|The Government and ODM Thursday returned smiles on the faces of Kenyans and a sigh of relief to the international community by signing a deal to end the two-month political crisis.
Kenyans across the country burst into celebrations after President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga signed the agreement at Harambee House.
Celebrations engulfed western Kenya following the announcement that the mediation team had reached a power sharing deal between PNU and ODM.
Crowds chanting ODM slogans poured into the streets to celebrate what they said was an end to a period of uncertainty.
On a day that would have seen the ODM supporters take to the streets in protests, it was jubilation instead.
Cars with full headlights blaring horns and draped in twigs snaked through the streets of Kisumu. While some sang and danced on the streets, others chose to ride on car bonnets in celebration.
But in the President’s Nyeri home turf, some residents welcomed the move while others accused him of betraying them.
Stick to the agreement
Kenya National Union of Teachers Nyeri branch secretary Samuel Kariuki Kanake welcomed the deal terming it the best decision the country has made in the recent past.
“This is the best decision and we fully support it,” said Mr Kanake who called the Nation Nyeri office soon after the deal was signed.
Mr James Mwangi, a consultant in Nyeri, said he hoped the leaders would follow the agreement to the letter.
“I hope this is the end of bad things for Kenya. The leaders should make sure they stick to the agreement,” he said.
However, some Othaya businessmen were unhappy.
“This is very serious. How can he do that?” asked a businessman from Othaya Town who said that by signing the deal, “the President was accepting that he had lost the polls”.
At the Coast, residents celebrated the power-sharing deal, saying it was the only way to end the crisis.
Business came to a standstill in Malindi Town last evening as residents poured into the streets shouting “Peace!” “Peace!” in celebration.
Several vehicles with huge loudspeakers mounted on them moved around the town, loud music blaring from them. The residents chanted “ODM!” “ODM!” and praised Mr Odinga for signing the deal.
In Kilifi Town, residents broke into celebrations after witnessing the signing of the agreement.
Most of the residents who followed the proceedings on television and radios in hotels, open air-markets and the Kilifi bus park broke into cheers and praised President Kibaki and Mr Odinga for their commitment to end the crisis.
Touts at the bus park abandoned their work and headed to palm wine drinking dens to celebrate. Two days of intense shuttle diplomacy by chief mediator Kofi Annan and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete targeting President Kibaki and Mr Odinga did the trick and the political agreement was signed at 5.50pm at Harambee House, which is also the office of the president.
It was the meeting of five — President Kibaki, Mr Odinga, President Kikwete, his predecessor, Mr Benjamin Mkapa, and Mr Annan – that succeeded in navigating through the six issues that had led to the suspension of talks to give Kenyans a peace deal they have been yearning for for the past two months.
Minutes before the announcement of the breakthrough, Mr Annan had stated: “We have had constructive and fruitful discussion and we have come to an understanding on coalition agreement. We are ready to sign a document at 4pm. That is when we will brief you on what we have agreed. What I can say now is that we have an agreement.”
The meeting took five and half hours in which it is understood President Kibaki and Mr Odinga closed ranks and agreed to the creation of the position of prime minister. It was based on the Tanzanian model of PM where the office holder controls and coordinates the functions of ministries in a way that his powers will not interfere with those of the President.
The two sides will also get ministerial slots on the strength of their numbers in Parliament while it was agreed that the positions of the PM and two deputies would be created through an Act of Parliament.
It was a sight to behold at the entrance to Harambee House when a mahogany table was brought and two red seats bearing the emblem of power strategically positioned next to it for the two men at the centre of the conflict to append their signatures to the coalition agreement.
Watching closely were Cabinet ministers, attorney-general Amos Wako, key leaders in ODM, foreign diplomats, Mr Annan and Mr Mkapa alongside scores of journalists. Hundreds of Kenyans stood on the adjacent Harambee Avenue to witness the occasion.
Mr Odinga and his team – MPs Musalia Mudavadi, Najib Balala, William Ruto, Sally Kosgei, Anyang’ Nyong’o and Henry Kosgey – arrived at 4pm ready for the ceremony. Mr Odinga had left the venue for lunch at 3pm as Mr Annan was briefing the press on the breakthrough.
President Kibaki, who arrived at Harambee House at 9am, met with government negotiators Martha Karua, Sam Ongeri, Moses Wetang’ula and Mbooni MP Mutula Kilonzo.
Also present during the signing ceremony were Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, Cabinet ministers George Saitoti, Amos Kimunya, Uhuru Kenyatta, Samuel Phogisio and Wilfred Machage.
It marked a fruitful end to a tortuous journey of mediation started by Ghanaian President John Kufuor on January 8.
Later police lobbed tear-gas canisters on a group that was celebrating the deal.
The group which had gathered at a vantage position near Harambee Avenue to follow the speeches had earlier wildly cheered President Kibaki and Mr Odinga as they signed the agreement and spoke.
They further chanted slogans in support of Mr Odinga and other ODM leaders.
The group’s shouting attracted the eyes of guests invited to witness the signing, together with former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and his predecessor Kofi Annan.
The crowd continued with their celebrations when the ceremony ended and as the dignitaries motorcades left the venue at around 6 pm.
However, hell broke loose minutes later when police, without any provocation lobbed tear-gas at the demonstrators as they scampered for safety.
Reports by Lucas Barasa, Bernard Namunane, Walter Menya, Walker Mwandoto, Wilfred Muchire and Daniel Nyassy