Well, Kofi Annan finally got fed up with the negotiations, finally sent the reps away, met with the politicians themselves, and brokered a power sharing deal. On paper and in theory it’s a good thing… the ODM/opposition party gets a prime minister seat for Odinga, and Kibaki (the corrupt, election rigging incumbent) gets to stay president. The problem is, these same two men tried cooperating before and had their falling outs before and it might just be history repeating itself. I’ll think positive and hope for the best. Still gives me great pleasure knowing ODM has the most seats in Parliament… hopefully that is what will really give the people their power… knowing their elected officials from their districts are representing them. I also take pleasure in knowing the fighting is supposed to stop. What to do about the 300,000+ who’ve been displaced from their homes is another issue altogether…
March 7, 2008
Kenyan Parliament Opens on Theme of Unity as Rivals Sit Apart
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
NAIROBI, Kenya — The Kenyan Parliament met Thursday for the first time since a power-sharing deal was struck to end a political crisis that had plunged the country into chaos.
Politicians from the governing party and the opposition spoke sweet words of unity — but the top leaders continued to sit apart from one another in the chamber.
“Honorable members, you must now become the ambassadors of peace and reconciliation,” President Mwai Kibaki told the lawmakers. “Please forget the history of what has happened, not because you want to put it aside, but because you want to do something much better.”
The lawmakers — who include 21 women, a record here — now begin the delicate business of carrying out the much-anticipated and possibly awkward power-sharing deal. Under it, the top opposition leader, Raila Odinga, becomes prime minister, and the governing party and the opposition divide the cabinet posts.
This was the deal to bring peace back to Kenya, which had been considered one of the most stable countries in Africa before the violence of recent months.
On Thursday, Mr. Kibaki urged Parliament to swiftly pass the legislation needed to turn the political agreement into law. Lawmakers on both sides have predicted more skirmishes over the next few weeks as they negotiate how much power Mr. Odinga actually gets and how cabinet positions are reassigned.
Mr. Kibaki said that once the new government was solidified, it would dive into an ambitious agenda that would include helping the fishing and tourism industries and building better housing for the millions of Kenyans who live in shanties.
“We still have many challenges, but we still have a lot to celebrate,” Mr. Kibaki said.
His speech seemed to be a pep talk for a country that sorely needed one. Kenya erupted into violence in late December after the national election commission declared Mr. Kibaki, the incumbent, the winner of a closely contested presidential race over Mr. Odinga, who claims to have won the most votes. Election observers have been unanimous that the results were tainted, with some saying that the government rigged the tallying of votes to give Mr. Kibaki a slender 11th-hour edge.
The controversy set off fighting across the country between supporters of Mr. Odinga and those of Mr. Kibaki, who are from different ethnic groups, and it stirred up long-festering political, ethnic and economic grievances. More than 1,000 people were killed, and hundreds of thousands fled ethnically mixed areas, creating a degree of ethnic segregation that had never existed in this country before. The violence has greatly diminished in the past few weeks, but the tension and displacements have continued.
Mr. Kibaki, who has been in Parliament since Kenya’s independence in 1963, said the government would set up a truth and reconciliation commission and address head-on the country’s painful ethnic issues. He also promised to pay for new homes for displaced people and to distribute free seeds to displaced farmers.
Mr. Odinga sat quietly throughout the speech. His party holds a slight edge in Parliament, which has 210 elected members and 12 appointed seats, though two of his colleagues were killed after the election, narrowing the opposition’s majority. Despite all the talk of a new coalition government, Mr. Odinga and his top lieutenants sat on the opposition side of the chamber on Thursday, across the room from Mr. Kibaki’s political allies, who occupied the government seats. There was mingling, though, among some freshmen lawmakers from the different parties.
Kenneth Marende, the Parliament speaker and a member of Mr. Odinga’s party, said, “The recent events have exposed the fault lines in our system of governance.”
“If Parliament descends into anarchy,” Mr. Marende added, “the Kenyan nation will not just sink, it will drown.”
Kennedy Abwao contributed reporting.