A blot on the talks
February 13, 2008
By Standard Team
Claims of ambush, obstinacy and a protest by the Government side
threatened to spoil the party as the final countdown in the search
for a political solution began on an optimistic note on Tuesday.
Members of Parliament at an extraordinary Kamukunji session were
called upon to put aside their sectarian differences and
collectively focus on Kenya to find a lasting solution to the
crippling political crisis.
Lead Mediator Kofi Annan - who was optimistic that an agreement
could be concluded "hopefully this week" - urged MPs: "Let us pull
together and get it done. We cannot afford to fail".
However, there was a damper as soon as Annan concluded his
briefing of MPs on the ground so far covered by the negotiators in
ongoing talks, when discontent became evident within Party of
National Unity (PNU) ranks.
Matters appeared to have come to a head at the plenary session
when the former United Nations secretary-general allegedly seemed
to suggest that PNU and rivals Orange Democratic Movement (ODM)
had agreed on a transitional government and presidential elections
after two years.
Soon after this statement, some PNU and Government-aligned MPs
started trickling out of Old Chambers of Parliament — the venue of
the Kamukunji — seemingly in quiet protest.
Thereafter, and after the special session of Parliament concluded,
the MPs retreated to a hastily convened Parliamentary Group (PG)
at County Hall, where Justice minister Martha Karua — who heads
the Government team in the talks — read a letter to protest
against the Annan "pronouncement".
An excerpt of the strongly worded letter obtained by The Standard
last night read: "My team is alarmed at some serious inaccurate
statement made by Your Excellency at the briefing of
parliamentarians today. Namely, you stated that ‘the dialogue team
had agreed to have a transitional government for two years after
which we shall hold presidential elections".
The minister, a status quo-proponent and a close confidant of
President Kibaki — whose disputed pronouncement as winner of the
December presidential election triggered violence and bloodletting
in an unprecedented scale — summarily described Annan’s briefing
Efforts to get a word from the Annan team were fruitless as his
team and the negotiators had left for a secret location out of
Nairobi to carry out with talks in which the lead mediator said
could yield fruit within the next 48 to 72 hours.
Issues agreed to so far
Legislators meeting at County Hall were impressed upon to be ready
to move swiftly to endorse radical constitutional review to
redress historical injustices through land reforms, checking
inequity and impunity to support equal access to opportunity if
they truly wanted to transform Kenya into a modern society.
They were briefed on the areas so far tackled by the Annan team,
which include measures to end violence and restore fundamental
rights and freedoms.
The Government has also to ensure impartiality of the security
forces, demobilise and disband all illegal armed groups and
On civil liberties, the restoration of freedom of peaceful
assembly and lifting of the ban on live broadcasts have been
Also dealt with are the immediate measures to address the
humanitarian situation and promote reconciliation, healing and
The way for the establishment of a Truth, Justice and
Reconciliation Commission that includes local and international
jurists has also been paved.
Ending the political crisis by searching for a political solution
to promote national reconciliation and unity, which could entail
the establishment of a grand coalition government to undertake
crucial and long overdue constitutional, electoral and other
reforms is actively under way.
And so is the establishment of an Independent Review Committee
that would be mandated to investigate all aspects of the 2007
presidential election and make findings and recommendations to
improve the electoral process.
This will be done within the context of comprehensive electoral
reform — electoral laws, the electoral commission and dispute
However, a lasting solution lies in tackling critical long term
issues that include land reform, tackling poverty and inequity;
addressing transparency, accountability and impunity and
supporting equal access to opportunity.
Eye on Kenya
On Tuesday, the high profile international attention on Kenya also
continued amid reports that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and
US President Bush are set to hold talks at the White House on
Friday on a range of global issues including Kenya.
"We expect the president and the secretary-general to address the
situation in Kosovo, Burma, Sudan, Iran, Lebanon and Kenya; the
recent attacks on the leaders of East Timor; as well as
international support for Iraq and Afghanistan," White House Press
Secretary Dana Perino was quoted as saying.
And back in Nairobi, PNU and Government-leaning MPs emerged from
County Hall to claim that they had been ambushed by a proposal for
a transitional government and elections after two years.
This occasioned an inordinate delay in the departure of the PNU
and ODM talks teams that were headed for a secret location to
escape media scrutiny and leakage of information.
Karua, Education minister Prof Sam Ongeri, Foreign minister Moses
Wetangula and Mbooni MP Mutula Kilonzo make up the Government team,
while MPs Mr Musalia Mudavadi (Sabatia), Mr William Ruto (Eldoret
North) and Dr Sally Kosgei (Aldai) anchor the ODM side.
Earlier in a live 10-minute telecast address, Annan said some of
the issues being discussed would require action by the 10th
He added: "You will need to work together to implement this heavy
(legislative) agenda. Your active involvement, across party lines,
is necessary. Without this, the Government may be paralysed".
The session was convened by Speaker Mr Kenneth Marende to brief
MPs on progress made by the National Dialogue and Reconciliation
Committee and roles they (MPs) were expected to play.
Mrs Graca Machel, a member of the panel of Eminent African Persons
steering the talks, also addressed the gathering. The other member
of the team, former Tanzanian President Mr Benjamin Mkapa, was
Annan opened with a declaration that he was addressing the MPs as
"representatives of the whole Kenya" and "not as a parliament
representing different communities".
"Today I ask you to focus on Kenya and be proactive to foster one
Kenya with a common destiny," he said. He urged MPs not to let
their multiple identities in ethnic background, professionalism
and party affiliations block the quest to restore peace and
stability in the country.
"You should stress what unites you and not what divides you. You
must appreciate that there is strength in diversity," said Annan.
Thereafter, the up to 200 MPs in attendance got the opportunity to
ventilate their feelings on the ongoing talks.
The informal session went to plenary soon after Marende, Annan and
Graca had read their speeches.
During the closed-door session, Transport Minister Mr Chirau Ali
Mwakwere was reportedly heckled by a cross-section of members when
he questioned the constitutionality of what Annan was doing.
Tigania East MP Mr Peter Munya said whatever the mediation team
did, it must at the end of the day establish who between President
Kibaki and Raila won the December 27 elections.
Mbita MP Mr Otieno Kajwang’ blamed the crisis gripping the country
on what he described as an imperial presidency, recalling that in
1963 there was clear division of power: head of state and head of
But this changed in 1964 when the imperial presidency was created.
Energy Minister Mr Kiraitu Murungi recalled how the push for
constitutional reforms started off so well during the National
Constitutional Conference at Bomas, but problems crept in when
positions were created for particular individuals.
"I was Justice minister… I have a lot of information that can
really help," he was quoted saying.
Speaking outside the Old Chambers, Mbooni MP Mr Mutula Kilonzo
said MPs from across the political divide were now working as a
Former Education Assistant minister, Mr Kilemi Mwiria, said no
consensus had been reached but pointed out that there was
direction in searching for a political solution.
Kisumu Town MP Mr Shakeel Shabir said it was time the feuding
parties dropped their hardline positions and closed ranks for the
sake of the country.
Finance minister Mr Amos Kimunya said they were all keen to see
calm and stability return.
Kilome MP Mr John Harun Mwau said he was confident the talks would
succeed and the verdict would be binding to both parties.
Prof Margaret Kamar echoed his sentiments, urging MPs to be
prepared to pass the requisite laws as advised.