- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2008

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya’s opposition leader yesterday signaled he is willing to share power with the government he accuses of rigging elections, but at the same time called for mass rallies, a move that threatens renewed bloodletting.

Weary Kenyans, some hungry and homeless after a week of violence marked by ethnic clashes, prayed for peace and begged their leaders to break the political deadlock.

The opposition leader, Raila Odinga, who claims President Mwai Kibaki stole the vote, told reporters he is ready to talk about sharing power, but only through a mediator empowered to negotiate an agreement that the international community would guarantee.

He welcomed the imminent arrival of Ghana’s president, John Kufuor, current chairman of the African Union, who is expected in Nairobi by tomorrow.

Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi E. Frazer was here talking to Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga, whom the United States, Britain and the European Union have urged to negotiate.

More than 300 people have died and 250,000 have been forced from their homes in the upheaval over the balloting, only the second free election since Kenya’s 1963 independence from Britain.

The troubles eased over the weekend, though there have been isolated machete fights and ethnic attacks, and police fired tear gas to disperse protesters in the coastal tourist city of Mombasa.

More clashes are likely, however, if Mr. Odinga presses ahead with his call for supporters to rally tomorrow, despite a government ban.

Attempts to rally last week were blocked by police who fired tear gas, water cannons and live bullets over people’s heads. Human rights groups accuse police of excessive force and unjustified killings in the crisis, but police Commissioner Hussein Ali yesterday insisted, “We have not shot anyone.”

Mr. Kibaki, re-elected by a narrow margin in a vote count that international observers say was deeply flawed, said Saturday after meeting with Miss Frazer that he is willing to form a unity government.

Mr. Odinga rejected that proposal, but his spokesman, Salim Lone, said the opposition is open to other solutions, such as a coalition government “with genuine power-sharing.”

He said his party differentiates between a unity government, in which the president has considerable power, and a coalition government that has greater possibilities for power-sharing and in which Mr. Kibaki might not even be president.

The other opposition proposal is to arrange an interim government with a mandate to hold new presidential elections, he said. Mr. Kibaki said only a court can order new elections — an unlikely event since he has packed the judiciary with allies.

It would be nearly impossible for Mr. Kibaki to govern without opposition support. Mr. Odinga’s party won 95 of 210 seats in a parliamentary election the same day as the presidential election, and half of Mr. Kibaki’s Cabinet lost their seats.

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