Story by BERNARD NAMUNANE
Publication Date: 1/10/2008
|Mediation opened Wednesday between President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga, raising hope for a political solution to the election dispute, which sparked bloody unrest across the country.
Ghanian President John Kufuor held separate meetings with President Kibaki and Mr Odinga, setting the stage for an exchange of demands by either side in the crisis sparked by disagreement over the election results which gave President Kibaki victory.
The talks came in the shadow of protests from the United States government after President Kibaki named part of his Cabinet.
Upset the US
The timing of the Cabinet announcement appears to have upset the US, coming a day before the launch of mediation by Ghana’s President John Kufuor, and resulted in an unscheduled meeting between President Kibaki, on the one hand, and the US assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, Ms Jendayi Frazer, accompanied by ambassador Michael Ranneberger.
The two are understood to have held “frank” talks with President Kibaki, resulting in a statement in which the President committed himself to “constructive and inclusive” dialogue to reach a political solution to the election crisis caused by the outcome.
It was understood that the Americans protested at the decision to name half of the members of the government ahead of Thursday’s meeting and the mediation effort.
Significantly, the President in the statement offered hope of later naming a “broad-based” government and declared that nothing was being ruled out in the mediated talks.
The statement’s pledges were in stark contrast to the hardline stance publicly taken by his ministers, specifically Finance’s Amos Kimunya and Constitutional Affairs Minister Martha Karua, and the Government spokesman Alfred Mutua.
The statement read: “I remain committed to dialogue with all parties in order to achieve a political solution to the serious problems facing our nation.
“The Government must continue to function. My partial Cabinet announced earlier today will ensure that the Government runs the country as required by the constitution. When my Government is fully constituted as a result of dialogue, it will be broad-based and represent the will of the people of Kenya.
“It is envisioned that this government will be established as a result of a constructive and inclusive dialogue. Nothing is ruled out in this process.’’
On Wednesday Mr Kufuor shuttled between State House and a Nairobi hotel to pave the way for a deal between the two sides in the dispute, which sparked violent protests and claimed at least 486 lives.
He first met President Kibaki at State House at 10.30am and later met Mr Odinga — between 12.30pm and 2.30pm — and Pentagon members for two hours before heading back to State House last evening.
By 8pm last night, President Kufuor was still at State House meeting President Kibaki.
While the Presidential Press Service (PPS) released a statement on the meeting between the two Heads of State, ODM leaders declined to issue a similar briefing. ODM leaders sent Mr Odinga’s press secretary, Mr Salim Lone, to tell dozens of reporters who had camped at the hotel for four hours that the issues in question were too delicate to be revealed to the media.
“This is diplomacy and we cannot do diplomacy through the media. The talks are at a very sensitive stage and we cannot reveal what is going until something tangible has been agreed upon,” he said.
At both meetings, President Kufuor urged leaders to seek a peaceful solution to the crisis facing the country warning that Kenya risked reversing the gains it had achieved over a period of 45 years in a few weeks of fighting.
He reportedly made it clear that the international community was focusing on Kenya and expecting its leaders to ensure peace and stability prevailed.
The PPS statement said: “President Kufuor encouraged all Kenyan leaders to seek peaceful solution through dialogue and the relevant institutions to guarantee peace and stability for the country.”
Sources said that during the less-than-one-hour meeting with President Kufuor, Mr Kibaki tabled a raft of conditions to be met by ODM leaders and sought to correct the impression that he had not started moves to dialogue with his rivals.
It was said President Kibaki was categorical that all leaders — on the Government side and the Opposition — must prevail upon their people to stop the killings and restore peace before seeking a solution to the election crisis.
The PPS statement said: “President Kibaki said his Government’s first priority has been the restoration of peace especially in areas that had experienced some violence.”
The President was also reported to have told the AU boss that ODM leadership must recognise that there was a Government in place and that he was the legitimately elected President of the Kenya.
To allay fears of the international community on the situation in the country, President Kibaki told Mr Kufuor that he had already initiated a mechanism of talks with his rivals, which would also be witnessed by religious leaders drawn from different faiths.
President Kibaki was referring to the invitation he sent three days ago to Mr Odinga and unnamed ODM leaders to go to State House Friday for talks on the situation in the country alongside leaders from the Christian and Islamic faiths.
He said he had informed regional leaders through envoys Moses Wetang’ula, Uhuru Kenyatta and George Saitoti on his moves to start talks with his political rivals. “To hasten national healing, the President informed (the mediator) that he had embarked on consultations with all Kenyan leaders of goodwill aimed at promoting political dialogue and reconciliation — with a view to ensuring a united, stable and peaceful Kenya,” said PPS.
Mr Odinga has rebuffed the invitation describing it as a sideshow meant to cloud international mediation efforts aimed at ensuring that Kenyans have in place a government of their choice. “We want him to focus on the mediation efforts by President Kufuor,” he said.
Sources also said that should the current political situation persist, President Kibaki would offer ODM the chance of forming a coalition government with his side and that the highest post they would get is the non-executive premier’s post and a few Cabinet positions.
The two Heads of State parted at 12pm with President Kibaki heading to Eldoret — scene of some of the worst post-election violence, as President Kufuor resumed his meeting with ODM leaders.
Mr Odinga and Pentagon members arrived at the hotel after holding a meeting with former African Presidents Joaquim Chissano (Mozambique), Ketumile Masire (Botswana), Benjamin Mkapa (Tanzania) and Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia).
On arrival, President Kufuor told ODM leaders that he was to meet Mr Odinga only first before holding a session with Pentagon members and party officials.
Mr Odinga and President Kufuor held a closed-door meeting from 12.30pm in Room 700 — a Presidential suite.
ODM running mate Musalia Mudavadi, Pentagon members William Ruto, Najib Balala, Charity Ngilu and Joseph Nyaga and party officials Henry Kosgey and Anyang’ Nyong’o waited in a separate room.