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POLITICS-KENYA: Hopes of a Breakthrough in the Post-Election Crisis

Kwamboka Oyaro

NAIROBI, Feb 11 2008 (IPS) - Negotiations to bring an end to the political chaos in Kenya that was sparked by disputed presidential elections entered their third week, Monday, in the capital of Nairobi, amidst reports that an agreement may finally be in sight.

Mathare slum, Nairobi: a scene from the violence that has wracked Kenya in recent weeks. Credit: Julius Mwelu/IRIN

Mathare slum, Nairobi: a scene from the violence that has wracked Kenya in recent weeks. Credit: Julius Mwelu/IRIN

The talks, dubbed the ‘Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation’, are being chaired by former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan. Leading child rights activist Graca Machel and former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa are assisting in the mediation between Mwai Kibaki, declared the winner of December’s poll, and his main opponent in the vote – Raila Odinga. Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) and Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) each have four representatives at the negotiations.

More than 1,000 people are said to have been killed and some 300,000 displaced in violence that broke out after the Dec. 27 elections, which Odinga claims were rigged. International observers have also expressed doubts over the credibility of the ballot.

Briefing the media Friday at the Serena Hotel where the talks are being held, Annan said negotiators had gone "far on the political issue, but wait for the details early next week."

It is understood that ODM representatives have dropped their insistence that Kibaki resign ahead of an electoral re-run, and that the PNU is no longer demanding that challenges to the election be pursued in court. The ODM had claimed that the courts would not make an impartial ruling on allegations surrounding the polls.

"Initially, our stand was that we won the elections and Kibaki did not, that he should resign and we be sworn in. But we are not static on that point. We are willing to yield," Odinga told journalists Thursday.


A power-sharing government may now be on the cards with Odinga becoming prime minister, a post that would have to be created for him as it not provided for in Kenya’s constitution.

Under ODM proposals, cabinet positions in a joint administration would be allocated in proportion to the number of parliamentary seats won by this party and the PNU, respectively. Following parliamentary elections, also held in December, the ODM currently holds 97 seats in Kenya’s 222-strong legislature, while the PNU holds 43.

The ODM is also calling for elections to be re-held in three to six months – a demand rejected by the PNU.

Alternatively, it has been suggested that Kibaki and Odinga might share the five-year presidential term, with Kibaki ruling for the first half of the term – and Odinga completing it. Annan will brief a special sitting of parliament Tuesday on the status of negotiations.

Failure to forge a way ahead would doubtless create further hardship for the country, where the prices of fuel and food have already increased by about 30 percent. In addition, the political turmoil has come at a cost to neighbouring states which export goods through Kenya, and depend on imports from this country.

The talks are also dealing with other issues, including the humanitarian problems stemming from the post-election violence.

"The internally displaced persons should be resettled immediately. Later we can have a temporary government of unity to allow parliament to deal with constitutional amendments in order to have fresh elections in six months," Florence Machio, the regional co-ordinator of Africa Woman, a non-governmental organisation based in Nairobi, told IPS.

Government has already started resettling those forced from their homes in the violence.

In addition, the PNU and ODM have agreed to establish a truth and reconciliation commission to examine the events of the past few weeks.

 
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