News 2008


Kenya hails Kikwete as Kibaki pushes peace deal


By Judica Tarimo

07. March 2008

Kenya has hailed the diplomatic techniques President Jakaya Kikwete used in ending the stalemate over its bloody post-election crisis as an invaluable home-grown conflict resolution input.

The Kenyan government`s spokesman, Dr Alfred Mutua, told journalists in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the President`s intervention helped the parties to the conflict ``out of a critical situation``.

``President Kikwete came (to Kenya) with a message of hope! A message of peace! A message that we can make it and strike a deal as Africans. We really thank Tanzanians for allowing the President to come to our rescue,`` he said.

Dr Mutua, whose remarks revolved around the recently concluded negotiations between President Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, said the deal ended protracted talks in the wake of the violence triggered by Kibaki`s disputed re-election.

He said the Kenyan government and Kenyans in general appreciate Kikwete`s diplomatic intervention because it helped the negotiators and rival parties move towards a peaceful end to the deadlock.

Mutua noted further: "We had come to a stalemate." The (peace) talks were almost suspended and chief mediator former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and other African personalities assisting him had already lost hope.

Then President Kikwete came and rescued the situation by facilitating the successful conclusion of the negotiations and the striking of an agreeable deal.``

"We are really thankful to President Kikwete and all Tanzanians for coming to our help when we were in need; Truly, a friend in need is a friend indeed. I saying thank you very much," he added.

He said Kikwete was a true role model in the Kenyan crisis and his intervention was clear testimony that long-standing African problems including political conflicts can be solved by Africans themselves.

Kenya has denied reports that foreign influence was used to pressure the Mwai government to conclude the talks that ended the post-election violence.

There have been reports that African Union Chairman Kikwete, who played a key role in pushing for signing of the peace pact, went to the negotiating table with an ultimatum from the US government.

Commenting on the reports yesterday, Dr Mutua said: "It's really an insult and a show of disrespect to President Kikwete to think that way.

We must respect his valuable contribution to the success of the talks.

He made a personal initiative to help the parties concerned out of a crisis for the benefit of Kenyans and East Africans. We need to respect that."

He added: "It is imperative to appreciate that an African problem found an African solution. It`s totally wrong and a distortion of truth to say that President Kikwete went to the negotiation table with a threatening message from the US. After all, how can you force conflicting parties to agree on such sensitive issues? It's simply impossible."

He explained that a national peace and reconciliation body has been formed as part of the Kenyan government's strategy to address the problems triggered by the crisis and find permanent solutions to them.

In Nairobi, meanwhile, President Mwai Kibaki yesterday commemorated the 1,000 people killed during his country`s post-election crisis and called on parliament to enshrine into law a power-sharing deal intended to keep the peace.

Kibaki, who last week agreed to bring Raila Odinga into a ``grand coalition`` government, opened Kenya`s 10th parliament with a minute`s silence first for two slain legislators and then for all the victims of violence.

He later urged the divided House to set aside partisanship and enact last week`s political agreement brokered by former UN boss Kofi Annan in the hope of drawing a line under the darkest moment in the country's post-independence history.

"Please, succeed. Please, forget the history of what has happened," Kibaki (76) said in off-the-cuff comments at the end of his speech.

The President urged legislators to quickly pass legislation that will let Odinga (63), a former political prisoner who says Kibaki cheated him of the December 27 presidential vote by fraud, take up a new post of prime minister.