Kenyan Rivals Reach Power-Sharing Deal

Politicians in Kenya have reached an agreement aimed at ending the country's political crisis. Kenya was thrown into turmoil after a disputed election late last year sparked widespread violence that left more than 1,000 people dead.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

We're following news today from Kenya, where rival politicians have reached an agreement aimed at ending that country's political crises. Kenya was thrown into turmoil after a disputed election late last year sparked widespread violence and left more than a thousand people dead. Today's power-sharing agreement was announced by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who brokered the deal.

Mr. KOFI ANNAN (Former Secretary General, United Nations): I know some of you may have wished to get more, but what you got is the best under the circumstances. Keep it for the sake of the broad masses of Kenya, they deserve a break. They deserve to be treated better.

MONTAGNE: Kofi Annan, speaking today in Nairobi. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton has been following this story, and she joins us now to talk about it. And Ofeibea, tell us about the terms of this agreement.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: Well, that's the big question, Renee. The devil is in the detail. What the opposition wanted, Raila Odinga, was an executive prime minister's post. But the sticking point was that the government and President Mwai Kibaki wanted a more ceremonial prime minister's post for him. So power sharing, but each side has had its own different views of how power should be shared, and that's why it's taken a month to reach this far.

MONTAGNE: Well, having gotten to this agreement to share power, how are they, in fact, going to do that?

QUIST-ARCTON: We'll have to see. The fact is that they have signed something. Kofi Annan, when he stood between the two men, Raila Odinga, the opposition leader, and President Mwai Kibaki, was smiling. They were all smiling. But we've had lots of smiles over the past month. And I've been covering these talks for about a month. The thing is, how are they going to share power? What Kenyans want to see is peace. So what they hope is that these two men - and their track records are going to be what will be proof of leadership and proof of commitment - is how they will agree. Four or five years ago, when we had the previous election in Kenya, these two men - Raila Odinga and President Mwai Kibaki - shared power. Raila Odinga said Kibaki had promised him the prime minister's post, but that never happened. And that's what's led to this current crises, after what was alleged to have been a rigged election vote at the end of December. So we'll have to see. The fact is, though, they have signed something, and that may be hope to Kenyans, but they want to see a lot more.

MONTAGNE: Kofi Annan worked for more than a month to broker this deal. And there were moments when it looked nothing was going to happen, and now it appears there is a break through. Tell us about his role and his standing in Kenya.

QUIST-ARCTON: Well, he has been - Kenyans are calling him our savior. They said that Kofi Annan - the fact that he had agreed to be a chief mediator between the opposition and the government after killings, after violence, after unprecedented violence in Kenya, the fact that he had agreed to try to bring the two sides together, to try and find reconciliation, to try and find peace, there was some hope. But the thing is, is there true commitment from the politicians? Kenyans feel very let down by the leadership. And what they're going to want to see now is the two men sitting together, working together, reconciling, and bringing the country back together so that Kenya remains this huge economic regional powerhouse in East Africa, and a stable nation. That reputation has gone.

MONTAGNE: Ofeibea, thanks very much.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton on news that rival politicians in Kenya have signed a power-sharing agreement aimed at ending their country's political crises.

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Kenyans Sign Pact for Coalition Government

Kibaki (left) and Odinga shake hands after signing the deal.

hide captionKibaki (left) and Odinga shake hands after signing the deal.

Khalil Senosi/AFP/Getty
Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan mediated the agreement.

hide captionFormer U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan mediated the agreement to set up a prime minister post for Odinga.

Simon Maina/AFP/Getty

Kenya's government and opposition party leaders signed a power-sharing deal on Thursday in an effort to end post-election violence that has left more than 1,000 people dead.

In a televised ceremony, President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga signed the pact, which created a prime minister post demanded by the opposition.

Kibaki's re-election in December set off a dispute, as both men claimed victory in a vote that international observers said was rigged by both sides.

New Post Has Powers

"This process has reminded us that as a nation there are more issues that unite than that divide us," Kibaki said.

Under the agreement, the opposition leader will become prime minister and have the power to "coordinate and supervise" the government - more authority than Kibaki wanted to yield. Odinga was upbeat about the agreement.

"The new partnership will strengthen the government in addressing the challenges facing our country more comprehensively. It is important that, in particular, we deal with problem of negative ethnicity, national cohesion and unity," Odinga said.

Work Still Ahead

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan mediated the agreement with the aid of Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who is also the head of the African Union, and former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa.

"Today we have reached an important staging post, but the journey is far from over. In fact, it is only a beginning," Annan said. "The real challenge now is for President Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga to work together to heal and reconcile this nation".

Odinga and Kibaki have come under intense pressure to compromise over the Dec. 27 vote and its violent aftermath. Ethnic violence has killed 1,000 people and displaced 300,000 more.

The opposition had threatened to hold mass street protests on Thursday, but called them off after meeting with Annan on Wednesday.

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