Kenya crisis talks move to
12. February 2008
NAIROBI (AFP) - Negotiators from Kenya's feuding factions moved to
a secret retreat on Tuesday for crunch talks on a deal aimed at
pulling the country out of post-election turmoil that has left
more than 1,000 dead.
Chief mediator Kofi Annan decided to take negotiators for
President Mwai Kibaki and the opposition to an undisclosed
location outside Nairobi, far removed from the media glare during
the final days of tough bargaining.
Annan earlier addressed members of Kenya's divided parliament to
secure support for an imminent political deal that could pave the
way to a "grand coalition government" between Kibaki's party and
the opposition led by Raila Odinga.
"Grand coalitions have served other nations well and these are
often formed when a country is in crisis," Annan told the
"They come together to try to work out the fundamental issues,
make constitutional and other changes required and then eventually
organise an election," he said.
Kenya descended into violence after Kibaki was officially declared
the winner of the December 27 presidential election that the
opposition said was rigged. International observers also found
flaws in the tallying of ballots.
According to the Kenyan Red Cross, more than 1,000 people have
died in rioting, 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.
Officials in neighbouring Uganda said Tuesday some 12,000 Kenyans
had crossed the border and found refuge in camps scattered along
Relative calm appeared to take hold across the country for the
first time in weeks. No incidents have been reported in western
Kenya, which had been the worst hit by the violence.
With hopes for a breakthrough on the rise, Annan's aides announced
in a statement they were imposing a full "news blackout for the
coming 48 to 72 hours."
An announcement on a breakthrough was expected by Friday.
Speculation about the agreement has centred on a possible
power-sharing government in which Odinga, 62, could be named prime
minister, a post that would have to be created by constitutional
A power-sharing deal would also provide for a raft of reforms to
pave the way for fresh elections in two years.
Annan also told parliament that negotiators had agreed to set up
an independent committee to probe "all aspects" of the vote that
saw 76-year-old Kibaki return to power for a second five-year
"We need to understand and know what happened during the 2007
presidential election," he said.
The new parliament, which was elected in polls also held on
December 27, is almost equally divided between Kibaki's party and
its allies and opposition parties supporting Odinga.
But speaker Kenneth Marende said parliament was ready to help end
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.
"Let us roll up our sleeves and be ready to do whatever it takes
to return this country to its glory," Marende told the session
that began with a minute of silence to remember two opposition MPs
gunned down in the post-election violence.
Lawmakers also heard an emotional plea from rights campaigner and
co-mediator Graca Machel who said they now faced "a historical
mission" to "redefine the common place, the common ground, where
every Kenyan has a place of belonging."
"Kenya's pain is Africa's pain. Kenya's success is Africa's
success," said Machel, the wife of South African anti-apartheid
icon Nelson Mandela.