Rival camps still divided in
By Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 16, 2008
NAIROBI, KENYA - Government and opposition negotiators agreed
Friday to work toward a raft of electoral and constitutional
reforms, but remained bitterly divided over how Kenya's
presidential rivals might settle their differences and share power
in a coalition.
Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is leading mediation
talks, said a power-sharing agreement was the best hope of
breaking Kenya's political stalemate and halting postelection
violence that has resulted in 1,000 deaths and displaced another
After spending two days in a secluded southern Kenyan safari lodge
with bickering negotiators, Annan described the talks as "intense
and fruitful," and said he remained optimistic that a compromise
might be reached next week.
"The momentum is with us," he said Friday at a news conference
"We are at the water's edge, and the last difficult and
frightening step, as difficult as it is, will be taken."
He added that he planned to bypass the official four-person
negotiating teams Monday and make personal appeals to Kenyan
President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, urging
them to "have the courage and make a deal."
Analysts warned that Kibaki, who has scarcely acknowledged the
election crisis since the disputed Dec. 27 presidential vote,
appears reluctant to concede any significant authority to Odinga.
The opposition leader says he won the election. Kibaki was
declared the victor by his handpicked election commission, despite
widespread claims of vote rigging.
"The Annan initiative is going to collapse because Kibaki is
adamant about not sharing power," said political scientist Mutahi
Ngunyi in Nairobi, the capital. "He doesn't believe in a
positive-sum game where everyone goes home with a piece of the pie."
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives in
Kenya to help prod the participants toward a settlement. Before
the recent meltdown, Kenya had been a key American partner in
fighting terrorism in the Horn of Africa and a model of democracy
in the region.
Opposition leaders welcomed U.S. engagement and warned of
continued violence if the talks break down.
"International pressure is essential to ensure that Mr. Kofi
Annan's mission succeeds and we are to avert a disaster in Kenya,"
opposition spokesman Salim Lone said Friday. "We should not be
fooled by the current relative calm to believe that the worst of
the situation is over."
Rice's visit appears to be part of an international diplomatic
campaign to keep pressure on the government and opposition by
threatening sanctions against those deemed to be stonewalling.
On Thursday, Britain's high commissioner, or ambassador, to Kenya,
Adam Wood, said his country does not recognize Kibaki's government
"as presently constituted, as representing the will of Kenyan
The U.S. and other Western governments said they might deny visas
to Kenyan politicians and business leaders found to be involved in
instigating or funding violence. European Union officials this
week warned of economic consequences if the talks fail.
The threats drew angry responses from government officials. On
Thursday, Justice Minister Martha Karua, who is leading the Kibaki
government's negotiating team, accused foreign governments of
treating Kenya like a "colony" and dismissed their views as
Earlier in the week, Karua, who is considered one of the
government hard-liners, blasted Annan for publicly suggesting that
a transitional "grand coalition government" could be a solution
for Kenya. She cautioned that the proposal had "not been discussed
or agreed upon."
Those familiar with the negotiations say the government is
offering to give the opposition 15 Cabinet positions, but is
insisting that Kibaki select the nominees and that he be allowed
to serve out a full five-year term.
Opposition leaders want Odinga named to a new prime minister post,
with clearly defined powers. They are also seeking guarantees that
opposition ministers cannot be fired by Kibaki, and they want
elections in two years.