Kenya's political rivals sign
deal on new constitution, negotiator says
The Associated Press
Published: February 15, 2008
NAIROBI, Kenya: Kenya's political rivals agreed to write a new
constitution — a move that could allow for power-sharing — as part
of a deal to end weeks of deadly postelection violence, a
government negotiator said.
The bloodshed since the Dec. 27 election that the opposition
accuses the president of rigging has killed more than 1,000 people
and drawn international condemnation. U.S. President George W.
Bush said Thursday he is sending Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice to demand an immediate halt to the bloodshed.
"The two parties agreed to write a new constitution," government
negotiator Mutula Kilonzo told The Associated Press on Thursday,
after two days of secret talks were adjourned until Monday.
He said it was expected to happen within a year but gave no other
details of the agreement, which is likely a preliminary step in
Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, who is mediating the talks, was
first to announce that a deal was signed, but gave no details. The
talks have been operating under a media blackout, although Annan
scheduled a news conference Friday afternoon.
Kenya's current constitution was drawn up in the lead-up to
independence from Britain in 1963 and has been revised repeatedly,
giving the president sweeping powers. Kenyans have repeatedly said
they want constitutional reform to end decades of abuses by
A new constitution could allow for power-sharing or the post of
prime minister, the solution opposition leader Raila Odinga and
President Mwai Kibaki are being pressed to adopt.
An opposition member with close ties to the negotiations confirmed
the deal to write a new constitution, but said it was "trivial"
because the government has not yet agreed to any changes in the
"The talks deadlocked over the discussion of government structure,"
said the opposition member who asked that his name not be used
because of the media blackout.
At the United Nations, opposition spokesman Salim Lone hailed
Rice's visit, scheduled for Monday, as a sign of growing
recognition within and outside the United States that Kenya's
crisis is far from over, and that international pressure will be
required to ensure the talks succeed.
"We should not be fooled by the current relative calm to believe
that peace is around the corner," Lone said. "Already we can see
that the government has consistently tried to undermine the
negotiations on this core issue and even if Mr. Annan succeeds in
forging a settlement, the world will have to be very vigilant in
insuring the government implements it."
A statement by the U.S. embassy in Nairobi said that Rice would
meet with Kibaki, Odinga and Annan, as well as civil society and
business leaders to press for an end to the violence, justice for
victims of abuse and a "full return to democracy."
Several countries have threatened unspecified sanctions against
hardliners who might derail the negotiations. They also have said
they will cut aid, impose travel bans or freeze the assets of
anyone suspected of inciting violence.
Kibaki and Odinga, who served as a Cabinet minister in Kibaki's
administration for two years before being booted out in December
2005, fell out over a previous attempt at constitutional reform.
Opponents argued Kibaki ignored agreements hammered out during a
constitutional conference designed to check the president, in part
by creating a powerful prime minister. Kibaki argued the draft did
cut presidential powers.
Voters rejected the constitution in a 2005 referendum lauded as a
sign democracy was maturing in Kenya. Then came the December
Domestic and international observers have said there was rigging,
possibly by both sides.
Bush said Rice will deliver a message to Kenya's leaders and
people: "There must be an immediate halt to violence, there must
be justice for the victims of abuse and there must be a full
return to democracy."