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Page last updated at 16:48 GMT, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Kenya leaders Kibaki and Odinga try to heal rift

Kenya President Mwai Kibaki (L) and Prime Minister Raila Odinga
Kenya is polarised by conflicting loyalties to the two leaders

Kenya's president and prime minister have met for the first time since a power struggle broke out a week ago which threatened the unity government.

They agreed to settle issues that had strained their relationship, Prime Minister Raila Odinga's spokesman said.

They fell out after President Mwai Kibaki overturned a decision by the prime minister to suspend cabinet ministers over corruption allegations.

The pair formed a coalition to help end riots after the 2007 election.

Unity call

After the talks, Mr Kibaki's office released a brief statement saying: "The consultations centred on a wide range of issues touching on the grand coalition government."

I appeal to honourable members to shun the divisive parties and politics, and focus on the greater good of our country
President Mwai Kibaki

Jakoyo Midiwo, from Mr Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), said more meetings would follow.

"The two principals agreed to work more closely and settle the issues that had been straining their relationship," he said.

The president then went on to open parliament with a call for unity.

Occasionally stumbling on his words, he said that despite coming from diverse origins, Kenyans were one people, one family.

"I appeal to honourable members to shun the divisive parties and politics, and focus on the greater good of our country," he said.

"Whatever differences that may arise between us, we should amicably resolve in the national interest."

The BBC's Will Ross in Nairobi says MPs stamped their feet in approval.

Maize and school scandals

He says the latest political row has increased tension and prompted many analysts to warn that Kenya is still on a dangerous road.

Most of the reforms intended to prevent a repeat of the post-election violence have not been carried out - and efforts to stamp out corruption have been overshadowed by political rivalry.

The two ministers reinstated by Mr Kibaki came under scrutiny because of millions of dollars stolen from their ministries.

A recent audit into a maize scandal revealed that $26m (£16.5m) had gone missing from the Agriculture Ministry, headed by William Ruto.

He was an ally of the prime minister and is still a member of Mr Odinga's ODM, but the pair are now fierce rivals.

The Education Ministry, headed by Sam Ongeri from Mr Kibaki's Party of National Unity, has come under fire after more than $1m earmarked for schools went missing.

Some 1,300 people died in the violence in 2007 and tens of thousands were displaced in weeks of violence.

Mr Odinga and Mr Kibaki are from different ethnic groups - a divide which helped to fuel the riots.



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
BusinessWeek Kenya Mulls Constitution to Curb Election Violence: Week Ahead - 17 hrs ago
Reuters Africa UPDATE 2-Kenyan leader calls for unity to lift economic growth - 19 hrs ago
Washington PostKenya president to parliament: unify the country - 20 hrs ago
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