/ 10 April 2008

Kenyan leaders urged to end stalemate

Pressure mounted on Thursday on Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and prime minister-designate Raila Odinga to resume coalition talks amid warnings that a delay was fomenting violence.

The pair met last on Sunday and failed to agree on a unity government, a key step in implementing a power-sharing deal aimed at curbing violence that broke out after disputed December polls, which killed at least 1 500 people and displacing hundreds of thousands.

Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), which suspended talks until Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) agrees to 50-50 sharing of the key portfolios and dissolution of the current Cabinet, suggested the creation of an inter-party panel to resolve the issues.

”We have still not received a reply to our letter to the president proposing how to take the process forward. The essential step in the proposal is that a small PNU-ODM group to be established, which lays out the essential areas on which there is divergence,” ODM spokesperson Salim Lone said in a statement.

Kenyan newspapers urged the leaders to end the stalemate that touched off fresh protests in the capital’s slums and western city of Kisumu in the past two days.

”There are legitimate fears that if the impasse is not speedily resolved, Kenya will slide back to the kind of violence unleashed in the wake of the disputed presidential elections,” the top-selling Daily Nation said an editorial, which appealed to Kenyans to remain calm.

”Tensions are already running high. President Kibaki and Mr Odinga are squarely responsible for leading Kenya out of a possible quagmire. They cannot afford to wait until there is another explosion before moving frantically to put out the fires.

”The two leaders must meet immediately, without preconditions and without threats, and live up to the expectations of their people by forming the unity government in line with the accord they signed,” it added.

Canada joined the United States, the European Union and Britain in calling for a quick resolution of the problem that has scarred the country’s image as a tranquil zone at the heart of a tough, conflict-ridden region.

The Kenyan crisis erupted after Odinga accused Kibaki of stealing presidential votes. In addition to the deaths, the violence also choked the mainstay tourism and agricultural sectors. — AFP