News 2008


Annan outlines Kenya deal

By Carole Landry, AFP

Feb 15, 2008

NAIROBI - Former United Nations (UN) chief Kofi Annan was to reveal today details of a deal agreed by Kenyaís rival parties to pull the country out of deadly turmoil, but more tough negotiations lay ahead.

Negotiators for President Mwai Kibaki and the opposition signed an agreement yesterday during talks with Annan to end weeks of violence since a disputed December 27 election in which more than 1,000 people have died and 300,000 have been displaced.

Talks are to resume on Monday when US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives to deliver a US message to Kenyaís leaders that "there must be a full return to democracy".

Sources close to the talks said the sides had agreed to constitutional reforms and to bring opposition members into the government but differences remained, hampering Annanís efforts for a comprehensive deal.

Nairobiís Daily Nation newspaper carried the headline: "Annanís team strikes half-way deal in talks," while the Standard sounded a more pessimistic note: "48 hours later...and no deal yet."

Kenya descended into crisis when Kibaki, 76, was declared the winner of the vote, which opposition leader Raila Odinga, 63, maintains was rigged.

Annan has been pushing for a power-sharing deal that would bring together the government and the opposition to oversee reforms and pave the way for fresh elections, possibly in two years.

But during talks, Kibakiís camp balked at proposals for "power-sharing", saying it would only appoint opposition members to a government under the strong executive leadership of the president, a top government official said.

The opposition has pushed for the appointment of Odinga as prime minister with full powers as head of government, a post that would require changes to the constitution.

The parties agreed to launch a one-year constitutional review that could address many of the grievances that fueled the violence - which appears to have subsided over the past seven days.

But constitutional reforms would be conditional on a deal on the makeup of the new all-inclusive government, said the official, who asked not to be named. "We are still talking and we have not agreed conclusively," said Martha Karua, justice minister and the governmentís lead negotiator.

The text of the agreement signed by the two sides was to be released during Annanís news conference scheduled for 5:00 pm (1400 GMT).

The rival leaders have been under international pressure to make concessions, with the United States and Britain threatening visa bans, an assets freeze and other sanctions.

US President George W. Bush announced ahead of a five-nation Africa tour that he had asked Rice to travel to Kenya - which is not on his own itinerary - to deliver a strong message. "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," Bush said.

Former colonial power Britain angered Kibakiís camp when High Commissioner Adam Wood said London did not recognise the government "as presently constituted."

At the request of the African Union (AU), Annan - who arrived in Nairobi on January 22 - launched a mediation to end the violence that saw Kenyans hacked to death by machete-wielding mobs, burnt in churches where they had sought refuge and driven off their land.

The turmoil has laid bare tribal rivalries as well as simmering resentment over land issues and wealth disparities in Kenya.

Kenyaís world-famous safari resorts and beach hotels have suffered a bruising loss of business while the countryís economic upswing, with growth at seven percent, could soon flatten out.