Thursday, February 28, 2008


Kenya's bitter political rivals have struck a power sharing deal, but will it work and can it end the violence that has so far cost the lives of more than 1,000 people?

Earlier this week the mood in Kenya was very gloomy; the prospect of a settlement seemed a long way off. But, after weeks of tricky negotiations the president, Mwai Kibaki, has reached a deal with his opposition rival, Raila Odinga, who is now expected to be prime minister.

Will such a peace last?

"The deal sounds almost too good to be true," says Ernest on Thinking Kenyan. "Mwai Kibaki is known for breaking promises. Until the agreement is entrenched in the constitution or passed by parliament, the deal is still a 'gentleman's agreement'."

Commenting on Kenya Image, Doris Sadera says she is not doing cartwheels yet.

"I want to know the terms of the agreement and know that an agreement has been signed. This is, after all, Kenyan politics, where deals can turn 180° in the span of five minutes."

Simba points out that Kofi Annan is "not going to be around to babysit" Kenya's leaders in future. "They are going to have to show some initiative on their own."

Taabu on Kumekucha says the deal could be the "fire extinguisher" Kenya needs. But he adds: "I just hope Annan is not being bid bye in style to escape a killing field."

On Kenya image, Eric is angry. "The deal means that, in the future, if one loses an election all one needs to do is kill and displace people of some other tribe and they will be rewarded. A sad day indeed."

But Tom Carghill, manager of the Africa programme at the foreign affairs thinktank Chatham House, draws some hope from the lack of violence in the past two weeks.

"The violence was able to be turned down when there was a prospect of the two groups talking to each other," he told me. He says this reduction in the tension shows the violence was predominantly political and not tribal, as many people have claimed.

"It shows the extent to which politicians controlled the violence," he says.

As to the whether the deal will work, Carghill says: "It depends whether the settlement will help bridge divisions between rich and poor in the long run, or whether it is just another way of dividing up the political cake between different members of the political elite.

"It is looking more positive. But these are leaders who are not renowed for their ability to compromise."

On Annan's part in the deal, he says: "Very few other people could have got this far."

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