- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2008

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya’s government tentatively agreed yesterday to create a prime minister’s post to be filled by the opposition, moving the East African country a step closer to ending weeks of deadly clashes over the disputed presidential election.

A political deal is expected today after weeks of international pressure on both sides to share power, government negotiator Mutula Kilonzo said.

“We have more or less agreed on a non-executive prime minister but with some substantial meaningful responsibilities,” he said.

Mr. Kilonzo said there were several other elements of a power-sharing deal to be resolved, but he could not give details.

Calls to the opposition were not immediately returned.

“I am beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel,” said former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has been mediating in the political negotiations.

Both sides “outlined a joint proposal, that had been largely agreed, on the governance structure,” Mr. Annan said.

The Dec. 27 election returned President Mwai Kibaki to power after opposition leader Raila Odinga’s lead in early vote counting evaporated overnight. Foreign and local observers said the count was rigged, and ensuing violence has stirred up ethnic grievances over land and poverty that have bedeviled Kenya since independence in 1963. More than 1,000 people have been killed.

On Wed-nesday, Ken-ya’s opposition threat- ened mass protests unless serious work to put power-sharing into the constitution started within a week. It was the latest sign the country remains delicately balanced on the edge of violence despite weeks of peace talks.

Much of the bloodshed has pitted other ethnic groups against Mr. Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe, long resented for dominating politics and the economy.

Yesterday, a man was hacked to death in a Nairobi slum, police said. Witnesses said the fight started when a group of young Luos — the same ethnic group as Mr. Odinga — began taunting Kikuyus.

A think tank said yesterday that armed groups on opposing sides of the political and ethnic strife are mobilizing for new attacks and serious violence could erupt again if peace talks fail.

“Calm has partly returned but the situation remains highly volatile,” the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a report. “Armed groups are still mobilizing on both sides.”

Talks between Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga have focused on how to create a broader-based government to end the crisis. In particular, Mr. Odinga and his backers have demanded that the president share power.

Jean Ping, chairman of the African Union Commission, the AU executive body, flew into Kenya yesterday to add diplomatic pressure to the crisis talks. Earlier this week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Kenya’s rival politicians to share power during talks in Nairobi.


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