News 2008


Nigerian diplomat replaces Annan

March 2, 2008


By Patrick Wachira, Abiya Ochola and David Ohito

Seasoned Nigerian diplomat, Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji, takes over as chair of the mediation talks this morning.

He is relieving Dr Kofi Annan who steered the process for a month leading to last Thursday’s power sharing deal.

Annan will leave for Kampala, Uganda, on Sunday, where he will chair a board meeting of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

In a dispatch, Annan said he would then head to Geneva to attend to "much unfinished business".

Despite his absence Annan said he would be following the talks keenly.

Annan’s co-mediator, former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa returned home yesterday. Also back in South Africa is Mrs Graca Machel, another member of the mediation team, who left last week.

It was however not indicated how long Annan and Mkapa would be away as Adeniji starts chairing the meeting tomorrow morning at the Serena Hotel.

Mkapa praised President Kibaki and Mr Raila Odinga for portraying statesmanship and expressed optimism that the accord was watertight.

"I hope I will not come back under similar circumstances. I pray that Kenyans live together in peace like brothers and sisters," he said enroute to the airport.

Annan leaves the country with his head high after bringing President Kibaki and Raila together to sign a power-sharing deal.

Annan, on Saturday, briefed Raila, African Union and European Union ambassadors at Serena Hotel on the progress of the talks.

He also met members of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance and the civil society.

He called upon the diplomatic community to remain engaged in the process, saying the mediation had reached a critical stage.

The AU delegation, led by Mozambique ambassador Mr Marcus Namashulia, said the ball was in the court of every Kenyan to ensure the accord was fruitful.

The 17-member EU delegation, led by French Ambassador, Ms Elisabeth Barbier, said the international community will ensure that the spirit of the National Accord and Reconciliation Act is fully implemented.

Swedish Ambassador, Ms Anna Brandt, said the international community will continue to exert pressure on the leaders.

Mr Walter Lindner, German ambassador, challenged Parliament to show the requisite flexibility for the smooth implementation of the accord.

A career diplomat

Adeniji, who was once involved in peace negotiations in Sudan and Central African Republic, will lead the teams through agenda four — long-term solutions.

On the agenda Friday will be the composition, terms of reference and timeframe of key committees to spearhead legal, judicial, institutional, land and constitutional reforms necessary for the functioning of the grand coalition.

To be formed before March 15 are: The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Committee to lead the restitution process; Independent Review committee to look into last year’s controversial election and the local and international experts group on constitutional review.

His career as a diplomat spans almost five decades and he is at the moment the Internal Affairs Minister for Nigeria.

The diplomat joined Nigeria’s Ministry of External Affairs in July 1960 and served in the country’s embassies in Khartoum, Washington DC and Nigeria’s High Commission in Freetown, Sierra Leone and Accra, Ghana.

He has served as Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations office in Geneva in 1977 and was ambassador in Switzerland.

Earlier, he was ambassador to the Republic of Austria in 1976 and Permanent Secretary to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

Adeniji, commonly referred to as "Chief" back home, also served as ambassador to France in 1987. He served in Paris until 1991 when he took over as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja.

He retired from the foreign service in 1994 and went ahead to serve as Special Envoy to the UN Secretary-General and Head of the UN Peace keeping Mission in the Central African Republic in 1998.

He took over a similar role the following year and was subsequently involved in peace talks between warring groups in the Sierra Leone. The talks culminated in the signing of the Lome Peace Agreement.

Adeniji played a significant part in the endeavour to reform the UN Security Council, the body’s top and most powerful organ.

He is a History graduate of the University College of Ibadan and a holder of a national medal, Commander of Order of the Niger.