News 2008


48 hours later…and no deal yet

(No, not only 48 hours - it is actually 48 days after hell broke loose and nothing has been achieved until now!)

February 15, 2008


By Ben Agina, David Ohito, Alex Ndegwa and Agencies

Talks on power-sharing were suspended after an intense, energy-sapping 48 hours during which the creation of an executive premier’s post and a split down the middle of Cabinet slots between PNU and ODM strongly featured.

But the proverbial white smoke signalling that a deal had been struck wouldn’t be spewing out of the chimney just yet.

Reports, largely conflicting, indicated that the discussions on the sensitive power-sharing deal may have turned acrimonious, forcing an adjournment to allow the mediators to consult with the chief protagonists, President Kibaki and ODM leader Mr Raila Odinga.

Details of what was agreed so far — if at all — would be made public Friday by lead mediator Dr Kofi Annan, who stayed behind at the exclusive resort in the Tsavo, which was the venue of the talks, as the Party of the National Unity (PNU) and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) teams flew back to Nairobi in the same aircraft.

A spokesman for the Panel of Eminent African Persons leading the search for a political settlement out of the post-election crisis hinted at an agreement whose details are to be made public later Friday.

"Mr Annan will make available the text of the agreement signed today between the parties," Mr Nasser Ega-Musa said in a dispatch relayed by SMS.

Annan, who sits in the panel with Mrs Graca Machel, South Africa’s former First Lady, and former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa will make the announcement at 5pm Friday. The talks resume on Monday.

On the broader agenda, though, the teams are said to have covered considerable ground but the talks were understood to have run into a gridlock when the finer details of the power-sharing arrangement were put on the table.

Annan had previously said he hoped to reach a final political agreement by this week.

Meanwhile, Kenya remained on the international spotlight.

US President George Bush, who begins a seven-day visit to Africa, three of them in Tanzania, will be watching the unfolding events from across the borders.

Bush was on Thursday quoted saying he had asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to come to Kenya with a message to the leaders that there must be a full return to democracy.

"In Kenya we’re backing the efforts of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to end the crisis," Bush said in a speech on Africa.

"And when we’re on the continent I’ve asked Condi Rice ... to travel to Kenya to support the work of the former secretary-general and to deliver a message directly to Kenya’s leaders and people: 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," he said.

Mr Stephen Hadley, President Bush’s National Security Adviser, said Thursday the political crisis is among key concerns of the United States.

"I’m sure Bush will be talking to all the (African) leaders about Kenya, which is the one, of course, people are concerned about now," Hadley said in a press statement posted on the White House website. "Kenya, is a step back, and we have been very actively engaged to try and get it on a track for resolution."

On its part, the European Union (EU) again warned it would sever all trade and bilateral links with Kenya if political leaders did not move fast to resolve the country’s political crisis.

"The electoral process had a negative impact on the country, and until there is a willingness in the two opposing factions to work things out together, it will not be business as usual as regards EU member countries," Mr Harvey Rouse, the union’s head of political and trade section in Kenya, said.

He added that investors and tourists’ confidence had greatly been eroded by the post-election crisis and it was high time it was restored.

Britain, another active participant in the search for a settlement out of the crisis, defended its envoy to Kenya, Mr Adam Wood, and reiterated that the UK did not recognise Kibaki’s government as representing the will of the Kenyan people. UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband issued the statement.

Mr Wood has come under a blistering attack from Government over his assertion that Britain did not recognise President Kibaki.

Speaking on arrival at Wilson Airport, Nairobi, Justice minister Ms Martha Karua said: "Talks are going on well but no agreement has been reached. Formally we resume on Tuesday."

She added: "We still have high hopes that the talks will yield fruits for Kenyans. Optimism is there…but optimism is not the same as agreement".

German deputy Foreign Affairs minister Gernot Erler Thursday night at Serena Hotel, Nairobi, made a presentation on his country’s experience with a grand coalition government, another strong indicator that the Annan team was exploring the idea.

The German minister on Tuesday took the negotiating teams holed out in Tsavo through a four-chapter presentation that touched on principles of a grand coalition, preparation of a coalition agreement, the role of parliament and conditions for long-term success of the arrangement.

Gernot, who said Germany had responded to an invitation by Annan, said he had also furnished both teams with a copy of the German coalition agreement and its constitution for further scrutiny.

He explained that Germany resorted to a grand coalition in 2005 when a bitterly contested election failed to produce an outright victor between the two major parties.

In the ensuing power-sharing deal, the feuding parties used the principal of proportionality whereby the strongest party took over the key positions while the other party scooped the deputy slots.

"The key to the success of a grand coalition is to strike a balance between the two competing interests and to ensure that there is no domination of the political arena by any of the parties. All decisions are made by consensus," he told the teams.

He added: "I told my colleagues that a grand coalition is not about love for each other but about pragmatism. It’s not easy to come together after a bruising election campaign so it’s equally important to have good mechanisms in place."

Thursday night The Standard reliably learnt that discussion in Tsavo on power sharing started in earnest in the morning, with both ODM and PNU giving proposals of the kind of grand coalition they wanted.

However, sources in the meeting at the exclusive Kilaguni Lodge said the Government gave a counter proposal to what ODM had tabled before the panel.

ODM is said to have demanded slightly over half of the slots in the proposed power sharing, staking a claim to 55 per cent of Cabinet positions and leaving 45 per cent for PNU and fringe parties.

According to sources, ODM had proposed the creation of a post of executive Prime Minister and two deputies, with the President as Head of State and the Premier head of government.

But PNU insisted on the retention of the status quo, where the President remains Head of State and Government and decides who joins the Cabinet.

It’s at this juncture that a member of the PNU is said to have sought adjournment to allow further consultations.

Other proposals tabled by ODM included the requirement that the President and the Premier share executive authority, proportionality at all levels of government and a balance in ministerial portfolios. There was also a clause barring the President from sacking ODM ministers.

PNU proposed that ODM take up Official opposition in Parliament, pledged to pass constitutional and electoral reforms, fresh polls after two years and ready to give top government posts to ODM nominees.

The ODM team, led by MPs Mr Musalia Mudavadi (Sabatia), Mr William Ruto Eldoret North), Mr James Orengo (Ugenya) and Dr Sally Kosgei (Aldai), headed to Pentagon House for a debriefing session with Mr Raila Odinga and top party officials.

Karua, Foreign Affairs minister Mr Moses Wetangula, and Mbooni MP Mr Mutula Kilonzo were part of the Government team that arrived aboard an Air Force plane shared with the ODM team.

ODM ferried its team of consultants among them Prof Peter Wanyande, Dr Amukoa Anangwe, Rongo MP Mr Dalmas Otieno and liaison person Mr Caroli Omondi.