News 2008


Kenyan parliament convenes over power-sharing deal

06. March 2008

NAIROBI (AFP) - President Mwai Kibaki on Thursday urged Kenyan deputies to pass laws enshrininge a power-sharing deal aimed at ending a post-election crisis that cost some 1,500 lives.

Kibaki made the call as he opened the first parliament session since the new assembly was inaugurated almost two months ago at the height of political violence and tribal killings.

"I urge honourable members to ensure that all the necessary bills to implement the accord... are dealt with promptly," Kibaki said.

The opening was preceded by lengthy prayers and two minutes of silence, one in honour of two opposition MPs murdered since the start of the year and another for all the victims of the turmoil.

After weeks of mediation led by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga -- who charges that Kibaki rigged his way to re-election in the December polls -- struck a deal on February 28.

The agreement broke the deadlock by granting the opposition the position of prime minister -- which has yet to be formally created -- but both sides are still involved in negotiations on issues such as land reform.

Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) won more seats than Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU) in the December elections, but fell short of an outright majority.

Kibaki listed four bills that have to be passed: the national accord and reconciliation bill, the constitution of Kenya amendment bill and two more establishing the truth, justice and reconciliation commission and another on ethnic issues.

Addressing a group of parliamentarians earlier Thursday, Kibaki urged them to support to the measure that would see him share power with his political rival.

"Kenyans are keenly watching. They are keen to see an end to partisan bickering. They want pragmatic solutions, not ideological posturing. They want their leaders to place the country above party and individual interests," Kibaki said.

Alliances with smaller parties by both camps have resulted in an almost evenly-split parliament, with Odinga's allies dominating by a narrow margin.

Both sides have pledged to support the legislation.

Security was reinforced in Nairobi ahead of the parliament session, a key step in ensuring that the agreement is supported by more than the parties' good will.

Both sides have agreed to set up a committee that will outline policies for the coalition government to be formed in the coming days or weeks.

The February 28 accord was received with relief in the usually stable east African nation, but tough negotiations lie ahead for both sides as the government line-up remains to be decided.

"Enacting new laws is but a single step in national reconciliation and healing. The challenge lies in actualising the envisaged legal and constitional changes," the Daily Nation newspaper said in an editorial.

"The reason behind power-sharing is to create checks and balances and to ensure that no individual or group dominates the management of the state."

Odinga is expected to take the new position of prime minister, but both camps are expected to wrangle for the top portfolios over the coming days and the posts of vice president and deputy prime minister.

If an agreement is reached, the broad cabinet coalition will replace the government announced by Kibaki days after he was controversially declared the winner of the presidential vote.