The risks of a prolonged impasse were made plain Tuesday when an opposition parliamentarian was gunned down outside his home in Nairobi in what Mr. Odinga called a "planned political assassination." Ethnic fighting quickly broke out in slums throughout the capital as news of the killing spread. The unrest came as police and military forces tried to quell a fresh wave of reprisal killings in Rift Valley towns where the president's ethnic group, the Kikuyus, are dominant.
International mediation efforts run into snags
At least half a dozen high-level mediators – from Archibishop Desmond Tutu to African Union chief John Kufuor – have come to Kenya in the past four weeks. Each of these efforts failed to end the crisis, although former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's current visit achieved a meeting and handshake between Mr. Kibaki and Odinga last week.
Annan launched formal talks Tuesday saying he hoped immediate political issues could be resolved within four weeks and the broader, underlying issues within a year.
Odinga claims that the election was stolen from him through massive rigging of the voter tallies. Kibaki calls himself the "duly elected" president, and calls on Odinga to take his complaints to court.
Observers close to the negotiations say that both sides came close to agreeing to a settlement two weeks ago during Mr. Kufuor's visit. During that mediation effort, both sides contributed to a document that spelled out a powersharing agreement. But insiders say that hard-liners in Kibaki's camp persuaded the president to reject the document in the final hours.