Last week the Kenyan Parliament debated the peace deal signed last week between President Mwai Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU) and Raila Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).
The main points of the agreement provide for constitutional changes that will see the creation of the post of prime minister - which Odinga is expected to occupy - and the formation of a coalition government by the two parties.
The deal has been widely welcomed and it is hoped that it will put an end to the ethnic violence that killed more than 1 500 Kenyans since elections in late December. But, as the agreement's main mediator, Kofi Annan, said prior to departing Kenya: "The journey is far from over. In fact, it is only the beginning."
Stephanie Wolters (Mail and Guardian) spoke to the ODM's Raila Odinga about the challenges that lie ahead.
If it is accepted, it will pave the way for the formation of a 50-50 coalition government, consisting of a minister from the ODM and the PNU. How do you propose to negotiate the formation of such a government?
The agreement says that the government will be shared on a 50-50 basis with particular regard to portfolio balance, which means that weightings can be put on some ministries as opposed to other ministries. This is something that is going to be negotiated with our political partners. We have already set up a team of three representatives from both parties.
Are there particular portfolios that the ODM wants?
No, I don't want to judge and we want to be fairly flexible, but there are certain important ministries that we want to share between the two sides.
Last week you met Kibaki for the first time outside of the framework of negotiations. Why should the Kenyan public believe that you can work together and have the political will to put the country ahead of the political ambitions of your parties?
I think there are historical circumstances that have dictated that we must work together and I don't think that there are any particular obstacles that lie between me and Kibaki. We worked together in the past in a coalition government. If Nelson Mandela could work with FW de Klerk, I don't see why Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki cannot work in a government.
The ODM and the PNU have very different views on economic distribution. You campaigned on a platform of more equitable distribution of the country's resources through decentralisation, playing on the perception that the ruling party has favoured its ethnic base. Now that you are in a coalition government with that party, how do you propose to pursue your supporters' desire for more equitable distribution of the country's resources?
Yes, it is true that our campaign platforms are very different in certain areas. [For example] we want to see more equitable distribution of resources in our country through a devolved system of government and very strong anti-corruption measures … Those are the issues that we have agreed we must address beforehand and the team we have set up together, apart from negotiating the structure of government, is going to deal with the harmonisation of the manifestos of our different parties … so that we can come up with one common programme.
These types of negotiations could take some time. How will you convince local leaders that their grievances are being addressed and that violence is not the means of addressing their concerns?
This should not take too much time. I am sure the PNU would also like to see some of these issues addressed. Except it did not prioritise them. I do expect that by the time we form the government, common ground will have been reached on most of these issues.
It is not a question of just forming a coalition government; it has to be based on something, that is why we are negotiating up front to agree on a communal programme to take to the people as a compromise. That is what coalitions are all about, so we will really come towards the centre.
Has the violence of the past two months permanently transformed ethnic relations in Kenya?
Certainly it has confounded things, so the country is more polarised along the ethnic … lines than any time since before independence. We will need to work on reconciliation for society, so that we refuse the polarisation that has taken place in the past two months
According to the terms of the peace deal, it falls apart when one of the two parties walks out of the coalition government. What is a deal breaker for you?
A deal breaker would be if for example the other partner refuses to facilitate the carrying out of the reforms which we have all agreed to, in particular the constitutional, legal and institutional reforms that this county so much desires. If there is a stonewalling, it will be sufficient grounds for the break-up of the coalition.
The Kibaki government had close relations with the United States and has been criticised by the Kenyan Muslim community for its cooperation with the practice of extraordinary renditions. Will you push for change in this relationship?
We have very good relations with the US and I don't see that anybody wants to destroy that, we want to strengthen that relationship.
We agree with the US that they have genuine reasons to fight crime, terrorism and so on. We are an ally in the fight against terrorism, except that ... we believe that if Kenyans commit crimes on Kenyan soil, then they should be tried by Kenyan law. This is an issue that we are going to discuss with the US and with our own coalition partners.
What advice do you have for Mugabe on how he handles the upcoming elections in Zimbabwe?
I have got very little regard for Mugabe. He used to be my hero once upon a time, but we parted ways when he began to use a big stick to deal with his political adversaries. I think he is a disgrace to the African continent and the time has really come for him to try to move on and let other people govern. I don't think it is right for someone to hold a country hostage for generations. I think it is not right for Africa.
This article has been adapted from Mail & Guardian, News Insight