News 2008


Kenyan opposition leader says France could serve as model for new power sharing deal

The Associated Press

March 1, 2008

NAIROBI, Kenya: Kenya's opposition leader said on Saturday that France can serve as a model for Kenya because its political system has allowed rival political parties to work together in government.

There are doubts about how well Raila Odinga, who leads the opposition Orange Democratic Movement, can work with President Mwai Kibaki under a power-sharing deal the bitter rivals signed Thursday.

Odinga accused Kibaki of stealing a Dec. 27 vote, and their dispute sparked fighting that killed more than 1,000 people and tarnished the reputation of this once-stable East African nation.

"This is not the only situation where you have power sharing ... in the French constitution, there is what is called cohabitation," Odinga told The Associated Press. "And you cohabit, and there are ways of resolving disagreements or misunderstanding by way of dialogue, and it works."

Odinga said that as prime minister he will constantly consult with Kibaki to ensure the government works smoothly.

"I will be discussing first with the president before I implement (policies) and then, as the agreement says, I will also be reporting to the Cabinet," said Odinga.

The bitterness between Odinga and Kibaki runs deep, however. Both men have been lashing out at each other since the election. They have traded accusations about inciting violence, stealing the vote, and destroying the nation.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who mediated their agreement, had to prompt Kibaki and Odinga to shake hands Thursday as the cameras rolled.

Still, a deal was signed, and opposition supporters have been celebrating across towns and cities in opposition strongholds since the signing.

Annan said in a statement he will be leaving Kenya Sunday to attend a meeting in Uganda and later go to Geneva, but he is confident talks will progress well. He said former Nigerian foreign affairs minister Olu Adeniji will be the chief mediator in his absence.

"It is clear that there is a fresh commitment to this process and I am convinced that these talks will now go smoothly and rapidly," Annan said.

Earlier Saturday, Annan briefed African and European diplomats, and religious leaders about the Thursday deal and the negotiations leading to that agreement.

Mozambican Ambassador Marcos Namashullia said Annan had assured the African ambassadors, the coalition envisaged under the deal would last.

"We hope that it will last," Namashullia told journalists, speaking on behalf of the African diplomats.

Annan later encouraged Christian, Hindu and Muslim leaders to reach out to all citizens and ensure that the deal is implemented.

"Maintain the pressure. Maintain your interest and you'll be surprised that when you do that, how politicians miraculously find the courage to do the right thing," said Annan. "So stay engaged and demand results."

Late Friday, the U.N. Security Council welcomed the new power-sharing agreement in Kenya and urged Kibaki and Odinga to implement it "in full and without delay."

In a statement issued by the current president, Panama's U.N. Ambassador Ricardo Arias, the council urged Kenyan leaders "to foster reconciliation, guarantee human rights and address the longer-term issues which the crisis has brought to the forefront."

Council members also backed efforts to address the widespread violence, including ethnically motivated attacks, and reiterated that those responsible must be brought to justice.

Much of the bloodshed pitted ethnic groups, such as Odinga's Luo tribe, against Kibaki's Kikuyu people, long resented for their domination of the economy and politics. Politicians have been accused of fomenting violence. Now the uneasy coalition will have to work together to disarm militia groups.