News 2008


Kenyan ambassador to USA hopeful that blackout, talks will end bloodshed


February 13, 2008

LITTLE ROCK - Kenya's ambassador to the United States said Tuesday he was hopeful that a round of peace talks would create a breakthrough that would end postelection violence in his home country.

"We have left everything to (former United Nations chief) Kofi Annan and his team, and the president is obviously very open to whatever agreements they may reach. I think we just need to leave it there," Ambassador Peter Ogego said after a speech at the University of Arkansas' Clinton School of Public Service.

Annan, who is mediating talks, has declared a news blackout and moved the talks to a secret location outside Nairobi. Ogego said he hoped the blackout would help end the violence in Kenya, which has seen more than 1,000 people die and some 600,000 flee their homes in violence that followed the Dec. 27 election.

"Everybody should wait, and they'll come back with some breakthroughs," Ogego said. "So we're very hopeful."

Negotiators have said the opposition has proposed sharing power with the government for two years and then holding new elections.

Much of the upheaval has pitted ethnic groups linked to politicians against one another.

"This is the first time that an election has been based on ethnicity," Ogego said. The violence that followed the election showed that "you cannot have politics on the basis of ethnicity," he said.

The opposition charges that President Mwai Kibaki stole the election. The government insists the vote was free and fair, despite heavy criticism from international and domestic observers.

Ogego disputed the notion that the elections were rigged, instead calling them "hotly contested."

"Very close to what you had in the last election in Florida," Ogego said, an apparent reference to disputed 2000 Al Gore-George W. Bush election.