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Kenya Opposition Warns of Renewed Protests


Kenya's opposition has said it will launch another round of demonstrations if mediation efforts fail to resolve a political crisis in the next week. The government and opposition have failed to agree on an acceptable power-sharing arrangement. Derek Kilner reports from Nairobi.

The opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) has called for the creation of an office of prime minister, along with a Cabinet divided evenly between the government and opposition.

President Mwai Kibaki has said he is willing to accept some level of opposition representation in the Cabinet. But he says any political solution must follow Kenya's constitution, which would not allow for a prime minister.

The opposition says parliament should be convened to amend the constitution to allow such changes. ODM Secretary General Anyang' Nyong'o says there is a precedent for such action.

"Every political crisis in this country has always been settled through a constitutional amendment," he said. "So now to say that this particular crisis has to be settled within the confines of the present constitution is actually being naughty."

Both parties have agreed on the need for a more thorough constitutional review to be undertaken in the coming year.

Nyong'o says that if the government continues to reject constitutional changes in the short term, the Orange Democratic Movement will resort to popular demonstrations.

While the Orange Democratic Movement has said the protests will be peaceful, many fear that, regardless of the intentions of the organizers, mass demonstrations will lead to renewed violence.

Nyong'o maintains that the main threat of violence comes from the police response, rather than the protesters.

"If people demonstrate peacefully as they always do and the police do not shoot them, as they did last time, nobody will die," he said.

Human rights organizations have criticized police for firing on demonstrators last month.

Political violence set off by a disputed presidential election on December 27 has left more than 1,000 people dead and displaced about 600,000. Much of the violence has occurred along ethnic lines.

The country has returned to relative calm in the past two weeks, as former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan leads a mediation effort in Nairobi. Those talks continue.

Annan has urged the sides to reach a power-sharing agreement, as has U.S. President George Bush.

While Annan said last week that the sides were close to a political agreement, there has since been little indication of progress in the talks.

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