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Kenya Sex Boycott Ends

A week-long effort by Kenyan women to withhold sex in the hope of spurring political leaders to resolve their disputes and undertake reforms comes to an end Wednesday. Leaders of the women's groups that organized the campaign called it a success, but there has been little indication that tensions between the country's leaders have eased.

The sex boycott called by a coalition of women's organizations a week ago has without a doubt succeeded in capturing the country's attention. For days, the country's newspapers and television programs have been filled with debate about the merits of the protest.

Pundits, more often than not men, have weighed in to ridicule the campaign as a misguided stunt, with some suggesting it will drive married men into the arms of prostitutes. Others have defended it as a canny tactic to make leaders take notice. The protest made international headlines when Prime Minister Raila Odinga's wife Ida announced that she would join in.

At an event in Nairobi marking the end of the campaign, one of the organizers, Women's Development Organization chairwoman Rukia Subow, said the protest has been a success.

"It has worked. We are calling off today but the message was heard. The issue is putting pressure and we have seen what pressure has brought. It is confirmed now that the two principals are talking together, we are going to get the reforms soon. Whether we like it or not, that pressure, worked," she said.

On Monday, President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who lead the two parties in Kenya's fractious coalition government, met to discuss a dispute between the two sides about who should head a key committee in parliament. The argument has brought business in parliament to a standstill and the cabinet has not held its weekly meeting for the past month.

Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi also described the meeting of the president and prime minister, who pledged to accelerate the pace of reforms, as a victory for the women.

"We all know that Kenyans, and especially the women, are fed up with our endless political wrangles and the bickering among our political leaders ... I hope there will be no cause for the women of Kenya to go back to that boycott again. We heard the message, we acted on it," Murungi said.

But despite their meeting, Kenya's leaders appear as divided as ever.

On Tuesday, the prime minister's Orange Democratic Movement party accused the president's Party of National Unity of thwarting efforts to set up a mechanism for resolving disputes within the coalition government. The Orange Democratic Movement also complained that President Kibaki did not consult the prime minister in appointing a new justice minister.

The parliamentary committee at the heart of the latest dispute was allowed to begin its work this week after the speaker of parliament said he would temporarily serve as its leader. But the first scheduled meeting was canceled when not enough of the members showed up.

The organizers of the sex boycott have announced a 90-day follow up campaign to monitor the progress of Kenya's leaders in implementing reforms, including a revision of the constitution and improvements to the judicial system. But the organizers say this effort will stay out of the bedroom.