Kenya's Kibaki takes tough line,
Fri 1 Feb 2008
By Barry Moody
ADDIS ABABA, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki took
an uncompromising line over the turmoil in his country at a
regional summit on Friday and diplomats said Africa was divided
over the continent's most pressing crisis.
Speakers on the first day of an African Union summit on Thursday
called for urgent action to stop post-election turmoil that has
killed 850 people, stepping up the pressure on Kibaki and
opposition leader Raila Odinga to find a negotiated solution to
But in two speeches on Friday, to the summit and a separate
meeting of the east African regional grouping IGAD, Kibaki
repeatedly attacked the opposition and stuck to positions that
have already been rejected by Odinga.
He said he had been elected by a majority of Kenyans, firmly put
the blame for the deaths on Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM)
and said the dispute must be settled by Kenya's courts.
Odinga says Kibaki stole the Dec. 27 election and refuses to
accept him as president. He rejects a solution through the courts,
saying they are stacked with Kibaki allies and would take years to
issue a ruling.
He also accuses the police of killing at least 100 protesters.
The ODM fiercely protested when Kibaki described himself as
Kenya's duly elected president at the first meeting between him
and Odinga after the election.
Western diplomats in Addis Ababa said Kibaki seemed to be taking a
tougher line than on Thursday in resisting pressure to be more
In addition, the 53 members of the AU seemed divided on the issue.
"There are divisions between one group who see themselves in
Kibaki's situation and another that has told him in no uncertain
terms that this is not acceptable," said one Western diplomat,
adding that South Africa was in the latter group.
Pretoria says Kenya's crisis will be a disaster for the continent
if not resolved quickly.
United Nations chief Ban Ki-Moon went to Nairobi direct from the
Addis Ababa summit on Friday to support mediation led by his
predecessor, Kofi Annan.
Outgoing AU chairman John Kufuor, Ghana's president, told
reporters Kibaki should work with Annan to end the crisis.
"I appeal to (Kibaki) to cooperate with Kofi Anan so normalcy will
be achieved quickly. The African Union is not taking sides. The AU
hasn't taken sides and is standing firm behind Kofi Annan to try
to achieve mutually acceptable rule".
But in his speech to the AU, Kibaki -- who has resisted outside
involvement in the crisis -- described Annan's efforts as a "facilitation"
mission rather than mediation . "This is first and foremost a
Kenyan problem," he said.
WARNING TWO YEARS AGO
A senior African official told Reuters at the summit on Friday
that a high level review panel had warned Kenya two years ago
about dangerous ethnic tensions that have now exploded into bloody
The AU's Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), a scheme to encourage good
governance and democracy on the continent, issued a report drawing
attention to potential ethnic problems after visiting the country,
said APRM panellist Marie Angelique Savane.
"This was not only one of the main issues that we put in the
report, but afterwards we wrote to the authorities of Kenya to
alert them on the need to tackle these type of issues: the issue
of land, the issue of ethnicity, the lack of access to democracy
for the majority of the people," she told Reuters.
"We were expecting the government to fix that and we encouraged
them," she added.
The peer review of Kenya was led by Graca Machel, wife of Nelson
Mandela and now a member of a group of eminent Africans on Annan's
Experts say Kenya's apparent stability before violence exploded
following Kibaki's disputed re-election, veiled deep ethnic
animosity over wealth, land and power which had been allowed to
fester since British colonial times.
Savane said the crisis in Kenya, previously seen as an island of
stability in a turbulent region, was a warning to the whole
"This should be an alarm to all African countries to realise
democracy is not on paper. It has to be based on strong economic
development, it has to be based on consensus building, on
political dialogue to try to give a chance to every ethnic, social
or economic group to be in a situation to participate," she said.
(Additional reporting by Lesley
Wroughton, Barry Malone and Daniel Wallis, editing by Ralph