After Tough Words from US, Kenya Rivals Sign Peace Deal

Stephen Mbogo | Correspondent | Thursday, February 28, 2008

After Tough Words from US, Kenya Rivals Sign Peace Deal

Nairobi, Kenya (CNSNews.com) - Under pressure from the international community and facing unspecified warnings from the United States, Kenya's political rivals Thursday agreed to a power-sharing deal to end a violent, two-month-old conflict.

President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, whose supporters accused Kibaki of rigging last December's election, agreed to a formula that appoints Odinga to the post of prime minister and allows for a shared cabinet.

The country will also fast-track a constitutional review process. Delays in the process, especially in its goal of reducing the powers of the president, are largely blamed for the current crisis.

The agreement came just days after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a strongly worded statement said the U.S. was ready to act against those trying to derail mediation efforts led by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

"I want to emphasize that the future of our relationship with both sides and their legitimacy hinges on their cooperation to achieve this political solution," Rice said.

"In that regard, we are exploring a wide range of possible actions. We will draw our own conclusions about who is responsible for lack of progress and take necessary steps."

The steps were not specified, but the threat was taken seriously here.

The statement came days after Rice was sent to the country by President Bush, who was on a visit to five African countries, Kenya not among them.

Whether the warning was a deciding factor in pushing the rivals to an agreement or not, Kenyans interviewed here said pressure from the U.S. and Europe seemed to have helped.

There were celebrations across the country after the two leaders emerged in front of TV cameras to sign the deal.

The U.S. earlier warned Kenyan leaders that they risked being banned from travel to America if they did not support mediation efforts.

Pressure also came from Europe, with a senior British government official hinting at the possibility of using the military here to end the violence, which cost an estimated 1,500 lives and displaced some 250,000 people.

Britain is Kenya's former colonial ruler and has important business interests in the country.

Analysts in earlier interviews said the crisis was worrying the international community, because the instability in the strategically located country - bordering Somalia and Sudan and not far from Yemen - could be exploited by transnational criminals and terrorists.

Phillip Njuguna, a researcher at the Institute of Security Studies said the U.S. was particularly concerned about Somalia, which has been unstable for a decade and a half and which has become a major training ground for Islamic extremists.

The ethnic violence following the disputed election has shaken a country that has maintained peace for decades, been seen as a stabilizing factor in the fragile Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region, is a regional hub for humanitarian aid, and is a key anti-terrorism ally of the U.S.

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