March 11, 2008
Kenya's parliament is to begin debating legislation that would bring into force a deal designed to end post-election violence.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga signed the agreement last month.
It provides for Mr Odinga to enter the government as the prime minister, as well as creating posts for two deputy prime ministers.
But parties have clashed over how much authority Mr Odinga will actually have.
President Kibaki claimed victory in presidential elections on 27 December, but Mr Odinga said the vote was rigged.
The ethnic violence that broke out following the poll left at least 1,500 people dead.
An estimated 600,000 others were forced to flee their homes.
When President Kibaki opened parliament on Thursday, he said that last month's deal would lay the foundations for peace and stability.
There are four bills awaiting discussion:
- The national accord and reconciliation bill, which sets out the details of the power-sharing deal
- The constitutional amendment bill, which makes the necessary changes to the country's constitution
- A bill establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the recent violence and longer-term injustices
- An ethnic relations bill aimed at promoting tribal tolerance in Kenya.
The government has said that President Kibaki will appoint the cabinet, and that the prime minister will work to an agenda set by the president.
But Mr Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement has insisted that appointments will be made by both men.
In a sign of continuing tensions, the ODM criticised a statement made on Monday by the head of the civil service, Francis Muthaura, outlining the structure of the coalition.
The ODM said the statement was "causing alarm" and "could pose a threat to the accord".
ODM spokesman Salim Lone said discussions over the prime minister's exact role and the distribution of cabinet seats were ongoing.
Meanwhile, a huge military operation is continuing targeting a militia which has killed some 500 people in a land dispute over the past 18 months.
The army is using heavy artillery, hundreds of troops and helicopter gunships, in the Mount Elgon forests near the border with Uganda.
They are targeting the Sabaot Land Defence Forces (SLDF) which was blamed for the killing of 12 people last week.
The militia has also been accused of links to recent political violence.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/03/11 07:22:56 GMT
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Fear Grips Residents As Army Mounts Air Attacks
The East African Standard (Nairobi)
11 March 2008 Posted to the web 10 March 2008
By Allan Kisia
The Government has mounted the strongest offensive against the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) militia.
After a four-month mobilisation, according to security sources, the army, General Service Unit and paramilitary police officers landed in Mt Elgon on Sunday night.
Residents of Cheptais said helicopters started firing at 5am on Monday. "We heard explosions as helicopters hovered in the air. We are shocked," said Pastor Joseph Kipnusu.
Hundreds of families fled Kopsiro and Cheptais divisions in fear.
Most activities, including learning in some schools in Cheptais, were paralysed.
Ms Phoebe Masai, a teacher at Bukoloi Primary School, said her colleagues and pupils ran away following the aerial attacks.
The Kenya Red Cross Society officials reported that one person was taken to Lugulu Mission Hospital with injuries.
Hundreds of heavily armed military officers are combing homesteads in search of SLDF members.
The ragtag army is said to have killed 546 people and displaced more than 40,000 residents in the past 18 months.
The fighting, which was sparked by controversy over allocations at Chebyuk Settlement Scheme, has taken a new dimension.
SLDF has spread its raids to Trans Nzoia and Bungoma districts.
When The Standard visited Kopsiro, Cheptoror and Cheptonon, market centres and homes were deserted.
"Everyone is on the run. People cannot wait for the security personnel because they are usually ruthless," said a resident.
Western PC, Mr Abdul Mwasserrah, announced a night curfew to make the operation effective.
"There should be no movement between 6.30pm and 6.30am," he said.
But local MP, Mr Fred Kapondi, accused the Government of harassing residents.
"Helicopters have bombed banks of Lwakhakha and Cheptais rivers. They should concentrate on Mt Elgon Forest," he said.
Kapondi claimed hundreds of youths had been arrested and taken to an undisclosed destination.
"We fear there might be killings. This is an affront to peaceful civilians. I'll take up the matter with the Internal Security minister, Prof George Saitoti," he said.
Kapondi said the Government should adhere to international human rights codes to ensure minimal suffering.
The Local county council vice-chairman, Councillor Benson Cheskak, said the operation was uncalled for.
He said the Government knew where the militia were hiding.
Copyright © 2008 The East African Standard.
All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).
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