Kenya negotiations resume; parliament to debate power sharing accord

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Opposition and government negotiators in Kenya resumed talks on Friday, focusing on long-term aspects of the country's crisis. The talks received a boost after the leaders of the government and opposition reached a power sharing agreement.

After breaking the deadlock over power sharing, negotiators for the Kenyan government and opposition began to focus on resolving what are seen as long-term solutions to Kenya's crisis, namely constitutional reform, land distribution and poverty.

The talks took on a new vitality after President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga signed a power sharing accord in the presence of chief mediator Kofi Annan, Chairman of the African Union Jakaya Kikwete and the Nairobi diplomatic corps.

Mr. Kibaki said he would convene parliament next Thursday to begin debate on the constitutional amendments needed to implement the accord. The speaker of parliament, Kenneth Marende, said he does not anticipate any difficulties in passing the constitutional changes.

"There must be a bill prepared by the government, a bill which will then be tabled in parliament," said Marende. "After it is tabled in parliament it will then be moved in the normal manner and it will be debated and voted for."

Opposition parliament member Ababu Namwamba noted that the Kenyan constitution currently allows parliament to change the constitution with a two-thirds majority vote. He said this should not be difficult to muster given the broad support for the agreement.

"The main obstacle will be political brinkmanship and hardliners that may crop up," said Namwamba. "But otherwise, if every side maintains the goodwill that has been demonstrated by the two principals, then I do not foresee any difficulty in the implementation of this deal."

The agreement calls for the creation of the post of prime minister who will supervise the ministries and can only be dismissed by a majority vote in parliament. Mr. Odinga is expected to assume this post.

The accord also calls for the distribution of ministerial posts according to the relative strength of each party in parliament.

The African Union, Britain, and the United States welcomed the agreement saying they hope it will bring peace and reconciliation to the country.

Kenyans reacted with spontaneous street celebrations in some cities, although some cautioned that similar deals in previous years ended up in failure.

One thousand people were killed and several hundred thousand were displaced by violence that erupted after Mr. Kibaki was declared the winner of a presidential election which the opposition says was rigged.


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