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Kenya, constitution to be re written parties agreed today, talks adjourn, Rice expected

Kenya rivals to re-write constitution: govt

Thu Feb 14, 2008 1:07pm EST

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By Katie Nguyen and Andrew Cawthorne

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s feuding parties have agreed to rewrite the country’s constitution within a year after a post-election crisis, but have yet to agree terms for power-sharing, a government negotiator said on Thursday.

The announcement came after two days of closed-door talks mediated by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan and aimed at resolving the crisis that followed President Mwai Kibaki’s disputed December 27 re-election which has killed more than 1,000 people and driven 300,000 from their homes.

“Both parties reached agreement on a wide-ranging sphere of issues affecting the country … among them being to write a new constitution within a year,” government negotiator Mutula Kilonzo told Reuters.

But the two sides had yet to strike a deal on the major outstanding issue — the structure of the government.

Annan had hoped to forge a final political solution this week, but the talks are set to reconvene on Monday.

Kilonzo said the parties also agreed on “serious constitutional, legal and institutional reforms” in a four-page document, but gave no further details.

Opposition officials were not immediately available for comment.

Critics of the government say the president wields too much power under the current constitution, from setting the parliamentary timetable to appointing electoral commissioners.  Continued…

In a bid to shore up Annan’s mission, U.S. President George W. Bush has asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to head to Kenya to tell its leaders there must be a return to democracy.

“There must be an immediate halt to violence, there must be justice for the victims of abuse and there must be a full return to democracy,” Bush said.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga accuses Kibaki’s team of rigging the vote, while Kibaki says he won fairly.

Both sides have agreed in principle to some form of power-sharing and have been focusing on the details in private. After returning from the talks at a luxury safari lodge, a leading government minister downplayed expectations.

“Optimism is not the same as reality, but we are making progress,” Justice Minister Martha Karua told reporters.

“We are making progress, we have not reached agreement.”

TRUTH COMMISSION

The two parties are also expected to set up a South African-style truth, justice and reconciliation commission to investigate abuses including ethnic attacks and killings of protesters by police.

On Thursday, the government-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) said ringleaders should not be forgiven.  Continued…

Kenya crisis talks adjourn, Rice expected

Thu Feb 14, 2008 12:00pm EST

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Various Western nations have threatened travel bans or freezing of assets against guilty parties, and have also said that anyone derailing the Annan talks will face “consequences”.

Kenya’s foreign minister lashed out at Britain’s high commissioner on Thursday after the envoy said on local TV the government did not reflect the democratic will of the people.

Moses Wetangula said Adam Wood’s comments had shown “total disregard” for diplomatic etiquette, and he threatened to take unspecified action if the incident was repeated.

A spokeswoman at the British High Commission in Nairobi said Wood was only reiterating the British government’s position.

The trouble has exposed deep rifts over land, power and wealth that date from the British colonial era and have been stoked by some Kenyan politicians ever since.

On Thursday, the government said it was setting up a resettlement department to help return displaced people to their homes. To encourage them, it said it was also building 32 new police stations in areas afflicted by the violence.

(Additional reporting by Jack Kimball and Tabassum Zakaria in Washington; Editing by Katie Nguyen)

(For special coverage from Reuters on Kenya’s crisis see:

http://africa.reuters.com/elections/kenya/)

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About SG

Secretary general of Chama Cha Mwananchi. This blog www.chamachamwananchi.wordpress.com, is based in Sweden.

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