Annan urges patience over Kenya deal

The chief mediator in Kenya’s crisis talks, Kofi Annan, urged Kenyans to be patient on Saturday with a deal to end weeks of violence expected to be finalised in the coming days.

“In negotiations, a deal is not a deal until it is done,” the former United Nations chief cautioned in a statement. “While the talks are making progress, they have not come to a definite conclusion.”

After reports of a breakthrough that could include the formation of a new power-sharing government, Annan urged Kenyans “to be patient until agreement is reached next week”.

Kenya’s feuding factions met separately on Saturday to fine-tune their positions ahead of a final, decisive push for a settlement starting on Monday.

Kenyan newspapers were upbeat about the prospects for success, with the Daily Nation seeing a “ray of hope” and the Saturday Standard describing a “major shift” in the positions of the two camps.

Widely regarded as one of Africa’s most stable countries, Kenya descended into violence after the central elections commission proclaimed President Mwai Kibaki the winner of the December 27 presidential election.

The opposition claimed the vote was rigged and international observers also cited flaws in vote-counting.

Kibaki on Saturday said the mediation talks were “going well” while opposition leader Raila Odinga said he was “willing to yield some ground to move the process forward”.

More than 1 000 people have died in rioting, police raids and clashes between rival tribes since the election, and about 300 000 have been displaced in one of Kenya’s worst crises since independence in 1963.

‘I have no future’

UN emergency relief coordinator John Holmes on Saturday visited camps for the displaced in the western Rift Valley, the epicentre of the post-election violence.

“I hope the political negotiations in Nairobi will be successful because it is clear that people want to go home,” Holmes said in Nakuru, the biggest town in the Rift Valley.

Living in tents and makeshift shelters among about 3 000 other displaced Kenyans, 32-year-old Idi Abubabakar told the UN official: “We are tired. There is no food and no blankets.
And I don’t think the violence will end.”

“I have lost my livelihood. I have lost my house. I have no future,” said Clement Omondi (25), wearing casts on both arms after he survived a mob attack in Nakuru last month.

The turmoil has delivered a crippling blow to Kenya’s tourism industry, the top foreign-currency earner, while tea production and agriculture have also been hard hit.

Annan launched his high-powered mediation effort on January 29 but the sides only last week began tackling head-on their dispute over who won the election.

“What we need is what one can call a political arrangement. We need transitional mechanisms which include constitutional, legal and institutional reforms,” government negotiator Mutula Kilonzo said.

After meeting with Kibaki and Odinga on Friday, Annan announced that both sides were ready for concessions and that a political settlement was in the offing.

Jeremiah Owiti, director of the Nairobi-based Centre for Independent Research, said there was no other alternative for the sides but to negotiate a settlement.

“The legal option is out for the opposition because of the time it will take. Even the government, for it to gain legitimacy, it will need a political settlement,” Owiti said.

Annan has asked Parliament to convene on Tuesday to be briefed on details of a possible deal that could include a sharing of ministerial posts in a new government.—AFP

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