BBC Reports..


Difficult tasks await Kenyan MPs

By Karen Allen
BBC News, Nairobi

It had all the pageantry and trappings of a state ceremony.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga arrive at parliament

The two leaders agreed the power-sharing deal last week

The national anthem, the guard of honour, the ceremonial dress – but this was a unique opening of parliament.

Kenya’s lawmakers are under the spotlight in a way never seen before.

Kenyans still stunned by post-election violence are vesting their trust in leaders in a country where in the recent past, they have been badly let down.

More than half of the members of parliament are newcomers and they will be expected to hit the ground running, to turn up to vote and pave the way for a historic coalition.

A coalition aimed at restoring unity to what the president described as “one Kenya”.

Stumbling blocks

It was a week to the day that a power-sharing deal had been agreed between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

They shook hands in the presence of the world’s media, flanked by Kofi Annan and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.

Opening of Kenyan parliament 6/03/08
The new parliament began with two minutes of silence

That was just the start of a process. In the coming weeks lawmakers will be expected to enact legislation that will amend the constitution and allow a grand coalition to be formed.

They then have to try to “sell” the idea of power sharing to their constituents, among them people who are now homeless or who have lost loved ones in the violence.

There are still potential stumbling blocks ahead – in particular, how power will be shared and how cabinet posts and other senior positions will be allocated.

But for Thursday’s ceremony the tone was conciliatory and upbeat.

After a two minute silence – first for parliamentarians killed in post-election violence and then for “ordinary” Kenyans who lost their lives, President Kibaki rose to his feet.

In a 30-minute speech he stressed the need for last week’s peace accord to be quickly enacted into law, but warned that it would require “goodwill, unity, good faith and integrity” of Kenya’s lawmakers.

Awkward realities

This country is emerging from one of the darkest periods of its history and the coming weeks will be a real test of the commitment of all sides to a durable peace.

A member of the Kikuyu Mungiki gang threatens a man with a machete in Nairobi's Kibera slum, 10 January 2008

Some 1,500 people died in unrest after disputed poll results

Kenyans will be forced to confront some awkward realities with the establishment of a truth, justice and reconciliation commission to investigate past injustices and violence blamed on supporters on all sides of the political fence.

They will also be forced to compromise.

There are concerns that a grand coalition will rob Kenyans of a real opposition.

This has effectively been a deal between two political blocks – those supporting President Kibaki’s PNU and those backing Raila Odinga’s ODM.

Earlier in the day, diplomats insisted the onus would be on the media to help keep the government in check.

But what is clear is that this could be the start of a new pragmatism in Kenyan politics. A chance for a new breed of politician to shine, putting aside a past where winner takes all.

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NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) — Kenya’s incumbent president Mwai Kibaki has been re-elected, beating his rival by a margin of only 230,000 votes among almost 9 million cast, the electoral commission announced Sunday. Opposition supporters march at the entrance to the Mathare slum in Nairobi on Sunday.

Kibaki narrowly defeated Raila Odinga, of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement, winning 4,584,721 votes compared with 4,352,993 for Odinga, the chairman of the electoral commission, Samuel Kivuitu, said in an address broadcast by the Kenyan Broadcasting Corporation.

The television station later showed footage of Kibaki being sworn-in at a ceremony at the presidential palace.

The closest fought election in the country’s history threatened to descend into chaos after supporters of Odinga earlier disrupted a press conference where the electoral commission was expected to announce the results.

Kivuitu was escorted out of the room after shouts broke out from supporters of Odinga who accused the government of election fraud. He was taken under armed guard to his private offices where he announced the result in an address later broadcast on state television.

Following the swearing-in, Kibaki insisted the elections were “free and fair” and called upon opposition parties to set aside their differences and to “let us all work together to build consensus.”

Odinga’s party earlier had accused the government of “doctoring” the results.

Amid chaotic scenes, Odinga claimed the official counts from 48 out of a total 210 constituencies were flawed, saying that around 300,000 votes were in dispute.

He also introduced an official from the commission who said he witnessed vote-rigging by staff going on at the commission’s headquarters.

The official said he had been asked to sign off returns from polling stations from Kenya’s eastern coastal region that he claimed had been deliberately altered by commission staff.

Odinga said earlier that if the president was announced winner “it will do the biggest injustice to the people of this country.”

“The consequences are too grave to consider,” he said at a press briefing.

The election has been plagued by violence as some supporters of Odinga went on the rampage angry at the delay in announcing a result.

CNN staff witnessed gangs looting and then burning several stores.

According to Associated Press reports, at least 14 people have been killed in election-related violence since Thursday’s voting in Kenya. Nine died Sunday in the Mathare shantytown, AP reported.

Protesters waving machetes were shouting “Kibaki must go!” as buses and shops burned in Mathare, AP reported.

Kibaki’s slim margin of victory is a marked difference from his win five years ago, in a landslide election. He had run on promises to fight corruption.

Since, he has seen his authority erode amid a number of high-profile corruption scandals in his government.

He faced a serious challenge from Odinga, a flamboyant politician who hails from the minority Luo tribe and has won support from rural and urban voters after promising to share the wealth among all the people.

A peaceful election and a smooth transition of power were seen as crucial for Kenya, a stable country in an otherwise-volatile region.

The international community expressed concern at the tide of rioting and looting that had accompanied the election.


In a joint statement released Sunday, British Foreign Minister David Miliband and International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander called on the leaders of the two main parties to “act responsibly,” and called for an end to the violence.

The U.S. State Department congratulated the people of Kenya for “largely peaceful and orderly voting,” but repeated the calls for calm while the count occurred. 

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.