Kenyan government and opposition agree on power sharing

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The heads of the government and opposition in Kenya have signed a power sharing agreement aimed at ending the crisis over December's disputed elections. The agreement was reached after a day of talks mediated by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Chairman of the African Union Jakaya Kikwete.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga signed the agreement before international diplomats and representatives of the Kenyan government and opposition.

Chief mediator Kofi Annan said that the two leaders had agreed on a government structure after five hours of intensive talks.

"I am pleased to be able to tell you and all the citizens of Kenya that the two parties this afternoon completed the work on agenda item three, how to overcome the political crisis," he said.

The two sides agreed to the creation of the posts of prime minister and two deputy prime ministers. The prime minister is accorded authority over the ministries. The prime minister is to be nominated by the largest party or coalition in parliament and can only be removed by a majority vote of the national assembly. The accord also calls for distribution of the ministerial posts according to the relative strength of each party in parliament. And it calls for the changes to be enacted by constitutional amendment, a major demand of the opposition. The Prime Minister post has gone to Odinga.

Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga pledged to ensure that the accord is implemented and called for unity among all Kenyans. Mr. Annan commended the two parties, saying they reached a common position for the good of the nation. And he had a message for the citizens of Kenya.

"Compromise was necessary for the survival of this country," he said. "Support this agreement, for it is the key to the unity of Kenya. It is the foundation for national reconciliation and it is the springboard for national recovery."

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown released a statement calling the signing of the power-sharing agreement a "a triumph for peace and diplomacy."

"Kenya's leaders have reached a power-sharing agreement that represents a triumph for peace and diplomacy, and a renunciation of the violence that has scarred a country of such enormous potential. Common sense has prevailed, and the Kenyan people have the outcome for which they have hoped and prayed," the statement said.

Support this agreement, for it is the key to the unity of Kenya. It is the foundation for national reconciliation and it is the springboard for national recovery.

—Former UN secretary general, Kofi Annan

Brown also thanked Kofi Annan for his work and urged the international community to play their part and support Kenya's new government. Brown also noted that "Real leadership, patience and tolerance is necessary to ensure that the agreement sticks."

Kenyans are viewing the deal skeptically, such as 56-year old refugee Paul Waweru, "The deal between Raila and Kibaki will help to cool down the situation but I doubt if it will enable us to get back to our homes."

Diana Murugi, 72, lost her two sons in the violent fighting that has plagued Kenya since the end of the disputed elections at the close of last year.

"The coalition is about Kibaki, Raila and the big men, what about those of us here in the camp? How will I reconcile with people who killed my sons? It is impossible, even if Kibaki and Raila are in the same government," she said.

Parliament is to convene next week to enact the measures. Mr. Annan said the negotiations would resume Friday on long-term issues such as constitutional reform and ways to end inequalities in land and wealth distribution.

The two sides have been meeting for nearly five weeks in an effort to find a political solution to the Kenya crisis. One thousand people were killed and several hundred thousand were displaced in the violence that erupted after Mr. Kibaki was declared the winner of a presidential election that the opposition says was rigged.