News 2008


Kenya rivals sign accord but no final deal

15. 02. 2008

NAIROBI (AFP) Kenya's rival parties on Thursday signed an agreement during talks to end turmoil that has left more than 1,000 people dead, but the government warned no final deal has been made.

The United States is to send Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Nairobi to support the mediation effort by former UN chief Kofi Annan.

Annan called a news conference for Friday to "outline" the agreement reached between representatives of President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, according to a UN spokesman working with the mediation team.

The text of the agreement signed by the two sides will also be released, a statement added. Talks between the two sides will resume next Monday.

Odinga claims that Kibaki rigged the December 27 presidential election and that he should have been declared winner.

Violence erupted after Kibaki was named as winner.

According to the Kenyan Red Cross, more than 1,000 people have died in clashes between rival groups and a police clampdown while 300,000 people have been displaced, shattering Kenya's image as one of Africa's most stable countries.

Annan has been pushing for a power sharing accord to end the unrest but the government denied a final agreement has been reached.

"We are still talking and we have not agreed conclusively," Martha Karua, minister for justice and constitutional affairs, told reporters.

A top government official told AFP that Kibaki's camp had agreed to bring opposition members into government but it had rejected demands to curtail the president's powers.

The official, who asked not to be named, said the two sides had agreed to launch a one-year constitutional review.

US President George W. Bush announced ahead of a five-nation Africa tour that he had asked Rice to travel to Kenya to support Annan's efforts and deliver the message that: "There must be an immediate halt to violence, there must be justice for the victims of abuse, and there must be a full return to democracy."

Rice's spokesman Sean McCormack said the secretary will travel to Kenya on Monday to meet Kibaki and Odinga.

Kibaki has insisted that he won the presidential vote fairly and should not have to share power with Odinga.

In an address to the Kenyan parliament this week, Annan proposed a "grand coalition" government that could oversee reforms and organise new elections, possibly in two years.

The former UN chief has been holed up with the two negotiating teams at a safari lodge in southern Kenya since Tuesday to try to finalise a deal away from the media glare.

Kibaki has been under international pressure to agree a power-sharing deal. The United States and Britain have threatened visa bans and other sanctions if the mediation fails.

Former colonial power Britain said Kibaki's present government lacked legitimacy and must open up to the opposition.

"Given the irregularities reported by observers around the presidential elections, we do not recognize the Kenyan government as presently constituted as representing the will of the Kenyan people," British High Commissioner Adam Wood said in an interview with Kenyan television.

But Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula responded that "the government as is constituted required neither a nod nor a stamp of confirmation from the British to reflect the will of Kenyans."

"Continued provocation will not be tolerated further and the government will not hesitate to take appropriate remedial measures," warned Wetangula.

The turmoil has laid bare tribal rivalries and simmering resentment over land issues and wealth disparities in Kenya, long considered a model of stability in Africa.

But calm has returned to the country for the first time in weeks, with no incidents reported in western Kenya, which has been worst hit by the violence.

Annan's press conference is scheduled for 5:00 pm (1400 GMT) Friday.