Kenyan rivals hunker down in
secret for crisis talks
Wed 13 Feb 2008, 13:06 GMT
By C. Bryson Hull
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya's political rivals sought a deal to end
an election crisis at a luxury safari lodge on Wednesday, while
mediator Kofi Annan tried to soothe government fury over a
proposal for new elections.
The former U.N. chief has imposed a news blackout, but the talks
are widely expected to result in some kind of power-sharing deal
between the government and the opposition after the disputed
election of Dec. 27.
The two negotiating teams have been spirited away to what sources
on both sides said was a lodge inside Tsavo West National Park in
The teams arrived on Tuesday night, after Annan briefed Kenya's
parliament on developments in the talks and said he expected a
deal within the week on the immediate political crisis, which grew
out of Kenya's closest-ever election.
But he angered the government side and on Tuesday its chief
negotiator, Justice Minister Martha Karua, accused him of wrongly
saying the teams had agreed on a transitional government for two
years before a new presidential vote.
Karua, one of President Mwai Kibaki's most aggressive defenders,
demanded a clarification of remarks he made in a private session
"It appears that one of the parties may have misunderstood remarks
made during the question and answer period in reference to the
possible 'grand coalition' which could oversee reforms within two
years, followed by presidential elections," Annan's office said in
Annan said that was "his perspective on the discussions, and does
not imply a formal agreement between the two parties," the
statement said. The dispute had been resolved in the morning
discussions, it said.
The Ghanaian diplomat is trying to end a crisis over Kibaki's
disputed re-election, which threw the east African nation into
spasms of violence and damaged its image as one of the continent's
most stable and prosperous countries.
At least 1,000 people were killed and 300,000 displaced in bouts
of police action and ethnic killings, which laid bare rifts over
land, power and wealth that have existed since the British
colonial era and been exacerbated by post-independence politicians.
OLD FIGHT UNRESOLVED
The Annan-led talks are supposed to address those longer-standing
issues in the next year, but an immediate political solution is
expected any day now.
Both sides say that will take the form of a power-sharing deal,
but its specifics are far from clear. Government officials have
said they will only share power in the form of cabinet
appointments to be made by Kibaki himself.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband in a statement urged
"Kenya's leaders to turn crisis into opportunity and establish the
basis for a lasting solution".
Kibaki's government has been cool to outside negotiations from the
start, arguing that Kenya's institutions can deal with an election
dispute. They accuse opposition leader Raila Odinga of ignoring
those laws in favour of street protests.
Odinga says Kibaki stole the election and that outside help was
required because the electoral commission and courts are biased.
He now appears to have relented on a demand that Kibaki step down
and a new election be called.
Both sides agree on the need for constitutional, legal and
electoral reforms as part of any solution.
But that is an old battle still unresolved, despite a 2005
constitutional referendum in which Odinga led his Orange
Democratic Movement coalition to defeat a Kibaki-backed redrafting
of the document.