Kenya crisis talks seen shifting to Constitution

Kofi Annan, the mediator trying to end Kenya’s violent post-election crisis, prepared to reveal a deal on Friday struck between the feuding parties that looked set to shift the dispute towards a battle over the Constitution.

The Ghanaian mediator secreted the parties at a luxury lodge in south-east Kenya for three days in the hope of striking a deal to end the immediate political crisis by the week’s end.

But they flew back to the capital, Nairobi, on Thursday without agreeing on power-sharing, a sticking point seen by diplomats as essential to averting any more bloodshed.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga accuses President Mwai Kibaki of stealing the December 27 election, but the president says he won fairly and says the opposition has stoked violence instead of following Kenya’s laws to challenge the result.

Government officials said the four-page agreement due to be revealed by Annan on Friday in Nairobi included a deal to rewrite the Constitution within a year.

The opposition wants to draft a new charter, share power in the government and hold a new election within two years. The government wants constitutional and electoral law changes, but only applicable to the next election, due in 2012.

The only form of power-sharing being considered is giving opposition members ministries in Kibaki’s half-filled Cabinet, government officials have said.

Annan is trying to bring an immediate end to a post-election crisis, which plunged the East African nation into one of its darkest moments since 1963 independence, with at least 1 000 killed and 300 000 displaced in politically tinged violence.

The killings laid bare disputes over power, wealth and land that have festered in Kenya since the British colonial era, and have been manipulated by politicians ever since.

Ethnic bloodshed, violent protests and images of forlorn refugees seen since the Decemeber 27 poll have dented Kenya’s reputation as one of the continent’s most stable, prosperous democracies and hurt its booming economy. — Reuters

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