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Kenyas rival politicians signed a power-sharing agreement after weeks of bitter negotiations
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, left, makes an speech in front of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, centre, and opposition leader Raila Odinga, right, after a power-sharing agreement in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2008 after weeks of bitter negotiations on how to end the country's deadly post election crisis. Both claim to have won the country's Dec. 27 presidential election, which observers say was marred by rigging on both sides. - photo by Associated Press
    NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s president and the opposition leader signed a power-sharing deal Thursday to bring the country back from the depths of violence and ethnic hatred that followed the disputed presidential election two months ago.
    After weeks of frustrating negotiations, President Mwai Kibaki and his rival Raila Odinga gave terse smiles for the cameras and shook hands as onlookers applauded enthusiastically.
    Under the agreement, the opposition leader will become prime minister and have the power to ‘‘coordinate and supervise’’ the government — more authority than Kibaki wanted to yield.
    Odinga referred to Kibaki as ‘‘my countryman, President Mwai Kibaki,’’ an important sign of acceptance from a man who has said Kibaki’s re-election in the Dec. 27 vote was a sham.
    ‘‘For the last two months, Kenyans have known nothing but sadness,’’ Odinga said.
    Kibaki added: ‘‘This process has reminded us that as a nation there are more issues that unite than that divide us.’’
    But in a reminder of the previous weeks’ chaos, police fired tear gas to disperse dozens of people who were gathered outside Kibaki’s office to witness the signing.
    Both Kibaki and Odinga claim to have won the country’s presidential election, which observers say was marred by rigging on both sides.
    The dispute set off street violence that killed more than 1,000 people and eviscerated the East African country’s economy. Postelection violence has largely subsided in recent weeks, but the country remains on edge.
    Mediator Kofi Annan said earlier Thursday that ‘‘compromise was necessary for the survival of this country.’’
    As prime minister, Odinga will have the power to ‘‘coordinate and supervise’’ government affairs, according to the deal. That is more authority than the government had wanted to give, but it still leaves open whether the prime minister will have executive authority that cannot be overruled by the president.
    It was unclear when Odinga would take up the position. Kibaki said he is reconvening parliament next Thursday to begin work on the constitutional changes necessary to make the deal into law.
    In western Kenya, scene of the some of the worst postelection violence, many people said it will take years to recover.
    ‘‘The deal between Raila and Kibaki will help to cool down the situation but I doubt if it will enable us to get back to our homes,’’ said Paul Waweru, 56, among 19,000 people living in a camp in Eldoret.
    Samson Kiplagat, a trader in the western town of Kericho, said Odinga had sold out.
    ‘‘Raila has betrayed us for settling for a lesser position than that of the presidency,’’ he said.
    But residents in Nairobi’s Kibera slum celebrated what they saw as a chance for peace.
    ‘‘The general mood among people is that of happiness,’’ said Nelson Ochieng, whose barbershop was destroyed during the postelection violence. ‘‘We are tired of the political crisis. I was a barber but my shop was burnt. Now I’m jobless and the end of this crisis means that I can rebuild my business.’’
    The conflict has tarnished the reputation of this once-stable and prosperous country, bringing sharp rebuke from exasperated Western powers. Diplomats from the U.S. and around Africa have jetted in to Kenya to urge progress, many of the exasperated by the talks’ glacial pace.
    The State Department welcomed Thursday’s announcement but said work remains to ensure long-term success.
    ‘‘We want to see this agreement implemented and much will depend on its implementation,’’ said Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman. ‘‘We will be watching very carefully to see how this progresses.’’
    ‘‘We appreciate the goodwill shown’’ by Kibaki and Odinga in reaching the agreement and calling on their followers to cooperate, Casey added.
    British Prime Minister Gordon Brown also applauded the deal but said ‘‘the hard work must continue. Kenyans need help to resettle and rebuild. Real leadership, patience and tolerance is necessary to ensure that the agreement sticks.’’
    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the agreement ‘‘a breakthrough’’ that ‘‘gives hope to the people of Kenya for a return to democratic stability in their country,’’ U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said at U.N. headquarters in New York.
    Associated Press writers Elizabeth A. Kennedy, Heidi Vogt and Tom Odula contributed to this report.

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