News 2008


Kenya crisis talks head into decisive stretch

11. Feb. 2008

NAIROBI (AFP) - Kenya's political rivals on Monday began a crucial week of negotiations led by Kofi Annan to clinch a political deal that could end a crisis sparked by President Mwai Kibaki's re-election.

Negotiators for Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga resumed talks early Monday in a Nairobi hotel to hammer out details of the accord that could include a power-sharing agreement, a foreign ministry official said.

Former UN chief Annan believes a compromise deal can be reached this week between the rivals, whose dispute over who won the December 27 presidential election sparked violence in which more than 1,000 people have died.

Amid much hope of a breakthrough, Annan cautioned at the weekend that no final deal had been reached and urged Kenyans to be patient as details were being worked out.

"In negotiations, a deal is not a deal until it is done," he said Saturday.

One of Africa's most stable countries, Kenya descended into weeks of rioting, tribal violence and police raids after the election that have left more than 1,000 dead and 300,000 homeless.

Relative calm returned to the country at the weekend however, with police reporting no incidents in flashpoint areas in western Kenya -- the epicentre of the post-election violence.

Annan's nearly two-week-long mediation is seen as Kenya's best hope for a political solution to end the violence in which Kenyans have been killed by machete-wielding mobs, burnt in churches and driven off their land.

Speculation about the political deal has centred on a power-sharing government in which Odinga could become prime minister, a post that currently does not exist under the constitution.

Kenyan press reports have also said negotiations could result in a package of reforms to election laws, the court system and the constitution that would be enacted within a set timetable, possibly three years.

Annan has asked parliament to convene on Tuesday to be briefed on details of a possible deal.

In power since 2002, Kibaki, 76, was proclaimed the winner of the presidential vote, but Odinga, 62, has slammed the outcome as rigged and refused to accept it.

International observers also found flaws during the tallying of ballots.

On Friday, Annan suggested both sides had made concessions and said they were ready for a negotiated settlement to pull the country back from the brink.

Kibaki's tribe, the Kikuyu, suffered heavily in the first wave of violence at the hands of Odinga's Luo tribe and other ethnic groups, but there have since been numerous revenge attacks.

The violence has tapped into simmering resentment over land, poverty and the dominance of the Kikuyu in Kenyan politics and business since independence from Britain in 1963.

UN emergency relief coordinator John Holmes wrapped up a three-day visit on Sunday after touring some of the 300 camps housing the homeless and said there was "a very serious humanitarian problem" in Kenya.

"It is our hope that a political solution will be found in the short term so that the violence can stop," he said.

Kenya's world-famous safari resorts and beach hotels have suffered a bruising loss of business while the economy, which had been humming with a seven percent growth rate, is seen as headed for a slowdown.