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Calm after the storm

Publish date: 10 March 2008
Issue Number: 271
Diary: Legalbrief Africa Old
Category: Kenya

After weeks of deadlocked negotiations and bloodshed on the streets of Kenya, the recent political breakthrough has switched the spotlight to Parliament where MPs are being called on to support the accord signed by President Mwai Kibaki and ODM chairman Raila Odinga. The country has opened a new political era, during which power and responsibilities of the government will be shared through a grand coalition.

E-Brief News reports that 215 MPs endorsed the historic power-sharing deal, which is to be entrenched through in the Constitution to pave way for the creation of the offices of Prime Minister and two deputies. The Nation reports that Kenya's National Commission on Human Rights vice-chair, Florence Simbiri-Jaoko, was anxious to see the legislation passed quickly to ensure the agreement was binding and enforceable. Simbiri-Jaoko expressed fear the legality of the Kenya National Accord and Reconciliation Act could be challenged in court if the Bills were not passed. The passing into law of the Act is expected to be followed by a rollout of a broad reform agenda to address challenges of governance. Kibaki and Odinga marshalled the support of MPs from both sides to fast track the legalisation of principles of coalition. In a rare show of unity, the three contestants in the December presidential election, Kibaki, Raila and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, read from one script of comprehensive reforms, peace, healing and reconciliation. The East African Standard reports that Kibaki said key reforms would be embarked on with focus on a new Constitution within 12 months. According to a report on the site, Kibaki said the signing of the (Annan-brokered) accord was a first step in bringing stability to the country and opens a new chapter in the management of national affairs. Saying the success of the accord depended on the House, he urged the members to ensure the four Bills, The National Accord and Reconciliation Bill, The Constitutional Amendment Bill, The Truth Justice and Reconciliation Bill and The Ethnic Commission Bill, are dealt with promptly. The president also said the government had created a fund of $14m, to provide assistance to displaced people following the post poll skirmishes. He added the government would launch an emergency programme for economic reconstruction following the post election violence. Speaker Kenneth Marende, a member of the ODM, urged Parliament to 'stand tall and try to make Kenyans proud'. BBC News reports that he also blamed the country's electoral commission for the crisis. 'The genesis of the problem that afflicted the nation would appear to have had its epicentre at the electoral commission headquarters,' he said. Full report in The Nation Full report in The East African Standard Full report on the site Full report in The Nation Full BBC News report Full version of Kibaki's speech

Despite this breakthrough, at least nine people were killed and more than 100 houses torched in fresh violence in Kenya's Rift Valley province. According to a report on the IoL site, the violence took place in villages around the town of Laikipia, northwest of Nairobi. Mutula, quoting police, said the attack in Laikipia's Soilo and Muhotetu villages appeared to have been motivated by revenge following Wednesday night's killing of a woman in the same area. Meanwhile, the Kenyan Government has refuted media reports that it sanctioned violence during post-election crisis. Dr Alfred Mutua, the government spokesperson, described the claims as 'preposterous, baseless and at best defamatory'. The Daily Monitor reports that news of the allegations come as plans are under way to establish a truth and reconciliation commission in the coming weeks to examine claims of election violence. Full report on the IoL site Full Daily Monitor report

In other developments, a list of more than 1 700 contacts of individuals who created or forwarded short message service (SMS) messages to incite ethnic violence has been compiled and is awaiting government action. The Nation notes that the list of individuals who have been tracked through their phone numbers is with Information and Communications Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo. But as the government prepares to crack down following post-election violence, a familiar problem has emerged: there is no law governing hate speech over mobile phones, radio and television. It is a bitter pill to swallow for the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. Last year, the commission drafted a content Bill along with civil society groups that would have made hate speech illegal. The proposed law was submitted to MPs just before the December election, but was shot down at a moment when it was needed most. The commission has been monitoring SMSs for hate speech since the 2005 constitutional referendum, and has a dossier of hundreds of them from the most recent poll. Full report in The Nation