- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 19, 2008

Kenya’s new grand coalition government, sworn in this week to end a bloody political crisis that claimed over 1,500 lives, is just a “holding operation” that could still fail if deeper constitutional reforms are not enacted quickly, a top opposition party official said yesterday.

Peter Anyang Nyongo, secretary-general of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), warned on a Washington visit that the power-sharing deal with the ruling Party of National Unity is fragile and could still break apart.

“It’s going to be a difficult marriage,” Mr. Nyongo predicted in a briefing at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “but the two partners have to put up with each other for the sake of the children. Once we have a new constitution, we may very well divorce.”

In a deal brokered by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, President Mwai Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga formed a coalition Cabinet with 20 ministers from each party. Mr. Odinga was sworn in as prime minister Thursday, and many in Kenya now expect intense jockeying between the two rivals over patronage and policy.

The East African nation saw an explosion of ethnic and tribal violence in the wake of December’s hotly contested presidential vote, which Mr. Odinga and his supporters claimed was stolen by the president’s party.

The violence, which displaced more than 300,000 Kenyans and cut 2008 economic growth projections by a third, rocked a country seen as a key U.S. ally and a bastion of stability in the region.

Mr. Annan, in a commentary article published in Kenyan newspapers yesterday, warned that the power-sharing deal was just the beginning of the country’s healing process — with big issues such as land reform, regional poverty and inequality still to be tackled.

“The coalition partners must not forget their commitment to addressing the longstanding and deep-seated problems that have divided Kenyans for decades,” he wrote.

The human rights group Amnesty International yesterday criticized Kenya’s government for so far failing to punish those responsible for the recent violence, including militias backed by Kenyan politicians and government security forces.

“This new chapter in Kenya’s political history must not be built on a foundation of impunity,” the watchdog group said.

Mr. Nyongo said in an interview that the United States initially was seen as too close to Mr. Kibaki, but that later U.S. pressure was helpful in securing the power-sharing deal. That deal was announced in late February, but only sealed Thursday after extensive bargaining over Cabinet posts.

Mr. Nyongo said the United States and other outside powers have a responsibility to monitor the parties to make sure they live up to the terms of the deal.

He said the Kenya crisis had already been a psychological blow to Africa, nearly toppling one of the continent’s most prosperous democracies.

“People want success stories,” he said. “There is a feeling that, if Kenya fails, what’s next?”

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