News 2008


Rivals truce nearing in Kenya

Monday, 11th February, 2008

NAIROBI - Negotiators for President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga re-started talks yesterday in a mood of national optimism that a political solution to Kenya's worst crisis since independence may be near.

Mediator and former UN chief Kofi Annan has predicted the two sides will agree on a formula this week to overcome their dispute over the December 27 election that triggered violence, killing more than 1,000 people and displacing 300,000.

Kenyan media, and sources close to the talks, say there 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 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.

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.

Government negotiator Mutula Kilonzo, who said last week he was "1,000% 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 spokesman said 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.