Annan moves Kenya talks in drive
for speedy deal
Tue 12 Feb 2008
By Andrew Cawthorne and Michael Georgy
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Former U.N. boss Kofi Annan has invited
Kenya's feuding political parties to continue talks at a secret
location outside Nairobi, with the aim of reaching an agreement
within two or three days, a spokesman said on Monday.
"During this period he has asked for a complete news blackout,"
added a statement from the spokesman for Annan, who is mediating
the post-election crisis in Kenya.
With hopes rising for a political solution to one of Kenya's
darkest moments since independence, Annan has chided the media for
speculation and officials on both sides for leaking details of a
possible power-sharing deal.
"Kofi Annan ... today invited the negotiating teams to resume
discussions outside of Nairobi with the goal of reaching agreement
on the outstanding political issues in the next 48-72 hours," the
"He has urged the parties not to discuss issues under negotiation
with anyone outside the negotiating room."
Earlier on Monday, negotiators for President Mwai Kibaki and
opposition leader Raila Odinga held talks in a mood of national
optimism that a formula can be quickly reached to overcome their
dispute over a December 27 vote.
More than 1,000 people have been killed and 300,000 uprooted in a
wave of post-election violence that has shattered Kenya's image as
a stable democracy and a regional hub for business, tourism and
But both sides are now said by party sources to have agreed in
principle on power-sharing as their political positions appeared
to soften. Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement is no longer
calling on Kibaki to step down, the sources say.
Annan, who has warned against "speculation and rumours", was
expected to brief parliament on Tuesday about his mission.
Taking their cue from the Ghanaian diplomat, both sides also tried
to calm premature jubilation in a nation traumatised by scenes of
burning, looting and killing -- much of it along ethnic lines
among Kenya's more than 40 different groups.
Though triggered by the presidential vote tally, the bloodshed has
exposed deep resentment over inequalities in land ownership,
wealth and power dating back to British colonial rule. Critics say
politicians have done more to manipulate those tensions than
resolve them in the decades since.
Britain's Africa Minister Mark Malloch-Brown told Reuters he was
cautiously hopeful Kenya's political rivals could strike a deal
this week though there is still "a mountain to be climbed".
He said he expected a proposed agreement to call for power-sharing
until a new election. Reforms to the constitution -- which
currently gives the president vast powers -- and election
commission would be made before the vote.
Government officials have expressed optimism about progress made
behind closed doors, but appealed for patience.
Kenya's opposition says its larger numbers in parliament entitle
it to a bigger share of cabinet posts. But the Kibaki side points
to the official ruling of the electoral board that he won the
presidential vote, albeit narrowly.
As talks resumed in a luxury hotel in the capital, Kibaki urged
Kenyans who have fled their homes to return.
"We are going to assist in rebuilding houses that were torched,"
he said at a Nairobi high school where he launched a free
secondary school programme.
The protests and rioting that began immediately after Kibaki's
December 30 swearing-in spread to many parts of the nation,
especially the Rift Valley and Nairobi slums.
The uncertainty has battered Kenyan markets. The stock index has
dropped about 12 percent and the shilling 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.
Deeper underlying issues, such as land grievances and wealth
inequality, are to be tackled within a year.