NAIROBI, March 13 (Xinhua) -- Experts at the international think tank on Tuesday welcomed a political truce between Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga and urged them to use such gesture to yield meaningful change.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) said the unity pledge between the two leaders should help end the protracted crisis provoked by last year's disputed presidential election as it raises prospects for some form of national dialogue and reforms to avert a repeat.
"The two leaders, together with other politicians, business leaders, clerics and diplomats, must now ensure the next phase is a consensual, inclusive process yielding meaningful change," the think tank said in a statement issued in Nairobi.
"Priorities include an investigation into police killings and police reform; a reopening to civil society and the media; and political reforms that aim to reverse Kenya's winner-takes-all politics, perhaps including provisions that widen representation in the executive," it added.
The global policy group, however, cautioned that while changes to rules are important, in themselves they will not temper the country's zero-sum ethnic politics without a broader shift in the behavior of Kenyan leaders.
Kenyatta and Odinga held a surprise meeting in Nairobi on March 9 and reached a pact that brought an end to the 2017 electoral contest.
The two leaders agreed to work with a joint team of experts to address endemic challenges like ethnic hostilities, corruption, negative politics, exclusion, insecurity and divisive electioneering.
They also agreed to roll out a program that will implement their shared objectives. The program shall establish an office and retain a retinue of advisors to assist in this implementation.
Ahead of the 2017 election, Kenyatta and Odinga headed the tickets of alliances cobbled together largely along ethnic lines. The election commission pronounced Kenyatta the victor, but Odinga rejected the results.
The Supreme Court annulled the vote on Sept. 1, finding widespread irregularities and illegalities in the tallying, tabulation and transmission of results, and ordered a fresh election.
Odinga boycotted these polls, which were held on Oct. 26, citing insufficient reform of the electoral authorities. Kenyatta won with 98 percent of the vote (although turnout in opposition areas was extremely low) and was declared president.
A violence that ensued after the second elections left dozens dead, mainly at the hands of security forces as both Kenyatta and Odinga took divergent positions.
In their joint statement on Friday, Kenyatta and Odinga conceded that polarization and all-or-nothing contests for power have turned elections into "a threat to lives, our economy and our standing as a nation."
The think tank said the unity pact between the two leaders were thus an important turnaround in a situation that appeared headed toward prolonged stalemate.
It said the two leaders would both benefit from reconciliation since Kenyatta's second-term agenda -- focused on growing the economy -- would be imperiled if a significant proportion of the electorate continued to question his legitimacy.
"Reaching out to Odinga, who enjoys particularly strong support in western Kenya and along the coast, is one way to overcome those challenges," the ICG said.
According to the think tank, the two leaders deserve praise for their recent show of statesmanship in agreeing to hold talks to try and end the crisis, and help unite the country.
"Together with civil society, religious groups, business leaders and the diplomatic community, they should now turn to the hard work of ensuring this chance for meaningful change is not wasted," it said.
The think tank said finding ways to spread power around different positions and institutions, and to widen representation in the executive, could lower the high stakes of elections.
"But such an overhaul, particularly after the exhaustive constitutional reform undertaken less than a decade ago, should not be entered into lightly," it warned.
"It would require a process as consultative and inclusive as that which preceded the adoption of the 2010 constitution," said ICG.
The policy group called on government to reinvigorate efforts to reform the police and strengthen civilian oversight, including by empowering the Independent Policing Oversight Authority.
"Wider police reform, including through implementation of existing constitutional provisions that protect the security forces' leadership from interference by the executive, remains key to addressing Kenya's poor human rights record," it said.