Optimism at Kenya talks,
negotiators urge patience
Mon Feb 11, 2008
By Michael Georgy and Andrew Cawthorne
NAIROBI, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Negotiators for President Mwai Kibaki
and opposition leader Raila Odinga re-started talks on Monday in a
mood of national optimism that a political solution to Kenya's
worst crisis since independence may be near.
Mediator and former U.N. chief Kofi Annan has predicted the two
sides will agree on a formula this week to overcome their dispute
over the Dec. 27 election that triggered violence killing more
than 1,000 people and displacing 300,000.
Kenyan media, and sources close to the talks, say that will almost
certainly be a power-sharing deal.
Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) is no longer calling on
Kibaki to step down, the sources say, while Kibaki's Party of
National Unity (PNU) has dropped its demand the opposition take
its grievances over the polls to court.
"On the threshold of a breakthrough," read The Standard's banner
headline, one of many predicting success in the talks.
At the Maasai Mara national park, rangers even named a newly born
rhino "Kofi Annan" in honour of his role.
Annan himself warned media against "speculation and rumours" at
this delicate stage in his negotiating mission.
Both sides also tried to calm premature jubilation around a nation
exhausted by violence and acrimony, much of it along ethnic lines
among Kenya's more than 40 different groups.
Though triggered by the controversial presidential vote tally, the
bloodshed in Kenya has exposed deep divisions over land, wealth
and power that date back to British colonial rule and have been
stoked by politicians in the decades since.
DEAL MAY TAKE A WEEK
Government negotiator Mutula Kilonzo, who said last week he was
"1,000 percent confident" a deal was coming, urged patience.
"The media is selling a deal. It could be up to a week," he told
reporters at a plush Nairobi hotel that has become the centre of
international diplomatic efforts to end the crisis.
Odinga, 63, an ex-political prisoner and once a minister in
Kibaki's cabinet, also declined to be drawn. "We will not carry
out mediation talks through the media," he said at the weekend.
An ODM party spokesman told reporters at Monday's talks the
negotiations were not simple.
"They're not just going to be cooked up any second. Negotiations
are going to take a bit of time," he said.
"(But) we are very hopeful, like the Kenyan people are."
Both sides are said by sources in their parties to have agreed in
principle on power-sharing, and are now focusing on the details.
The opposition says its larger numbers in parliament should give
it a bigger share of cabinet posts. But the Kibaki side has the
official ruling of the electoral board that he won the
presidential vote, albeit narrowly.
The protests and rioting that began immediately after Kibaki's Dec.
30 swearing-in spread to many parts of the nation, especially the
Rift Valley and Nairobi slums that saw unprecedented scenes of
The violence has subsided in recent days, but Kenya's image as a
stable democracy and a regional hub for business, tourism and
transport has been badly damaged.
Kenyan markets have taken a battering. The stock index has dropped
about 12 percent and the shilling currency has fallen more than 10
percent against the U.S. dollar since the crisis began.
Both sides have already agreed principles to end violence and help
refugees. Annan gave them until mid-February to resolve agenda
item No. 3: what to do about the disputed election.