Kenya Political Rivals Agree to Independent Review of Disputed Election

Kenya's political rivals have agreed on the need for an independent review of the disputed election, but the difficult question of sharing power has yet to be resolved, chief mediator and former U.N. chief Kofi Annan said Friday.

"Let me assure you that there is real momentum," Annan told reporters, one day after the agreement was signed. "We are at the water's edge and the last difficult and frightening step, as difficult as it is, will be taken."

The deal marks the first time government officials have agreed to a review of the presidential election's results, a clear sign of progress weeks after the dispute triggered nationwide violence that has killed more than 1,000 people.

The rival camps have been under pressure to share power, but the issue remains a thorny one. The preliminary agreement calls for the two sides to draw up a new constitution within a year, which could pave the way for a prime minister's post or another way to share power.

"We have only one outstanding issue ... the governance structure, which is being actively discussed. Several options have emerged," said a copy of the agreement obtained by The Associated Press, adding that the negotiators now will consult President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

But in the western town of Kisumu, scene of some of the worst bloodshed, residents said they were getting restless about the seemingly drawn-out negotiations, which were to continue Tuesday.

"Why are they not hitting the main issue so we can have a normal life in Kenya?" said Dan Omondi, a 35-year-old taxi driver. "When you are hungry you need food, not appetizers."

Annan echoed those concerns, saying: "I thought we could have moved much faster than we have."

Kibaki was declared the winner of the Dec. 27 election, but opposition groups claimed the results were rigged. The ensuing violence has been shockingly brutal in a country once considered among the most stable in Africa, and ethnic resentments that flared with the bloodshed have polarized Kenyans as never before. Much of the violence has been aimed at Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe, long resented for dominating politics and the economy.

On Thursday, President Bush said he was sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Kenya. Rice and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer plan to travel on Monday to Nairobi, where they will meet with Kibaki, Odinga and civic leaders.

Bush said Rice will deliver a message to Kenya's leaders and people: "There must be an immediate halt to violence, there must be justice for the victims of abuse and there must be a full return to democracy."

He made the announcement during a speech previewing his six-day trip to Africa, which starts Saturday. Bush's schedule does not include a stop in Kenya.

A statement from Odinga's party said Friday that the visit is a "sign of the growing U.S. and international awareness that this grave crisis is far from over and that international pressure is essential .... We should not be fooled by the current relative calm to believe that the worse of the situation is over."

The agreement signed Thursday calls for an independent committee "to investigate all aspects of the 2007 presidential election." The committee will include Kenyan and non-Kenyan experts, and it will start work March 15. Its report will be submitted within three to six months and then will be published two weeks later.

In the agreement, the government also acknowledged that the dispute cannot be resolved in court because the deadline for complaints expired earlier this year. Kibaki's government had insisted the opposition take its complaints to the courts, while Odinga had argued that Kibaki stole the vote and should step down.

The 10-point agreement also provides for a comprehensive reform of electoral laws and institutions, and the creation of a truth, justice and reconciliation commission.

The report also said politicians must examine how long-standing land grievances, accusations of ethnic favoritism, and frustration over poverty and corruption contributed to the violence.

Musambayi Katumanga, a political scientist teaching at the University of Nairobi, said naming the problems is the easy part, but finding the political will to solve them is more difficult.

Katumanga said there already were several government reports looking at how to solve constitutional reform and land issues.

"These issues have to be sorted immediately and for some of them, the answers already exist. So anybody talking about long term is burying their head in the sand," he said.