Kenya Tension Remains as Peace Deal 'Very Close'

A brokered peace deal in Kenya was said to be "very close," leaving the once riot-ridden streets calm despite underlying tension that still remains.

Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan said Friday that he hopes Kenya's two divided leaders will sign a peace deal involving a power-sharing government next week, according to Agence France-Presse.

"We are very close. We are moving steady," Annan said Friday in Nairobi. "We are on the water's edge and the last difficult and frightening step, as difficult as it is, will be taken."

The most difficult and last step, said Annan, is for the two sides to agree upon a coalition government.

As of Friday, incumbent President Mwai Kibaki's party agreed to allow opposition members into government, but only under the strong executive leadership of the president. The opposition party wants Raila Odinga as prime minister with full powers as head of government.

The Dec. 27 election announced Kibaki as the winner of the election. But opposition leader Odinga maintains it was rigged. Independent observers also found flaws in the vote count.

The election dispute turned into tribal wars among normal Kenyan citizens, who divided their support for the two leaders along tribal lines. More than 1,000 people have died since the contentious Dec. 27 presidential election, and a half a million more have been displaced.

Many Christian aid agencies working in Kenya have said that despite the relative calm on the streets, tension remains high between people of different tribes.

"That (Annan's peace deal effort) really has started to bring more hope to the Kenyan people – just that there was a tension from the outside being drawn to the troubles that this country is facing," said Food for the Hungry's Paul Wagner to Mission Network News.

Mission Aviation Fellowship also said there is a "very tense quietness in the country" while the mission group works to fly people to safety.

Other Christian aid groups working in Kenya include Operation Blessing International, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, and the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, among others.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will arrive Monday in Nairobi to bolster Annan's effort to negotiate a peace deal. President Bush has asked Rice to deliver a message to the two leaders that "there must be a full return to democracy" in Kenya, according to AFP.

Bush will also be in Africa this week for his Africa tour, but is not scheduled to visit Kenya. He kicks off his tour in Benin on Saturday.