Deal on Sharing Power Goes Before Parliament
Friday, March 7, 2008
NAIROBI, March 6 -- President Mwai Kibaki urged lawmakers Thursday to pass legislation necessary to enact a power-sharing agreement "so that Kenya can be restored to and even exceed its former glory."
Both Kibaki and his rival, Raila Odinga, arrived in twin motorcades of shiny black sedans to Thursday's parliamentary session, the first since the warring leaders signed the deal last week to pull the country out of its worst crisis since independence.
The deal strikes a balance of power that has been lacking in Kenya's government, creating a prime minister position for Odinga, who is to oversee government ministries and be accountable to parliament. Kibaki, whose negotiating team had fiercely resisted the agreement, remains head of the armed forces and retains powers to appoint judges and some ministers.
The two men have also pledged to address issues underlying the crisis, such as land ownership and other social inequalities that millions of opposition supporters had hoped to rectify by electing Odinga, who accused Kibaki and his inner circle of stealing the Dec. 27 presidential election.
The dispute kicked off weeks of protests, clashes between demonstrators and police and, across the lush Rift Valley region in the west, waves of militia attacks.
At least 1,000 people have been killed and 600,000 displaced in the violence, much of it orchestrated by political leaders on both sides, according to human rights groups and Kenyans in the region.
The Sunday Nation, a major newspaper, captured the lingering bitterness in a cartoon showing Kibaki and Odinga standing on a pile of skulls and bones, their arms raised in victory.
As members of parliament slapped hands and celebrated Thursday in white tents in the springlike afternoon, hundreds of thousands of Kenyans remained in displacement camps across the country, lining up for food rations and wondering where they might go next.
"We have not seen any change, and we are not expecting any change from them," said John Mbugua, who was forced to flee his home in the Rift Valley and now lives amid a sprawl of thousands of tents on an arid tract outside the western resort town of Naivasha. "We are not trusting our government."