Kenya govt rejects Annan mediation in crisis

The Kenyan government on Monday rejected a mediation mission by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan to try to end political unrest and sent a stern warning to the opposition ahead of nationwide protests.

Two weeks after President Mwai Kibaki’s contested re-election sparked violence that has left hundreds dead, Annan was due in Nairobi on Tuesday, his office said.

But Kibaki’s government again rejected international mediation of the crisis, which has also left a quarter of a million displaced.

“If Kofi Annan is coming, he is not coming at our invitation,” Roads and Public Works Minister John Michuki, a hard-line member of Kibaki’s new Cabinet, told reporters.

“We won the elections so we do not see the point for anyone coming to mediate power-sharing,” he added.

International mediation efforts have so far failed to bring Kibaki to the negotiating table with opposition leader Raila Odinga, who says the December 27 election was rigged to rob him of the presidency.

African Union chief John Kufuor left the country last week with little to show for two days of talks with both camps.

Top United States Africa envoy Jendayi Frazer, who spent a week in Kenya, said afterwards she was “deeply disappointed” that the two rivals had been unable to reach agreement on how to hold direct discussions.

She also warned that the US could not “conduct business as usual in Kenya”.

Annan on Friday appealed to “all Kenyan leaders, the government as well as the opposition in the country to avoid any measures or steps that would further compromise the search for an amicable solution to the country’s crisis”.

International observers have voiced concern over irregularities in December 27 vote tallying, but no foreign power has come out strongly against Kibaki, who took the oath an hour after the results were announced.

The 76-year-old was due to inaugurate Kenya’s 10th Parliament on Tuesday.

Neither his Party of National Unity (PNU) nor Odinga’s opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) managed to secure a majority, prompting a fight between both sides to woo smaller parties ahead of the chamber’s re-opening.

Odinga has vowed his party will sit down on the government’s side on the Parliament benches.

“We expect rough times and a major showdown in Parliament, dominated by patronage, vendettas and unproductiveness if the situation remains as it is,” Kenyan political analyst Evans Manduku said Monday.

Senior ODM official William Ruto denied that by attending the opening of Parliament convened by Kibaki the opposition would be recognising the legitimacy of his presidency.

“We are not going to sit back and allow them install a speaker who will pave the way for the illegitimacy to continue,” he said.

Further clashes

Meanwhile, police and opposition supporters braced for further clashes on Wednesday, the first day of three days of nationwide rallies to protest Kibaki’s re-election.

A police ban on the rallies has fuelled fears of fresh violence in the East African nation after a police crackdown with tear gas and water cannon on previous opposition demonstrations.

“Kenyans should be warned that anyone participating or organising will be held personally responsible and will have to face the law,” Interior Minister George Saitoti said at a press conference Monday.

At least 700 people were killed in rioting and tit-for-tat tribal killings following the announcement of Kibaki’s re-election on December 30. Reuters, however, has reported just over 600 deaths

Meanwhile, some Kenyan children returned to school Monday amid a major police deployment.

“Police are manning security well across the country and parents can rest assured that police are in place, nothing will happen to their children who are going to school,” national police spokesperson Eric Kiraithe said.

But in many of the areas worst affected by the unrest, children remained unable to attend classes for security reasons, fear of tribal reprisals or because they had been displaced and had no schools to go to.

About 260 000 people have had to flee their homes since the violence erupted, prompting a humanitarian crisis in a country accustomed to sheltering refugees from neighbouring states.—AFP

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