News 2008


Kenya deal hinges on power-sharing

16. Feb. 2008

NAIROBI (AFP) - Former UN chief Kofi Annan's push for a power-sharing deal in Kenya won backing on Saturday from US President George W. Bush who said a coalition government could help resolve the crisis.

Annan hopes President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga will reach agreement next week on a settlement to end a dispute over the December 27 elections that sparked violence in which more than 1,000 people have died.

Arriving in Benin at the start of his five-nation Africa tour, Bush said he was sending US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Nairobi on Monday to deliver a strong message to the leaders.

"The key is that the leaders hear from her, first hand, US desires to see that there be no violence and that there be a power-sharing agreement that will help this nation resolve its difficulties," Bush said.

Annan said Friday at the end of a third week of tough negotiations that a deal was "very close" but that the sides remained at odds over the make-up of a new coalition government.

"We are on the water's edge and the last difficult and frightening step, as difficult as it is, will be taken," Annan said.

He said the rival parties had agreed to ambitious reforms to improve the constitution, electoral laws and other areas of government to "address the root causes of the crisis."

But "the only outstanding issue" remained the make-up of a coalition government, he added. The parties were consulting with their leaders before sitting down again with Annan on Tuesday.

Bush was set to discuss the Kenya crisis in talks with President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania who currently holds the chair of the African Union but there are no plans for him to travel to Kenya during his tour.

"President Bush does not need to go to Kenya at this point. At the right moment in time, the president will engage," said Jendayi Frazer, assistant US secretary of state for African affairs.

Kenya descended into crisis when Kibaki, 76, was declared the winner of the presidential vote, which opposition leader Odinga, 63, maintains was rigged. Independent observers also found flaws in the vote count.

According to the Kenyan Red Cross, more than 1,000 people have died in rioting, tribal clashes and police raids and 300,000 people have been uprooted, shattering Kenya's image as one of Africa's most stable countries.

The violence appears to have stopped over the past week with police reporting no incidents as Kenyans awaited the outcome of the Annan-led talks.

Launched nearly three weeks ago, Annan's mediation is seen as Kenya's best hope for a political solution to end the violence in which Kenyans have been killed by machete-wielding mobs, burnt in churches and driven off their land.

The rival leaders have been under heavy pressure from the United States and Britain which have threatened visa bans, an assets freeze and other sanctions to prevent the regional powerhouse from sliding further into violence.

Kibaki's tribe, the Kikuyu, suffered heavily in the first wave of violence at the hands of Odinga's Luo tribe and other ethnic groups, but there have since been numerous revenge attacks.

The violence has tapped into simmering resentment over land, poverty and the dominance of the Kikuyu in Kenyan politics and business since independence from Britain in 1963.