Kenyan politicians discuss
power-sharing to end postelection violence
The Associated Press
13. 02. 2008
NAIROBI, Kenya: The final push for peace in Kenya continued at a
secret location Wednesday as top negotiators said the opposition
had proposed sharing power with the government for two years 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 the violence that has followed a flawed Dec. 27
election. Much of the violence has pitted ethnic groups linked to
particular politicians against each 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, who is mediating, declared a news blackout Tuesday and
moved the talks to a secret location outside Nairobi, his office
said in a statement.
Annan "urged the parties not to discuss issues under negotiations
with anyone outside the negotiating room," the statement said.
Negotiators' cell phones couldn't be reached Wednesday — all
apparently switched off or out of the coverage area.
Before heading into the sequestered talks, both sides offered a
glimpse of what is on the table.
The opposition's proposal includes "forming a broad-based
government that lasts for two years," said William Ruto, an
opposition lawmaker. "We are going to agree on how are we going to
work together in governance."
Ruto said that during the two years of power sharing, the
government should concentrate on reforming the constitution,
fixing the electoral commission and coming up with a plan to
rebuild parts of the country devastated by violence. He also
suggested a truth and justice commission to look into land
disputes that have contributed to the turmoil.
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 added in an interview
with The Associated Press that the current constitution gives the
president the power to appoint opposition members to his Cabinet.
However, the head of the government negotiating team said that
reports that the opposition proposal was the major approach being
discussed was inaccurate.
A two-year transitional government "has not been discussed or
agreed upon," Martha Karua said in a statement.
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.
The comments from both sides came as Annan urged Kenyan
legislators to enact laws needed to resolve the political turmoil,
such as land reform measures. "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.
Annan said the two parties had already agreed to form an
independent commission to look into the electoral commission,
which has faced heavy criticism for certifying Kibaki's victory —
even the commission's chairman has said he was "unsure" who
actually won the vote.
"Let's pull together and get it done," Annan said. "We can't
afford to fail."
The strife has already gutted the country's once-booming economy
and left its reputation as a budding democracy in tatters.
The ethnic component to the violence, meanwhile, has polarized
Kenyans like never before. In many parts, members of some tribes
have been forced to flee their homes and many people are moving to
their group's historical homelands, even if they themselves had
never lived there.
Ruto, the opposition negotiator, had said Friday that a
power-sharing deal had been struck. Annan later called the
announcement premature, although he said the two sides had made
significant progress toward reaching an agreement.
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 in
Nairobi only to reiterate them while addressing supporters in
Kiswahili, East Africa's common tongue. And after that, he's said
he was prepared for "giving and taking."
Odinga's supporters have threatened to torch his farm and a large
molasses factory owned by his family in western Kenya, the
epicenter of much of the violence, if he settles for anything less
than the presidency.