February 10, 2008 / 12:07 PM / 10 years ago

Kenya rivals ready to discuss power-sharing

<p>A girl cries inside a camp for displaced people in Nakuru February 9, 2008.Peter Andrews</p>

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya's rival parties geared up on Sunday to thrash out a power-sharing agreement to end a deadly crisis over President Mwai Kibaki's disputed re-election.

Both sides gave ground last week at talks mediated by former U.N. boss Kofi Annan, paving the way for a deal to stop turmoil that has killed more than 1,000 and uprooted 300,000 more.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga accuses Kibaki of rigging the December 27 poll, triggering ethnic violence that shattered Kenya's image as a peaceful business, tourism and transport hub.

"We are advocating for power-sharing, if need be," Japhet Kareke, a member of parliament from Kibaki's coalition, told reporters. "The president and honorable Raila are talking. For the sake of peace, let them sit down and agree the way forward."

When negotiations resume on Monday, both sides will discuss what form power-sharing might take over a two- to three-year period. Then Annan's mediation team is due to brief legislators on Tuesday during a special session of parliament.

Speaking outside a Nairobi cathedral on Sunday, Odinga said his party supported a political settlement, but gave no details: "We will not carry out mediation talks through the media."

His Orange Democratic Movement is no longer calling on Kibaki to step down, sources close to the talks say, while Kibaki's Party of National Unity has dropped its demand that the opposition take any grievances over the polls to court.

For his part, Annan has sounded optimistic since the apparent breakthrough in the discussions on Friday, saying he now expects delegates to reach a deal within days.

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But he has urged caution, saying the talks were far from complete and chiding some participants for leaking details.

Both sides have agreed principles to end violence and help refugees. Annan had given them until mid-February to resolve a third item: what should be done about the disputed election.

The former U.N. chief hopes debate on the deeper underlying issues, such as land grievances, will be tackled within a year.

The bloodshed in Kenya has exposed deep divisions over land, wealth and power that were sown during British colonial rule and have been stoked by politicians ever since.

"I hope and know that Kenyans do not want to go back to a one-party state," the visiting Anglican Archbishop of York John Sentamu, a Ugandan former judge, said at the cathedral.

"Forget what is behind this and face forward. This country is capable of rising above the nonsense that has gone on."

The turmoil in once-stable Kenya has drawn a swift response from the international community.

U.N. aid chief John Holmes, the latest in a succession of visiting foreign dignitaries, has spent two days meeting victims of the violence in the Rift Valley and areas around Nairobi.

"It's clear from what I saw and the people I talked to that there is a very serious humanitarian problem," he said.

"I think we have to plan for some camps being there for at least a period of months while the problems are sorted out and while we can establish the conditions for people to go home."

Holmes said he was very concerned about reports of sexual assault and gang rape.

"I think there was a lot of sexual violence associated with the general violence and a lot of very disturbing accounts of gang rape and other kinds of sexual violence associated with the clashes themselves," he said.

(Additional reporting by Michael Georgy; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Caroline Drees)

For special coverage from Reuters on Kenya's crisis see: here

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