News 2008

 

Annan pleads for grand coalition government



Daily Nation

Story by BERNARD NAMUNANE

13. February 2008



Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan Tuesday hinted at a grand coalition government to end Kenya’s post election crisis, but the move was immediately challenged by the Government.

Mr Annan said the tradition all over the world was to join the two sides in the conflict in one government to enact reforms that will pave the way for free and fair polls.

“A coalition government is an open option when a country is in a crisis and right now we are faced with a serious political crisis. The two sides come together and commit to sort out issues such as constitutional reforms and then organise an election,” he told MPs during an informal sitting at Old Parliament Chambers.

But the statement was immediately challenged by the Government, with Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua, who is the team leader, saying a coalition government had neither been discussed nor agreed on at the talks.

Inaccurate statement

“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’ which position has not been discussed or agreed upon,” Ms Karua told Mr Annan.

The Government summoned its MPs to a Parliamentary Group Meeting, chaired by Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka to discuss Mr Annan’s remarks.

Mr Musyoka later said the Government side had only proposed establishment of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, committee to investigate the truth behind the 2007 General Election, among others as a way to unlock the crisis.

More than 1,000 people have died as a result of the disputed Presidential election and more than 350,000 displaced in six weeks of violence.

Meanwhile, President George W. Bush and UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon will discuss Kenya’s post-election crisis in Washington on Friday.

In Nairobi, Mr Annan asked leaders to cast aside their partisan interests to reach an acceptable decision.

Tradition the world over, he told MPs at special Kamukunji called to brief them on the status of the mediation process, was to join the two sides in the conflict in one government to enact reforms that will pave the way for free and fair polls.

He went on: “The country is deeply divided because of the contested election results and our duty is to bring the parties together to work closely to heal the underlying problems.’’

However, Government MPs said that they had been informed by their representatives at the talks that they were yet to agree on a coalition of PNU and ODM as the political cure to the crisis.

Government team

A member of the Government team at the talks, Mbooni MP Mutula Kilonzo, told reporters that some of the issues which Mr Annan had referred to had not been agreed by the mediation team.

“Some of the things the chairman has announced have not been agreed upon but we are on top of things and we will continue negotiating. But we cannot negotiate under pressure because all negotiations are based on principles. The dialogue process is not about creating jobs for people and I am genuinely interested in peace,” he said.

Government MPs immediately went into a parliamentary group meeting at County Hall to discuss the matter while the mediation team retreated to a secret location to finalise the deal. They rejected the proposals of a coalition government and elections after two years.

Guiding the mediation

Mr Annan, former South Africa First Lady Graca Machel and former Tanzania President Benjamin Mkapa are guiding the mediation talks to which Government and ODM appointed four representatives each.

The Government is represented by Cabinet ministers Martha Karua, Sam Ongeri, Moses Wetang’ula and Mr Kilonzo while the ODM delegation is made up of MPs Musalia Mudavadi, William Ruto, Sally Kosgei and James Orengo.

During the meeting Tuesday, Mr Annan took the MPs through the steps they have covered in the mediation process among them meeting President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga, visits to affected areas in Molo and Cherangany and the status of the talks.

He said they had explored the options of Presidential vote re-tallying, re-counting, a re-run of the elections and immediate polls and come to a conclusion that the only viable solution to the crisis was a political settlement.

“All the options could only give us a quick fix to the problem but could not address the truth that we were looking for and we therefore agreed on a political solution which could involve bringing the parties together,” he said.

Mr Annan made it clear that the solution to the political crisis would not hold until the underlying problems had been resolved. He said that an independent review committee to investigate the flaws in the Presidential elections had been agreed upon and would be established. “We cannot afford to sweep matters under the carpet and that is why we have agreed to establish an independent review committee whose findings would improve the electoral process,” he said.

That was why they had suggested a truth, justice and reconciliation committee, agreed on the safe resettlement of internally displaced people and a team from the UN Human Rights Commission to investigate those behind the violence and make public its report, Mr Annan said.

“The measures that the report recommends should be acted upon,” he said.

Mr Annan said a raft of Constitutional, legal and institutional reforms would be required to be enacted by Parliament after the deal had been struck and urged MPs to work together to ensure the new laws come into effect. “You will need to work together on these reforms as a Parliament. We appealed to President Kibaki and Mr Odinga on Friday to work together to heal the country and you share in that responsibility. You cannot afford to fail,” he said.

He said that the mediation team was expected to conclude a deal on the political solution by the end of the week and asked MPs to pacify their constituents.

“Some of the resolutions will need a legislative agenda and we will expect you to expedite your work and also engage your constituents so that they can stop the violence and accept the resolutions,” he said.

Earlier, Mrs Machel said the crisis facing Kenya was political and not ethnic as some people were trying to portray it. “This is a political crisis that requires a political solution and we are here with the mandate of the African Union to show concern, care, feel the pain, and insist on a peaceful resolution,” she said.

Speaking as a mother, she said that she felt for the children who were no longer going to school and were now desolate in camps, the mothers who could not take care of their children and urged MPs to ensure that the violence ends.

Common ground

“Parliament has the role to redefine a common place; a common ground where every Kenyan has room regardless of tribe or party affiliation,” she said.

As the mediation team announced a news blackout for the next 48 to 72 hours, it was clear the two sides were deeply divided on the political solution. While ODM were pushing for a joint government with an executive prime minister, the Government was adamant that their rivals should retain the opposition slot until the next elections.

 

 

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