News 2008

 

Kenya's Kibaki urges parliament to back peace deal



By C. Bryson Hull and Wangui Kanina

Thu Mar 6, 2008



NAIROBI (Reuters) - President Mwai Kibaki urged Kenya's divided parliament on Thursday to set aside partisanship and enshrine into law a power-sharing pact to end a bloody post-election crisis.

Kibaki, 76, appealed for reconciliation and forgiveness in a speech to legislators hours before he was due to convene parliament for the first time since signing the deal with opposition leader Raila Odinga, 63.

"I ... urge all honorable members to support the proposed legislative measures which will go a long way in ensuring peace and stability in our country," Kibaki said.

"I also appeal to you all to be guided by a strong sense of national unity, which must override all partisan considerations."

The power-sharing pact was designed to end turmoil after Kibaki's disputed re-election at a December 27 vote, which ignited looting, riots and politically-tinged ethnic clashes in which more than 1,000 people were killed and 300,000 people displaced.

Kenyans are hoping the house, which many view as a bastion of greed and laziness that rarely agrees on anything, will usher in a new era of politics by quickly passing laws providing for a new prime minister's post to be taken by Odinga.

The crisis, Kenya's darkest period since independence from Britain in 1963, hurt its reputation as one of Africa's most stable nations and damaged a booming economy anchored in tourism and regional trade.

It also exposed simmering rifts over wealth, power and tribe dating back to the colonial era, often exacerbated by politicians angling for supremacy for their own people from among Kenya's 42 different ethnic groups.

"TURNING POINT"

"Let me emphasize that I see this event as an important turning-point in our politics," Kibaki told the MPs, who are evenly split between his Party of National Unity (PNU) coalition and Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

"The launch of this grand coalition is a clear signal that although loud debates may attract a lot of attention, we can achieve a lot together through quiet dialogue."

In the longer-term, the two sides have agreed to tackle Kenya's problems with a constitutional review to be wrapped up within a year, before a vote is held on a new proposed charter.

Despite reaching a broad agreement on power-sharing, both parties have yet to hammer out the finer details -- in particular, the prime minister's powers and who will get what cabinet positions.

Discord has already emerged.

Odinga's side wants so-called "power ministries" like finance and internal security, which Kibaki's allies are unlikely to concede. Both men are under pressure from their backers not to give away too much.

Government spokesman Alfred Mutua said the president would make the final decision on cabinet appointments. But, ODM's William Ruto said the appointments would be made by both men.

"It is very clear in the accord that was signed that the cabinet is going to be shared on an equal basis, and members of cabinet will be chosen from the two sides," he told the BBC.

Kibaki noted that Kenyans were keen to see that the cooperation between his camp and Odinga's was "not simply about sharing of power or spoils."

 

 

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