Annan seeks parliament backing
for Kenya deal
12 Feb, 2008
NAIROBI: Kofi Annan sought support from Kenya's divided parliament
on Tuesday for an imminent political de`al to pull the country out
of turmoil that has left more than 1,000 people dead.
As Annan's mediation effort entered a third week, the feuding
parties inched closer to a settlement of the dispute sparked by
President Mwai Kibaki's re-election, with an announcement expected
by late Thursday.
The former UN chief was to address a closed-door session of
parliament on the outlines of a deal he is seeking from Kibaki and
opposition leader Raila Odinga, who are at odds over who won the
presidential election on December 27.
"The National Assembly is willing and ready to play its rightful
role in finding a sustainable and lasting peace for our country,"
speaker Kenneth Marende told lawmakers ahead of Annan's address.
Annan on Monday decided to move the crisis talks to a secret venue
outside Nairobi and imposed a complete news blackout as
negotiators from both sides headed into a final, difficult round
The goal is to reach "an agreement on the outstanding political
issues in the next 48 to 72 hours," said a UN statement issued
Annan's mediation is seen as the best hope for an end to the
turmoil which has seen Kenyans hacked to death by machete-wielding
mobs, burnt in churches where they had sought refuge and driven
off their land.
According to the Kenyan Red Cross, more than 1,000 people have
died in rioting, tribal clashes and police raids since the vote
and 300,000 people have lost their homes, shattering Kenya's
reputation as one of Africa's most stable countries.
Kenyans have been hoping for a breakthrough since Friday when
Annan suggested the sides had climbed down from their hardline
positions and were ready to negotiate.
Talks resumed on Monday as relative calm appeared to take hold
across the country for the first time in weeks. Police reported no
incidents overnight in western Kenya, which had been the worst hit
by the violence.
In power since 2002, 76-year-old Kibaki was proclaimed the winner
of the December election that international observers said was
flawed and the opposition claims was rigged.
"The situation in the country is calm," said national police
spokesman Eric Kiraithe. "This is due to the change of tune from
Speculation about the agreement has centred on a possible
power-sharing government in which the opposition was demanding
that Odinga, 62, be named prime minister, a post that would have
to be created by constitutional amendment.
Kenyan press reports have also said negotiations could yield a
raft of reforms that could pave the way to fresh elections in two
Annan was expected to ask lawmakers to support the political
settlement by quickly adopting the necesssary bills.
The new parliament, which was elected in polls also held on
December 27, is almost equally divided between Kibaki's party and
its supporters and Odinga's opposition party and its allies.
Members of parliament observed a minute of silence on Tuesday for
two opposition party MPs who have been killed in the post-election
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.
Kenya's world-famous safari resorts and beach hotels have suffered
a bruising loss of business while the country's economic upswing,
with growth at seven percent, could soon flatten out.