killed eight Pokot rivals and stole around 1,000 animals late Tuesday, local police commander Peter Njenga said.

"The Turkana were armed with rifles and shot six people who died on the spot, and two others shot by arrows died on their way to hospital," Njenga said.

The deaths were not directly linked to the disputed December 27 elections which set off unrest in the east African nation that has left 1,500 dead, but the political crisis has exacerbated many local feuds.

The dire economic impact of two months of tribal killings and police raids has also led to increased crime and heightened tensions between rival communities of herders and farmers.

South African Judge Johann Christiaan Kriegler arrived in Kenya on Wednesday to head a six-member independent panel to probe the disputed polls.

The team, which includes two experts from Argentina and Tanzania and four others from Kenya, will probe election officials and observers as well as analyse the whole voting exercise, officials said.

The panel will start working after a swearing-in by Kenya's chief justice on Thursday, officials added.

While negotiators for President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga have barely started hammering out the deal's fine print, parliament unanimously approved the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill and the National Accord and Reconciliation Bill.

The bill, which was signed into law by Kibaki, created the post of a prime minister -- slated for Odinga -- and two deputy prime ministers in a coalition government.

Kenyan newspapers described the parliament vote as historic, but warned of tough times when the country starts tackling deeper constitutional changes.

"The most important lesson was the realisation that the problems afflicting this country require a constitutional solution, because the current governance, economic and social structures were untenable in a multi-ethnic and multi-party state," the Daily Nation said in an editorial.

Meanwhile, security forces searched for a fugitive militia chief who called for a halt to military operations in the restive northwestern Mount Elgon region during an interview with a radio station.

Police were searching for John Kanai, commander of the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF), a militia which has been fighting the government over land claims, spokesman Eric Kiraithe said.

"It is just a matter of time, we will get him.... The government is determined to restore law and order in Mount Elgon," Kiraithe said.

In an interview with West FM on Tuesday, Kanai accused the government of bombing civilians in the area, where several hundred people have been killed and 66,000 displaced by bloody clashes since December 2006.

Hundreds of troops backed by helicopters are sweeping the area in a bid to flush out the SLDF. At least eight people have been killed and hundreds arrested since the latest operation was launched on March 9.

"The security officers are looking for something they cannot find. Why are they hurting civilians?" the Standard newspaper quoted Kanai telling the radio station, based in the western town of Bungoma.

Kanai, who is on the police's most wanted list, said the operation had disrupted farming and has been followed by insecurity and inter-tribe clashes.

Police stormed the radio station after the interview in search of Kanai's telephone contact, the Standard reported.

Government forces are also tracking two other militia groups: the Political Revenge Movement (PRM) and the Moorland Defence Force, a militia formed by the Ogiek tribe to counter the SLDF.


Links to more stories:

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