Kenya President, Opposition Leader Negotiate on How to Move Country Past Postelection Violence

Kenya's president and the rival with whom he has agreed to share power after weeks of bitter negotiations held a two-hour meeting Tuesday about how to move the country past postelection violence that killed more than 1,000 people.

President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga both claim to have won Dec. 27 presidential elections. Their dispute unleashed weeks of bloodshed, exposing divisions over land and economic inequality.

International and local observers say the vote was rigged and it's unclear who won, and they accuse politicians of fomenting the violence.

"We agreed that we want to heal the wounds which were inflicted during these last two months," Odinga told reporters as he left the meeting, which he described as "very productive."

It was the first meeting between Kibaki and Odinga since they struck a political deal last week to share power, with Odinga serving as prime minister.

On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised his predecessor, Kofi Annan, for his role in mediating. Annan had shown "great leadership" in defusing two months of postelection conflict in the east African nation, Ban said.

Despite the deal, many fear the fighting — much of it pitting longtime neighbors against each other — will not wane easily.

On Monday, 13 people were burned alive or hacked to death in what police described as one in a series of clashes over land in the region at the foot of Mount Elgon in Kenya's fertile Rift Valley, some 300 miles northwest of Nairobi.

Bernard Muli, a police chief in the area, blamed the Sabaot Land Defense Force, a militia group fighting for the redistribution of land in western Kenya.

There was no claim of responsibility. A member of the SLDF, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said his group is simply trying to "correct historical injustices."

Some 800 people have been killed in land clashes in the region since 2006, said Ken Wafula, executive director of the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in the Rift Valley.

The tensions trace back to Kenya's colonial era, when white settlers seized land in the western Rift Valley. The Kikuyus who lived there were dispersed throughout the country, and the British ruled by keeping the groups divided.

At independence in 1963, Kenya's first president, Jomo Kenyatta, helped his Kikuyu kinsmen by appointing them to top government posts and easing the way for them to buy land from white settlers.

The Kikuyu quickly prospered, growing into the most powerful ethnic group in the country, running business and politics. The favoritism shown to Kikuyus fueled a simmering anger among the nation's 41 other tribes.

The old bitterness regularly erupts over land, particularly at election time.