News 2008


Kenyan Politicians Discuss Power-Sharing


12. Feb. 2008

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - Peace talks to end postelection bloodshed in Kenya moved to a secret location Tuesday for a final push. Negotiators said the opposition has proposed sharing power with the government for two years and then holding new elections.

Progress at the talks has given a sense of hope to many Kenyans, who have seen more than 1,000 people die and some 600,000 flee their homes in violence that followed the Dec. 27 election. Much of the upheaval has pitted ethnic groups linked to politicians against one another.

Negotiators have talked to the media nearly every day - and, on at least one occasion, said a deal had been struck when it hadn't. Trying to get them to focus on the task at hand, former U.N. chief Kofi Annan declared a news blackout and moved the talks to a secret location outside Nairobi, his office said in a statement.

Annan, who is mediating the talks, "urged the parties not to discuss issues under negotiations with anyone outside the negotiating room," the statement said.

Before heading into the sequestered talks, both sides offered a glimpse of what is on the table.

The opposition proposal includes "forming a broad-based government that lasts for two years," said William Ruto, an opposition lawmaker.

He said that during the two years of power sharing, the government should change the constitution and come up with a plan to rebuild areas devastated by violence. He also suggested a truth and justice commission to look into land disputes.

Government negotiator Mutula Kilonzo confirmed that the president's party had received the proposal and would debate it "to see if we can reach an agreement." He told The Associated Press the constitution gives the president the power to appoint opposition members to his Cabinet.

The opposition charges that President Mwai Kibaki stole the election. The government insists the vote was free and fair, despite heavy criticism from international and domestic observers.

Annan urged legislators to enact laws to resolve the political turmoil, such as land reform. "You will need to work together to implement this heavy agenda. Your active involvement across party lines is necessary," he told a special session of Parliament.

The former U.N. secretary-general said the two parties have agreed to form an independent commission to examine the electoral commission, which has faced heavy criticism for certifying Kibaki's victory.

"Let's pull together and get it done," Annan said. "We can't afford to fail."

The strife has gutted the country's once-booming economy and left its democratic reputation in tatters.

The ethnic component to the violence, meanwhile, has polarized Kenyans like never before. In many place, members of some tribes have been forced to flee their homes and many people are moving to their group's historic homelands, even if they themselves had never lived there.

Ruto, the opposition negotiator, said Friday that a power-sharing deal already had been struck. Annan later called the announcement premature, although he said the sides had made significant progress.

Despite Ruto's statement, it's unclear where main opposition leader Raila Odinga, who says the presidency was stolen from him, stands on the issue. In the past week, he has backed off demands that Kibaki resign when speaking to reporters in English only to reiterate them while addressing supporters in Kiswahili, East Africa's common tongue.