News 2008


Kenya's political leaders seek to heal wounds

Tue 4 Mar 2008

By Katie Nguyen

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya's political leaders are intent on healing wounds and uniting a country torn apart by post-election violence, opposition leader Raila Odinga said on Tuesday.

"We want to work as one team to unite Kenya. We want to heal those wounds that emerged after the elections," Odinga told reporters after meeting President Mwai Kibaki for the first time since they signed a power-sharing pact five days ago.

Under the agreement to end two months of political turmoil, parliament is due to pass a constitutional amendment to allow Odinga to become prime minister in a newly-created post.

Odinga said his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) would discuss how to carve up the cabinet with Kibaki's Party of National Unity after Thursday's parliamentary session.

Kibaki left the meeting without commenting, and his office later issued a statement saying the two men had agreed to ensure the deal would be implemented fully.

Kenyans have welcomed the move to end of one the country's bloodiest moments since independence in 1963. More than 1,000 people were killed and 300,000 uprooted in tribally-tinged violence triggered by Kibaki's disputed re-election in December.

"The president and the ODM leader also agreed to work together towards uniting all Kenyans and accelerating the healing process by holding meetings with different communities with a view to ensuring that wananchi (the people) live together peacefully," the statement added.


Dorothy Angote, Kenya's vice minister for justice and constitutional affairs, said the agreement signed last Friday between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga was a "triumph for dialogue and diplomacy and also for peace and reconciliation".

It sought to move Kenya forward, "begin the healing and reconciliation process... address the root causes of the conflict, and to create a more secure country for all Kenyans," she said in Geneva.

Angote was addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council whose 47 member states are holding a four-week meeting in Geneva to examine abuses worldwide.

A government-funded rights group called on Kibaki and Odinga to visit the worst-affected areas together to foster national reconciliation after clashes that shattered Kenya's image as a relatively stable haven in a conflict-ridden region.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) also said it would carry out an investigation into the violence, with its findings due to be released later this month.

Despite the progress made, analysts say there is still much more to be done to resolve deep grievances over the distribution of land, wealth and power that fuelled the post-election unrest.

Negotiators from both sides raised the prospect of another vote -- a referendum on a new constitution, which most Kenyans believe is the only way to properly address such issues.

Though violence has abated in most of the country, land clashes flared on Monday in the Mount Elgon region close to the border with Uganda.

Private television station KTN said security forces were deployed to the area on Tuesday as helicopters whirred above after 12 people were killed in an attack blamed on militias.