News 2008

 

Annan seeks to seal Kenya crisis deal in days



Tue 12 Feb 2008

By C. Bryson Hull



NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya should have a political solution to its election dispute this week, but its divided parliament must swiftly endorse wider reforms, former U.N. chief Kofi Annan said on Tuesday.

The Ghanaian mediator said both sides had agreed on an independent investigation into December's election to make findings and recommendations to guide electoral reforms.

Expecting a deal within days to end the immediate conflict over President Mwai Kibaki's re-election, Annan was due to take the government and opposition negotiating teams to a secret location outside of Nairobi.

"I expect that we shall conclude our deliberations ... resolving the political conflict this week," Annan told parliament in an address that was as much a status report to the nation as a call for unity among legislators.

Kenya's closest-ever vote thrust the country into its darkest moments since 1963 independence, with more than 1,000 killed and at least 300,000 displaced in violence that dented its image as a peaceful and prosperous trade and tourism hub.

Sources on both sides have said the deal will entail some kind of power sharing, and Annan said they were discussing the form it would take -- hinting at a cross-party "grand coalition".

"Grand coalitions have served other nations well ... when you have the sort of urgent political grievances we seem to have here," Annan said. "They come together to try and work out ... the divisive issues, to make the constitutional and other changes required, and then eventually organise an election."

The crisis laid bare perceived and real grievances between tribes about wealth, land and power that have existed since British colonial rule, and that most Kenyans believe have been aggravated by politicians over the years.

"PARALYSED"

Annan has said the negotiating teams will tackle those issues in the talks, with the aim of producing concrete reforms over the constitution, land, and election laws within a year.

"You will need to move quickly to implement this heavy agenda," he told the parliament, which is split almost down the middle between the opposition and government.

"Your active involvement across party lines is necessary and will be necessary. Without this, the government is paralysed."

Annan said that both sides had agreed that there was "no immediate, viable way forward either through retallying, recount or an audit" of the election.

But both assented to an independent commission to investigate the vote "to make findings and recommendations to ensure that what we've gone through doesn't happen again," Annan said.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga had initially demanded that Kibaki step down and the vote be re-run, and refused any kind of power-sharing.

Kibaki urged Odinga to go to court to challenge the vote as Kenya's laws prescribe, and has said he is open to having some opposition members in his cabinet -- so far only half-filled.

A senior government official with direct knowledge of the talks said the government will only share power "in the form of cabinet posts to be decided by the president himself."

All other proposals on the government side were reforms aimed at being in place before the next scheduled election in 2012, the official said.

Opposition officials declined to comment, citing the sensitivity of the talks.

 

 

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