News 2008


Annan crushed by Ramaphosa's withdrawal from Kenya

February 04, 2008


Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is bitterly disappointed by the withdrawal of negotiator Cyril Ramaphosa in the Kenyan mediation talks. This follows government reservations over his role as key negotiator. Ramaphosa would not continue, without the full confidence and support, of all parties.

The government of President Mwai Kibaki was not happy with Ramaphosa's participation, claiming he had business links with opposition leader Raila Odinga. Hundreds of people have been killed in riots and ethnically motivated violence in Kenya since a disputed December 27 election returned Kibaki to power.

Meanwhile, the Kenyan government and opposition negotiators have agreed on urgent steps to address the humanitarian crisis as more than 300 000 people are displaced because of the violence.

Weekend violence

Kenya's image as a stable and prosperous African state has suffered badly as a result of the crisis. 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.

At least 900 people have been killed in ethnic violence and clashes with the security forces. Some 300 000 have been forced to flee their homes in one of modern Kenya's worst periods.

Talks between the rival sides resumed today with a Red Cross briefing on the extent of the bloodshed, officials said. Kenya's Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula, just back from an African Union (AU) summit where Kenya was in the spotlight, said the east African regional bloc IGAD -- chaired by Kenya's government -- would be involved in efforts to end the crisis.

But an opposition spokesperson dismissed the invitation to IGAD ministers as an attempt by the Kibaki government to win recognition from neighbouring states.

Wetangula said both sides had made statements "that could spoil the mediation talks" and urged a rapid solution. "We cannot afford to be a permanent feature on television screens for all the wrong reasons," he said.

Residents urge politicians to get to work

In the volatile and ethnically mixed western region, gangs fired arrows and threw rocks at each other in front of police, who were unable or unwilling to intervene yesterday.

Today residents said calm had returned save for a little looting, and urged the politicians to get to work.

"Raila and Kibaki must be serious. They must not talk together and then go to the press saying something different. They should agree on what they tell Kenyans. We are confused," farmer Sylvester Barake said, sitting in an empty gas station.

Additional reporting by Reuters