News 2008


Kenya rivals return to talks but mediator pulls out

Mon 4 Feb 2008

By Duncan Miriri and Nick Tattersall

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan said Kenya's feuding politicians had agreed a roadmap on Monday to end more than a month of bloodshed, but his efforts to heal deep ethnic divisions hit a setback as a top mediator quit.

Annan said Kenya's rivals had agreed immediate steps to help those displaced by violence which has killed 900 people and said they would on Tuesday begin negotiating an end to the political standoff over President Mwai Kibaki's disputed re-election.

"We have completed work on the agenda, the roadmap," Annan, flanked by government and opposition representatives, told a news conference. "Today we dealt with the humanitarian issues ... Tomorrow we begin our work on the political issues."

Annan on Friday gave the two sides 15 days to halt the violence and said they would then tackle a longer term solution to the ethnic divisions laid bare by a crisis that has knocked Kenya's image as a stable and prosperous African state.

But Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African business tycoon Annan selected to head those longer-term negotiations, pulled out on Monday after government complaints that he had business links to opposition leader Raila Odinga.

"I thought I should withdraw and go back to South Africa so I don't become a stumbling block myself," said Ramaphosa, the chief negotiator for South Africa's African National Congress in talks that produced a peaceful end to apartheid in 1994.

He denied having business links with the opposition.

Underscoring the challenge for mediators, Kibaki and Odinga have continued to trade harsh words, accusing each other of trying to sabotage talks. Clashes between groups of youths backing one side or the other raged over the weekend.

Kibaki says he won the vote fairly and squarely and accuses Odinga of fanning violence. Odinga says Kibaki stole victory and refuses to recognise him as president.


What started as a political dispute has uncorked decades-old divisions between tribal groups over land, wealth and power, dating from British colonial rule and stoked by Kenyan politicians for personal gain during 44 years of independence.

The crisis has forced some 300,000 people to flee their homes. Many fear that even a quick political solution will leave deep wounds unhealed.

"Our base-case scenario is that some form of political closure will be reached in the coming weeks," Standard & Poor's said in a note lowering its sovereign ratings on Kenya.

"However, addressing the damage done to Kenya's social fabric and political make-up over the past weeks will be a longer-term challenge," the ratings agency said.

There were some signs that the violence which has rocked the picturesque Rift Valley in recent days was easing.

Rival communities in the area around Sotik, a small town where gangs with machetes, bows and arrows, spears and clubs fought raging battles over the weekend, had agreed to lay down their weapons, a local member of parliament told Reuters.

"We've agreed to a ceasefire and for the two communities to continue living in harmony as they did before," Sotik MP Lorna Loboso said after a meeting with village elders and police.

Annan called for the establishment of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission involving local and international jurists to help resolve the ethnic divisions.