News 2008


Annan hints at a new government

Story by NATION Team

16. 02. 2008

The clearest hint yet that a new government incorporating ODM members could be formed to end Kenya’s post-election crisis was given yesterday.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who is leading the mediation talks, said a new government bringing together PNU and parties in its coalition and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) was necessary to push through legal, constitutional and other reforms necessary to heal the country.

Government and ODM representatives to the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation talks were discussing the possibility of such a government and President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga are expected to state their stand for an agreement to be sealed, he said.

Mr Annan was briefing the news media on the progress made by the negotiation team during the 48 hours of a retreat to Kilaguni Serena Lodge to thrash out the thorny issue of possible power-sharing.

Mr Annan said he would request for a meeting with President Kibaki and Mr Odinga on Monday “to give clearest instructions to their negotiators on the option of political settlement”.

Nearly 1,000 people were killed and 300,000 displaced in three weeks of violence which followed the announcement of the disputed presidential election results.

Mr Annan is leading a team of eminent Africans trying to bring a negotiated settlement to the dispute. Other members are former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and former South African First Lady Graca Machel.

The government team to the talks is led by Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua and includes Cabinet ministers Moses Wetang’ula and Sam Ongeri and Mbooni MP Mutula Kilonzo.

The ODM team is led by Sabatia MP Musalia Mudavadi and includes MPs William Ruto, James Orengo and Sally Kosgei.

Mr Annan said: “Several options have (of the governance structure) emerged and the parties are going to consult their principals and leadership on these options and will revert to the chair (Mr Annan) shortly.”

Details of the new government will only be sealed and made public when President Kibaki and Mr Odinga instruct their negotiators to endorse it. “I have requested for a meeting between President Kibaki and Mr Raila Odinga,” he said.

Mr Annan, in a move that gave Kenyans fresh hope for negotiated settlement to the crisis, said the negotiating team was close to agreeing on a deal.

The first reference that the negotiation team had agreed on one or two sets of a new government came when he acknowledged the concern of majority of Kenyans that the pace at which the talks were progressing could frustrate him to leave.

“I will stay as long as it takes to get the issue of a political settlement to an irreversible point. I will not be frustrated or provoked to leave. It is in the interest of the men and women of Kenya, the region, Africa and the international community to have a new government,” he said.

The second signal to a new government came when he was answering a reporter’s question on whether there was an option of one side in the conflict forming a government should the PNU and ODM negotiators fail to agree on the options of a political settlement.

The former UN secretary general shared the concern of millions of Kenyans on the need for a quick solution to the crisis and an end to violence.

However, he said that the matters that are on his table for consideration by the mediation team were sensitive, complex and sometimes frightening to be agreed upon expeditiously.

“I know you have been waiting to hear that we have a deal. I understand that you are eager but again let me advise patience. We are at the watershed and normally it is frightening to take some steps,” he said.

And he assured Kenyans that he will remain in the country as long as it will take for that government to be set up.

“We are through with agenda one and two, we are now on agenda three and four. This is a very important issue for Kenya and Africa and I will stay over for as long as it takes to ensure that the new Government is set up,” he said.

He went on: “I am not here to provoke anyone, but to get the work done.”

Mr Annan said that the discussions by the National Dialogue team saw the necessity of this and what was remaining are the modalities which ODM and PNU negotiating teams were going to discuss with their principals — President Kibaki and Mr Odinga.

“Let us be patient, we have no hardliners and the momentum is with us in this most difficult circumstances,” he said.

Mr Annan explained that a government that brings everyone on board was necessary so that both PNU and ODM marshal the 65 per cent majority in Parliament required to enact constitutional changes.

The PNU alone has 43 MPs including Mr Kibaki while ODM has 96 having lost two and Mr Kenneth Marende vacating his Emuhaya seat following his election as the Speaker.

Then, he announced that he had suggested the name of top Nigerian diplomat Prof Adebayo Adedeji to join the mediation team subject to clearance by the Government. He said that ODM had accepted Prof Adedeji.

Mr Annan made the announcement as US President George W. Bush dispatched Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who is expected in Kenya on Monday to bolster Mr Annan’s efforts.

She is travelling to Nairobi with assistant secretary of state in charge of African affairs Ms Jendayi Frazer to deliver to Kenyan leaders a stern message from President Bush thus: “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.”

Ms Rice, who will be in the country for only a few hours, is expected to meet Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga before holding talks with Mr Annan.

Yesterday, Mr Annan said an independent non-judicial review commission will be formed to inquire into irregularities of the presidential results and should start work by March 15. Its findings, to be done between three and six months, will form part of the electoral reforms to ensure that it will never happen again.

“There is need for a political settlement and Kenyans have a right to know what went wrong during the tallying,” he said.

He said the recommendations of the review committee would be factored in the electoral reforms to ensure that the flaws that led to the current dispute were not repeated. Mr Annan said the political settlement that would be put in place would oversee a raft of constitutional, legal and institutional reforms.

Among them were a new constitution in 12 months, comprehensive electoral reforms that would include overhauling the Electoral Commission of Kenya, dispute resolution mechanisms, and the setting up of a truth, justice and reconciliation commission.

Others were the prosecution of those behind the violence, strengthening of the legislature, placing the police under an independent commission, judicial and legal reforms and commitment to a shared national agenda in Parliament on the reforms. Mr Annan explained that a government that brings everyone on board was necessary so that both PNU and ODM could marshal the 65 per cent majority in Parliament required to enact constitutional changes.

The PNU alone has 43 MPs, including Mr Kibaki, while ODM has 96, having lost two to death and Mr Kenneth Marende, who vacated his former Emuhaya seat after his election as House Speaker.

“The reforms that have been agreed upon have to go through Parliament. If they (MPs) do not pass these reforms, Kenyans will not forgive them,” Mr Annan said.

He also said the negotiators had touched on the fourth item of long term issues which, he emphasised, should commence in concert with the constitutional and institutional reforms.

Those issues were likely to go beyond the time-line of elections that his team would set once the new government structure is agreed upon and announced.

Among them are national cohesion, land reforms, tackling poverty, imbalance in regional development, sorting out unemployment, public service reforms, strengthening of public accountability and anti-corruption laws and putting in place new public finance and revenue management systems. PNU and ODM appeared divided over the progress of the talks.

While PNU said the negotiators had achieved more than expected since the dialogue started on January 29, ODM said much would have been done if both sides had received enough support from their masters.

“There’s no delay. The deadline we set is artificial. Taking into account various interests and political issues surrounding the talks, I don’t think eight people could go and make decisions without consulting political parties and leaders,” Mbooni MP Mutula Kilonzo told the Nation on phone. Mr Kilonzo also said PNU was still against a grand coalition as proposed by Mr Annan and some foreign countries.

A grand coalition, Mr Kilonzo said, uses a parliamentary system while Kenya is a presidential system. He said the PNU and ODM leaders lacked enough trust to work together and that the system is unpopular with public. “For President Kibaki to cede power to any party will be violation of trust given to him by the public,” Mr Kilonzo said.

He said a German minister had lectured the PNU and ODM leaders on how a grand coalition worked in Germany. “But Germany is a federal government,” Mr Kilonzo said.

Mr Ruto said despite slow progress, Kenyans should expect a breakthrough in the Annan-led negotiations next week.

“The issues are clear. The country is in abeyance. The answers are with us. We can’t put the country hanging in the balance any longer.” Mr Ruto said.