Page last updated at 16:09 GMT, Thursday, 6 March 2008

Kenya MPs urged to back agreement

Opening of Kenyan parliament 6/03/08
The session opened with two minutes of silence for victims

Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki has urged MPs to pass into law a power-sharing agreement aimed at ending weeks of post-election violence.

Mr Kibaki told the state opening of parliament in Nairobi that the deal would lay "the foundations for peace and stability in our country".

Under the deal, opposition leader Raila Odinga would become prime minister.

Hundreds of people have died in violence following polls in December, which Mr Odinga said were rigged.

Addressing parliament, Mr Kibaki said the accord was a first step towards achieving a prosperous future for all Kenyans.

I appeal to you all to be guided by a strong sense of national unity, which must override all partisan considerations
President Mwai Kibaki

"I urge honourable members to ensure that all the necessary bills... are dealt with promptly so that Kenya can restore and even exceed its former glory," he said.

Ahead of the opening, President Kibaki said Kenyans were "keen to see an end to partisan bickering".

"They want pragmatic solutions, not ideological posturing. They want their leaders to place the country above party and individual interests," he said.

The session was opened with two minutes of silence - one for two MPs killed in the violence, the other for some 1,500 others who died.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga arrive at parliament
The two leaders were seen talking amicably over refreshments
Speaker Kenneth Marende, a member of Mr Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement, urged parliament to "stand tall and try to make Kenyans proud".

He also blamed the country's electoral commission for the country's crisis.

"The genesis of the problem that afflicted the nation would appear to have had its epicentre at the electoral commission headquarters," he said.

The BBC's Adam Mynott in Nairobi said that from the atmosphere in the parliament, it did seem that the two parties were united, despite their previous animosity.

The outwards signs suggest that Kenya is moving steadily down the path to a unified government, but there will be obstacles along the way, he says.

Power wrangling

MPs are being asked to back four key bills:

  • The national accord and reconciliation bill, which sets out the details of the power-sharing deal

  • The constitutional amendment bill, which makes the necessary changes to the country's constitution

  • A bill establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the recent violence and longer-term injustices

  • An ethnic relations bill aimed at promoting tribal tolerance in Kenya

Kenyan MPs are due to begin debating the national accord and reconciliation bill next week.

It is very clear in the accord that was signed that the cabinet is going to be shared on an equal basis
William Ruto
ODM spokesman
Our correspondent says the deal has helped to dispel anger, but much work remains to be done on how power-sharing will work in practice.

Under the deal, brokered by UN-backed negotiators, Mr Odinga is to be appointed prime minister - a post that does not currently exist under the Kenyan constitution.

However, it is not yet clear what Mr Odinga's powers and responsibilities will be.

Government spokesman Alfred Mutua said the president would appoint the cabinet and that the prime minister would work on an agenda set by the president.

ODM MPs: 102
PNU MPs: 46
Pro-ODM MPs: 5
Pro-PNU MPs: 61
Vacant seats: 6

"It is not what you would call power-sharing whereby the president and prime minister are equal...

"It is the president who appoints the prime minister and the whole idea in power sharing is bringing the opposition party into government on an equal basis," he told the BBC.

"You cannot usurp the constitution of Kenya and create two seats of power," he said.

However, ODM spokesman William Ruto told the BBC that cabinet appointments would be made by both Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga.

"It is very clear in the accord that was signed that the cabinet is going to be shared on an equal basis, and members of cabinet will be chosen from the two sides," he said.

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