/ 25 February 2008

Kenyan political foes resume crisis talks

Kenyan leaders were due on Monday to resume power-sharing talks to end the political crisis in the East African state that has sparked violence which has claimed more than 1 000 lives.

Former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan adjourned the talks on Friday and urged President Mwai Kibaki and opposition chief Raila Odinga to give their negotiators clear instructions on the way forward.

The negotiations on a power-sharing deal have stalled on the term and powers of a would-be prime minister, a position that currently does not exist.

Kenya, a nation of 37-million people, has been mired in one of its worst crises since gaining independence in 1963 over Kibaki’s disputed December 27 re-election.

More than 1 000 people have died in political and ethnic violence and hundreds of thousands displaced, mainly the capital’s slums and western region regarded as the country’s breadbasket.

Relative stability has returned in the country, although the opposition has threatened fresh demonstrations on Wednesday if Kibaki fails to recall Parliament to enact constitutional amendments in order to share power.

Odinga’s opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) insists on a powerful premier, while the government has offered a non-executive office.

On Sunday, the government said both sides had agreed on the establishment of the post of a prime minister and two deputies, and that the premier would coordinate the performance of government ministries as well as perform duties assigned by the president.

In addition, a ”coalition” government would cease to exist if Parliament was dissolved or one partner pulls out, according to a government statement.

The crisis, which has affected the economy, has tapped into simmering resentment over land, poverty and the dominance of the Kikuyu, Kibaki’s tribe, in Kenyan politics and business since independence from Britain in 1963.

Over the weekend, respected former parliamentary speaker Francis Ole Kaparo said Kibaki and Odinga hard-liners had overseen the near-destruction of the country.

”I know them [Kibaki and Odinga] well and I know how difficult it is for them to place the interests of this nation first,” said Kaparo, who was speaker between 1993 and 2007. — Sapa-AFP