Nairobi: Kenya’s main opposition has proposed it share power for two years with the president’s party, and that the country then hold fresh elections, a top negotiator from each side said on Tuesday after weeks of post-election violence.
The statements are reason for hope for many Kenyans, who have seen more than 1,000 die and some 600,000 flee their homes in fear since the dispute over who won 27 December presidential elections sparked violence, much of it pitting ethnic groups linked to particular politicians against one another.
Opposition legislator William Ruto said, “We put forward our proposal to the other side, which among other things, include forming a broad-based government that lasts for two years .... We are going to agree on how are we going to work together in governance.”
Government negotiator Mutula Kilonzo confirmed that the president’s party had received the proposition and would debate them “to see if we can reach an agreement.” He added in an interview with The Associated Press that the current constitution gives the president the power to appoint opposition members to his Cabinet.
Ruto said that during the two years his party proposes leaders share power, they should concentrate on reforming the constitution and electoral commission and establishing a plan to rebuild parts of the country destroyed by violence. He also suggested a truth and justice commission to look into land disputes that have contributed to the violence.
Separately, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged Kenyan parliamentarians to enact laws needed to resolve the political turmoil and said the two parties agreed to form an independent commission to look into the electoral commission. Annan is the chief mediator in the dispute between the opposition, which charges that President Mwai Kibaki stole the election, and the government, which insists the vote was free and fair despite heavy criticism from international and domestic observers.
“It will be critical that a legislative agenda be agreed so that we can move forward expeditiously with the important business of reform,” said Annan at a special session of parliament to brief legislators about the progress of his mediation efforts. “You will need to work together to implement this heavy agenda. Your active involvement across party lines is necessary.”
“Let’s pull together and get it done,” he said. “We can’t afford to fail.”
Ruto, the opposition negotiator, had said Friday that a power-sharing deal had been struck. Annan later called the announcement premature, although he said the two sides had made significant progress toward reaching an agreement.
Despite Ruto’s statement, it’s unclear whether main opposition leader Raila Odinga, who says the presidency was stolen from him, stands on the issue.
Speaking in English in Nairobi last week, Odinga backed off his demand that Kibaki resign or hold a new election.
But on Saturday, speaking to supporters in western Kenya in Kiswahili, the common tongue of East Africa, he said Kibaki “must step down or there must be a re-election, in this I will not be compromised.”
Then on Sunday, he again said he was prepared for “giving and taking.”
Odinga’s supporters, meanwhile, have applied their own pressure. In his stronghold in western Kenya, the epicenter of much of the violence of the past six weeks, they have threatened to burn down his farm and a large molasses factory owned by his family if he returns as anything less than president.
More violence would only sink Kenya further into a deepening hole. It has already gutted the country’s once-booming economy and left its reputation as a budding democracy in tatters.
The ethnic component to the violence has polarized Kenyans like never before. In many parts, members of some tribes have been forced to flee their homes and many people are moving to their ethnic group’s historic homelands, even if they themselves had never lived there before.