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Kenya's rival politicians signed a power-sharing agreement after weeks of bitter negotiations

Kenya's rival politicians signed a power-sharing agreement after weeks of bitter negotiations

Two months after Kenya's disputed presidential election unleashed vicious nationwide bloodshed, the country's feuding politicians shook hands, smiled for the cameras and finally agreed to share power.
But much will depend on how President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga get along in the future, and it remains to be seen whether these reluctant partners can heal a deeply divided nation.
"For the last two months, Kenyans have known nothing but sadness," said Odinga, who won a powerful prime minister's post in Thursday's agreement. He referred to his rival as "my countryman, President Mwai Kibaki," one clear sign of acceptance from a man who has denounced Kibaki's re-election as a sham.
Kibaki added: "This process has reminded us that as a nation there are more issues that unite than that divide us."
Under the agreement, the opposition leader will become prime minister and have the power to "coordinate and supervise" the government _ more authority than Kibaki had wanted to yield.
But the bitterness runs deep. The men have been lashing out at each other since the Dec. 27 election sparked violence that killed more than 1,000 people. They have traded accusations about inciting violence, stealing the vote, destroying the nation. They had not even been in the same room for weeks before Thursday.
Kofi Annan, the mediator, had to prompt them to shake hands Thursday as the cameras rolled.
Kenyans, so many of them hurt by the violence and the battered economy, welcomed the deal with a skeptical eye, streaming out of offices and homes to sit in front of televisions and radios. In a reminder of the previous weeks' chaos, police fired tear gas to disperse dozens of people who gathered outside Kibaki's office to witness the signing.
"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," said Paul Waweru, 56, among 19,000 people living in a camp in the western town of Eldoret.
Diana Murugi, 72, whose two sons were killed in the bloodshed, said the deal was meaningless.
"The coalition is about Kibaki, Raila and the big men," she said. "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."
Much of the bloodshed pitted other ethnic groups against Kibaki's Kikuyu people, long resented for their domination of the economy and politics. In many regions, the violence brought a bloody end to decades of coexistence among Kenya's ethnic groups, transforming cities and towns where Kenyans had lived together _ however uneasily at times _ since independence from Britain in 1963.
Residents in Nairobi's Kibera slum celebrated what they saw as a chance for peace.
"The general mood among people is that of happiness," said Nelson Ochieng, whose barbershop was destroyed during the postelection violence. "We are tired of the political crisis. I was a barber but my shop was burnt. Now I'm jobless and the end of this crisis means that I can rebuild my business."
It was unclear when Odinga would take over as prime minister. Kibaki said he is reconvening parliament next Thursday to begin work on the constitutional changes necessary to make the deal into law.
During negotiations, lawmakers from Kibaki's Party of National Unity questioned whether it would be legal to make significant constitutional changes without a countrywide referendum.
Thursday's agreement came after Annan said the two sides had hit an impasse. The breakthrough may have been the result of his tough talk in recent days and mounting pressure from leaders in Africa and beyond, including the United States, which issued veiled threats about its future relationship with Kenya's leaders.
The U.S. State Department welcomed Thursday's deal as a first step.
"We want to see this agreement implemented and much will depend on its implementation," said Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown applauded the deal but said "the hard work must continue. Kenyans need help to resettle and rebuild. Real leadership, patience and tolerance is necessary to ensure that the agreement sticks."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the deal "a breakthrough toward resolving the crisis," U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said at U.N. headquarters in New York.
Ban believes it "gives hope to the people of Kenya for a return to democratic stability in their country," Montas said.
There is also the matter of restoring one of Africa's most promising economies. Kenya, one of the most prosperous and tourist-friendly countries in Africa, has seen up to US$1 billion in losses linked to the turmoil.
Francois Grignon, head of the Africa program for Brussels-based think tank International Crisis Group, said the deal was a step forward, but not enough.
"Power-sharing is not necessarily going to answer the requirements to end the violence," Grignon said, saying major challenges ahead include disarming militia groups and restoring Kenyans' trust in their government.
Robert Mwaniki, 26, a salesman for a cable TV company in Nairobi, said that trust will take time to earn.
"Once they sign this agreement, everything will be OK for them, but not for us," he said of the political leaders. "Before we get that confidence back of living together as different tribes, it may take time. We have no respect for each other anymore."
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AP writers Tom Maliti, Heidi Vogt and Tom Odula contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-06-12 20:16 GMT+08:00