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Kenya Reconciliation Talks Continue; Focus on Power-Sharing Issues


Parties to the Kenya reconciliation talks held a series of meetings Friday aimed at bringing the two sides closer on the issue of power-sharing which has been the biggest obstacle to date. The opposition repeated its threat to resume mass demonstrations if greater progress was not achieved. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from Nairobi.

Negotiators for the Kenyan government and opposition remained tight-lipped as they tried to hammer out an agreement on how much power to invest in the proposed post of prime minister.

The opposition wanted the prime minister to be head-of-government and wield considerable powers over the executive branch. But government negotiators said they saw the post as non-executive with what were termed some responsibilities. A technical team was working on what constitutional and legal changes would be needed to create the post.

The recently chosen chairman of the African Union, Jean Ping, flew to Nairobi to show support for the talks which he said were moving in a good direction.

"The weekend will be crucial and we hope that next week we will have something which could be agreed [upon]," he said.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the chief mediator at the talks, has expressed satisfaction with the progress made, saying Thursday that he was beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

But opposition Parliament member Ababu Namwamba said his Orange Democratic Movement party would hold anti-government protests if the talks continued at their current pace.

"If by Wednesday, the 27th day of February, 2008, no tangible outcome is achieved from the mediation process then the [ODM] party members are called upon to prepare for immediate civil mass disobedience," he said.

Anti-government demonstrations following the election sparked a wave of violence in which 1,000 people were killed and several hundred thousand were displaced. The violence has subsided since the reconciliation talks began but many Kenyans fear it could revive if a political solution to the crisis is not found.

Political analyst Ken Ouko of Nairobi University said Kenyans are angry over the elections which many feel were rigged. And he said the proposed post of prime minister would not erase this memory.

"If you're looking at it [premiership] as a long-term solution I think it falls short," he said. "What's going to happen is probably [to] use the premiership to dissect and improve our institutions so that people feel that there is some change, but I guess we'll still have to walk the election route some time [day] to be able to put this to rest."

Nevertheless he said an agreement to bring the opposition into government would help ease some tensions in the country.

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