News 2008


Kenya to Heal Wounds & Rebuild

A Truth and Reconciliation-style body looks set to examine and redress the injustices that have characterized Kenya’s heterogeneous society for decades.



Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki and opposition chief Raila Odinga on Tuesday [4 March 2008] agreed to unite and heal the nation that was nearly destroyed by deadly post-election violence, the presidency said.

The pair held talks in the president's downtown office for the first time since last Thursday's [28 February 2008] signing of a power-sharing accord that ended two months of bloody turmoil.

They "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 (citizens) live together peacefully," Kibaki's office said in a statement.

Under the accord, which has been welcomed by Kenyans after post-electoral bloodshed, Odinga is set to become the east African country's prime minister, once parliament passes the power-sharing deal into law.

Odinga's claim that Kibaki stole a December 27 [2007] presidential poll touched off widespread violence that took on a tribal nature, claimed at least 1,500 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

The two leaders "agreed to ensure that the agreement they signed last week is implemented fully for the benefit of all Kenyans" and also "discussed how their two parties will relate and work together in the coalition government," the statement added.

In Geneva, United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon pressed the Kenyan leaders to implement the accord, mediated by his predecessor Kofi Annan.

"His role has brought not only peace and stability in Kenya but also the whole region," he said.

"We need to continue to be engaged in the process," Ban added, saying that the UN will "fully stand behind" Annan's continuing engagement.

Meanwhile, rival negotiators agreed to create a South Africa-style Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, a Commission of Inquiry on Post-Election Violence and another committee to look into the hotly contested 2007 polls.

Former Nigerian foreign minister Oluyemi Adeniji, who replaced Annan as chief mediator, said he was "delighted" with the progress and noted "it augurs well for future cooperation within a coalition government."

The negotiations, which adjourned to Tuesday next week [11 March 2008], focus on reforms to address historical injustices that touch on electoral, institutional, constitutional and judicial issues, as well as land reforms at the heart of the tribal unrest.

Other issues include measures to address poverty, unemployment, inequity and corruption, and installing a more transparent government.

A separate panel is preparing a bill on the creation of the post of prime minister in a nation that has usually had a powerful presidency to be presented to parliament when it reconvenes on Thursday [6 March 2008].

The government lawmakers have agreed to support the bill and entrench it in the constitution while opposition MPs will meet on Wednesday [12 March 2008] to make a similar move.

Meanwhile, police vowed to take action after 15 people were [killed] on Monday [3 March 2008] in the Rift Valley, the first major act of violence since Kibaki and Odinga signed the accord.

"We are saddened by these unwarranted deaths of civilians who had just returned home from (displaced people's) camps," police spokesman Eric Kiraithe told AFP.

"But our officers are currently combing the ground, looking for the attackers. Let them be warned that these acts of brutality must come to an end ..."

Police blamed the attack on the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF), a militia group demanding nullification of a government settlement scheme which it deems unfair because it displaced the small Sabaot tribes from their ancestral land.

The post-poll crisis, which has battered the economy, tapped into simmering resentment over land, poverty and the dominance of the Kikuyu, Kibaki's tribe, in Kenyan politics and business since independence in 1963.

It has also weakened the tourism and agriculture sectors, and tarnished the country's reputation as an island of stability in a region beset by conflicts.