News 2008


Annan vows to steer peace talks to the end

February 16, 2008


By David Ohito

Fresh from a retreat, lead mediator Dr Kofi Annan pushed to unlock a gridlock on negotiations by laying a roadmap for what he called a ‘new government’ expected to emerge from the initiative.

Annan announced key agreements by negotiators despite reports that drafting of fine details on power sharing had caused discord between the two teams.

Annan also said negotiators were discussing power-sharing arrangements with their principals before they could come close to a deal.

The former UN Secretary General dwelt mainly on spelling out phases of constitutional, institutional, electoral, political and economic reforms to be undertaken in the short and long-term and the steps to the healing.

Among key agreements Annan announced were that the thorny proposals of re-counting, re-tallying or a re-run of the elections would not resolve the crisis and had been ruled out.

He said these were ruled out after teams agreed they would likely divide Kenyans more than achieve a lasting solution.

This puts to rest what had been thought to be a major hurdle to the talks that both sides had tussled over.

He said: "In discussions it was apparent there was no viable way to get at the truth immediately, either by recount, re-tally or any other measure to determine outcome of elections."

But Annan said it had been agreed an Independent Review Committee would be created to investigate all aspects of the presidential election and make the full truth known to Kenyans.

The former UN chief remained optimistic as he spelt out bold steps taken at the talks for a possible political settlement to the crisis.

But sections of his statement revealed it has been an uphill task for him and his team of negotiators bringing the Party of National Unity and the Orange Democratic Movement teams to agree on thorny issues related to the proposed power sharing.

Annan, who exuded hope that a solution was in sight, said he would not be frustrated and would surge on to achieve a lasting solution for Kenya.

He announced he had released the teams on Thursday from their two-day hideout at the secluded Kilaguni Lodge in the Tsavo, to consult with their party principals — President Kibaki and Mr Raila Odinga.

Annan said he would meet President Kibaki and Raila on Monday to impress on them the need to urge their negotiators to be flexible.

"Reaching a compromise is difficult, but there is real momentum and I am confident that the interest of Kenya will come first and the parties will show wisdom and flexibility to conclude an agreement," said Annan.

The break from Kilaguni from where Annan had earlier said a solution would emerge within 48 to 72 hours was understood to have come as both sides clashed on details of power sharing and the creation of a position of prime minister.

Annan steered off explaining details of a power sharing deal, but outlined what had been agreed on.

At the 5pm press briefing at the Serena Hotel, Annan said a new coalition Government may be created as a political settlement for the crisis.

Annan said the first step towards reaching a consensus on the new Government or grand coalition would be on Monday, when he meets Kibaki and Raila to plead with them to ask their negotiating teams to be flexible.

On the reforms committee, he said: "The committee will be a non-judicial body made up of Kenyans and non-Kenyans recognised as electoral experts of the highest professional standing and personal integrity," he explained.

The committee would submit its report within three to six months and publish the same within 14 days of submission. It starts its work not later than March 15.

Truth must be told

The findings of the committee must be factored into the comprehensive electoral reforms that are envisaged.

"The truth must be told and Kenyans have to know what happened. We agreed that the system must be reformed so that such a crisis never happens again," Annan added.

"The Independent Review Committee will allow for this to take place in an environment of tranquillity and transparency to further national healing and reconciliation," he said.

On Governance arrangements, which entail power sharing structures, he said both sides agreed to first consult their principals and leadership and come back with positions on Monday.

But the parties agreed that the political settlement is not about sharing positions, but about addressing fundamental root causes of recurrent conflict.

Annan said he expects both teams to return with him to the negotiating table on Tuesday.

It is expected that the big political agreement would come if the teams agree on the structures of power sharing.

Also agreed on is a truth, justice and reconciliation commission. The commission would handle identification and prosecution of perpetrators of violence.

He said both sides have committed themselves to respecting human rights.

Parliamentary, legal and judicial reforms would also be constituted.

He said the parties are also committed to a shared national agenda in Parliament for these reforms as well as other legislative, structural, political and economic reforms as needed.

Annan said the final phase would be long term. This he termed Agenda Four – tackling root causes of crises like poverty and inequity, regional development imbalances, especially among the youth.

It would also touch on reform of the Public Service, strengthening of anti-corruption laws and public accountability mechanisms. There would also be reforms of public finance and revenue management systems and institutions.

"We recognise that there is a serious crisis and that political settlement is necessary to promote national reconciliation and unity," Annan said.

"We advise patience as we near this compromise and we plead with leaders to show true leadership and foresight to resolve the impasse quickly," Annan said.

"US Secretary of State Ms Condoleezza Rice joins me on Monday to support the mediation process at its most crucial state," Annan said confirming the expected arrival of the American leader.

He, however, clarified that Rice would not be here to flex muscle, but to "deliver a message of courage and solidarity with the talks".

He said clinching the deal has taken a little longer than anticipated. But he reiterated he still had the stamina to ensure success and secure a deal agreeable to both sides.

Annan said the new Government – a form of grand coalition, has worked in Germany, United Kingdom and Japan in times of crises and moved the countries forward.

"The Kenya question is of great importance to Africa, the world and Kenyans particularly," Annan said, adding, "I will stay as long as possible to help fast track a solution."

Briefing their principals

Earlier, the PNU team of negotiators led by Justice Minister Ms Martha Karua spent the Friday afternoon with President Kibaki at Harambee House, while ODM team leader Mr Musalia Mudavadi briefed Raila the previous evening.

Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Ms Martha Karua led her team in updating the President on the issues deliberated on at Kilaguni.

At the talks, PNU has maintained that President Kibaki was duly elected and that ODM leader Mr Raila Odinga should take up his role as the Official Opposition leader in Parliament.

PNU has also complained that it should not be pushed into accepting a quick fix power sharing deal without addressing the underlying causes the violence that left 1,000 people dead and more than 300,000 displaced. It also wants perpetrators of violence brought to book.

Meanwhile Rice who will address the Press at the end of her discussions on Monday afternoon is coming "to support the work of Annan, and deliver a message to Kenya’s leaders and people."

The political settlement on power sharing generated heated arguments at Kilanguni retreat after ODM presented its formula for healing.

Earlier described by Annan as ‘too hot’, the power sharing deal has remained contentious through out the negotiations. ODM has demanded 55 per cent of Cabinet posts as PNU seeks to ensure Kibaki calls the shots and appoints ODM MPs as ministers.

Sources said PNU did not make any submissions on power sharing arguing "they had no authority nor mandate" to discuss power sharing without consulting Kibaki.

PNU reportedly said it had no mandate to discuss governance structures at the critical stage of talks.

It was understood that lawyers allied to both sides had a separate retreat and discussed the power structures where ODM proposed separation of powers with real checks and balances on the executive and proposed the French model of governance where the premier is answerable to Parliament with powers to run government.

Under this proposal, Raila was to be Prime minister and head of Government while Kibaki was to be Head of State.

During negotiations, sources said PNU proposed how to retain Vice- President, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka.

Sources said the power sharing deal met resistance during the retreat but Annan said he hoped the goodwill of Kibaki and Raila would resolve the matter.