Political peace deal holds out new hope for divided Kenya

By staff writers
February 28, 2008

Rival political leaders in Kenya have reached an agreement on a coalition government after weeks of bitter negotiations, former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan announced today, before a major press conference.

Full details on the deal between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, who both claim to have won the country's December presidential election, have yet to emerge. But it will involve a shared administration.

"We have come to an understanding on the coalition government," Mr Annan said. "All I can say is that we do have an agreement."

Kenya has been in an impasse in the wake of its disputed presidential election on 27 December 2007. The ensuing political conflict has led to ethnic violence in which between 1,000 and 1,500 people have been killed, communities destroyed and many others injured.

Local and international observers said that the election results were manipulated, making it unclear who actually won.

Churches and civil society groups, including senior international figures like Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, have been working openly and behind the scenes to try to bring about a just peace.

The conflict has tarnished the reputation of this once-stable and prosperous country, bringing sharp rebuke from exasperated Western powers and the UN.

Yesterday, Kenya's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) opposition party, has called off a mass demonstration planned for today. ODM leader Raila Odinga reaffirmed his conviction that it is possible for the political crisis in Kenya to be solved by negotiation. His comments followed talks with the former United Nations secretary-general, Kofi Annan.

Earlier this week, Mr Annan had suspended his attempts at mediation between Mr Odinga and President Mwai Kibaki.

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