News 2008


Renewed pressure as saboteurs warned

February 14, 2008


By Standard team

The noose is waiting to be put around the necks of individuals who sabotage ongoing talks for a political settlement out of crippling crisis, The Standard can report.

This emerged as the mediation talks’ teams got down to discussing the finer details of a power sharing deal that could be announced by the weekend.

The United Kingdom and Switzerland once again demonstrated that the international community is in no mood to entertain failure by issuing the sternest warning yet, to personalities perceived as pushing sectarian instead of national interests.

The renewed international pressure was brought to bear on another momentous day of talks — now in its third week — that began with a clarification by the United Nations-backed lead mediator, Dr Kofi Annan, and scrambled reports of the deal being discussed.

On Wednesday, Annan and his panel of Eminent African Personalities, together with representatives of the Party of National Unity (PNU) and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) — the two protagonists over the outcome of the December 27 presidential elections — remained holed up at an exclusive resort.

"We are clear that those individuals who stand in the way of progress will have to face the consequences," Mr David Miliband, the British Foreign Secretary, said in a statement.

Miliband described as "crucial" the stage the talks had reached, and urged Kenyan leaders to set aside entrenched positions and resolve to find a way forward through dialogue, negotiation and compromise.

He added: "The UK will continue to work closely with the international community in full support of Kofi Annan. We welcome the engagement amongst others of the AU, EU and UN Security Council."

In Nairobi, British High Commissioner Mr Adam Wood maintained that his government still did not recognise President Kibaki as legitimately elected.

"Our pledge is to recognise states not governments. This has also been expressed by other British ministers. But given the irregularities reported by observers around the presidential elections, we do not recognise the Kenyan Government as presently constituted as representing the will of Kenyan people," Wood said in an interview with our sister television station KTN.

Even more assertive was the position taken by Switzerland in the matter. "To ensure success, Switzerland urges all parties to remain fully committed to the negotiation process," a statement issued from the Swiss Embassy in Nairobi read.

"If the mediation efforts nevertheless fail to resolve the crisis, Switzerland would consider taking appropriate measures such as restricting access to its territory to individuals responsible for the failure of the process."

The statement signed by Mr Arthur Mattli, the Counsellor, extended the notice to those it will determine to have subverted democracy in Kenya and promoted or engaged in acts of violence.

Justice minister Ms Martha Karua, Foreign Affairs minister Mr Moses Wetangula, Education minister Prof Sam Ongeri and Mbooni MP Mr Mutula Kilonzo make up the Government side in the talks.

MPs Mr Musalia Mudavadi (Sabatia), Mr William Ruto (Eldoret North), Dr Sally Kosgei (Aldai) and Mr James Orengo (Ugenya) represent ODM interests.

This renewed pressure on PNU and ODM personalities in the mediation talks’ teams appear to have been triggered by a protest by Karua over what she described as "inaccuracies" in Annan’s presentation at an extraordinary Kamukunji session for Members of Parliament at Old Parliament Chambers on Tuesday.

"My team is alarmed at some serious inaccurate statement made by your Excellency (Kofi Annan)," said Karua, who’s Kibaki’s lead negotiator in the talks. This was after Annan told Parliament that a "grand coalition" could oversee reforms in Kenya to pave the way for elections in two years.

Karua asserted that forming a transitional government to prepare for elections "has not been discussed or agreed upon" in the mediation talks.

The statement was in line with Kibaki’s long-held view that he won the presidential vote fairly and should not have to share power with his rival, ODM leader Mr Raila Odinga, who says he was robbed of the presidency.

The post-election crisis has left about 1,000 people dead and property of unknown value destroyed. Over 500,000 people have been displaced in the wake of countrywide violence.

Karua’s protest letter to Annan was reportedly discussed at the meeting after she tabled it at the talks on Wednesday. But her argument was understood to have been dismissed.

The panel of Eminent African Personalities, which Annan chairs, sought to clear the air over the remarks.

However, the parties were said to be in constructive engagement in spite of the Tuesday evening apparent setback.

The Standard reliably learnt that the talks discussed crucial constitutional amendments that would pave the way for power sharing through a grand coalition.

ODM is said to have demanded slightly over half of slots in the proposed grand coalition, with Orengo staking a claim to 55 per cent of Cabinet positions, leaving 45 per cent for PNU and friendly parties.

Orengo argued that ODM’s strength should be judged by its superiority in Parliament with 99 elected MPs. PNU has 43, ODM-K 16 and Kanu 14.

But this line of discussion was reportedly shelved on Annan’s intervention and would only be re-opened later in the subsequent meetings.

Orengo’s proposal reportedly drew sharp reactions from ODM-Kenya’s Mutula, who vehemently opposed the proposal.

On Tuesday while addressing the Speaker’s Kamukunji, Annan urged legislators to put aside their sectarian differences and collectively focus on Kenya to find a lasting solution to the crippling political crisis.

In a 10-minute address that brought the MPs up to speed with the two-week peace talks, the former UN secretary-general said both parties had agreed it was essential to look for a political solution to the crisis with a possibility of a grand coalition.

Annan exhorted MPs to close ranks and push through the legislative agenda to implement recommendations arising from the talks.

"Some of these issues will require action by this Parliament. It will be critical that a legislative agenda is agreed so that you can move forward expeditiously with the important business of reform.

"You will need to work together to implement this heavy agenda. Your active involvement, across party lines, is necessary. Without this, the government may be paralysed," Annan told MPs.

He explained that the agenda would include radical constitutional review to redress historical injustices through land reforms, checking inequity and impunity to support equal access to opportunity.

Said he: "Let us pull together and get it done. We cannot afford to fail."

Annan was optimistic that a solution to the political crisis sparked by the disputed re-election of President Kibaki could be concluded "hopefully this week."