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Kenya political rivals agree to independent review of election

Email|Print| Text size + By Tom Maliti
Associated Press / February 16, 2008

NAIROBI, Kenya - Kenya's political rivals announced yesterday a 10-point plan to resolve their political crisis after weeks of negotiations, but they remained deadlocked over power sharing.

The two sides made progress on other issues, including an agreement for an independent review of the election at the center of their dispute. The Dec. 27 presidential vote unleashed weeks of ethnic violence that left more than 1,000 people dead and displaced hundreds of thousands.

"Let me assure you that there is real momentum," said Kofi Annan, former UN secretary general, who is mediating the political talks. "We are at the water's edge and the last difficult and frightening step, as difficult as it is, will be taken," he told reporters.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga and President Mwai Kibaki have been under international pressure to share power as a way to resolve their dispute over who won the election. Odinga said Kibaki stole the vote and should step down. Kibaki insisted his position as president is not negotiable.

For some Kenyans, patience was wearing thin. Even if a political solution comes soon, the damage done to the national and social fabric and to the economy will take years to reverse.

"Why are they not hitting the main issue so we can have a normal life in Kenya?" 35-year-old Dan Omondi said in Kisumu, which has seen some of the worst of the ethnic violence. "When you are hungry, you need food, not appetizers."

Much of the violence has pitted other ethnic groups against Kibaki's Kikuyu, long resented for their prominence in politics and the economy.

The preliminary agreement signed Thursday after 48 hours of secret talks calls for an independent review committee "to investigate all aspects of the 2007 presidential election."

The committee will include Kenyan and non-Kenyan investigators, start work March 15, and submit its report within three to six months. The report will be published two weeks later.

In the agreement, the government also acknowledged that the dispute cannot be resolved in court because the deadline for complaints expired earlier this year. Kibaki's government had insisted the opposition take its complaints to the courts, while Odinga demanded Kibaki step down.

The two sides have not agreed on whether to hold a rerun election, as the opposition has demanded.

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