US, Canada ban threat as talks register gains
Published on February 5, 2008, 12:00 am
By Standard Team
Pressure mounted on the warring parties to reach a negotiated settlement to the crippling crisis caused by disputed presidential elections, even as South African negotiator, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, was sent packing after the Government rejected his involvement.
On Monday, the US and Canada gave the first hints of a plan to ban top leaders considered to be subverting democracy from travelling to their countries.
The United Nations also sent a warning: Sort out this crisis or risk the relocation of the global body’s office from Nairobi.
And as the South African negotiator was leaving in a huff — barely 48 hours after jetting in to give mediation efforts a new impetus — the Kofi Annan-led talks made progress and concluded Agenda Three on the humanitarian crisis. This set the stage for the team to zero-in on the sensitive Agenda Four — the disputed re-election of President Kibaki and the crisis that it plunged the country into, including killings and massive destruction of property.
But resolving the sticking matter on the presidential election is not expected to be easy. ODM insists that its candidate, Mr Raila Odinga, won the election but was stolen from him.
But President Kibaki insists he won fairly. As a result of the controversy, civil unrest broke out, leading to the killing of close to 1,000 people
and displacement of more than 350,000 others.
The US and Canada were categorical that some personalities engaged in what the latter described as “subverting democratic institutions and processes” would be blacklisted and denied entry into the two major world economies.
“With respect to official contact and visits, Canadian law precludes the admissibility to Canada of foreign nationals considered responsible for subverting democratic institutions and processes,” said the High Commissioner, Mr Ross Hynes.
On its part, the US said it had identified high-profile personalities — in Government and Opposition — who would be slapped with a visa ban on suspicion of fanning violence.
In an exclusive interview with The Standard, American Ambassador, Mr Michael Ranneberger, said the US Government would “shortly” contact the affected individuals, who would face visa restrictions alongside their families.
“A week ago, I stated that anyone responsible for perpetuating and inciting violence would not be issued with visas. Shortly, we will be in touch with a number of individuals (over the matter) and we have taken the lead on that,” said Ranneberger at his residence in Nairobi.
The envoy, however, declined to divulge the names of the individuals who face the tough action.
Earlier, Ramaphosa was forced out of Nairobi because he was not agreeable to PNU. Long before he was introduced to the Annan team, a senior Government official had told reporters that they would not accept his inclusion in talks owing to “the interests he represents”.
Politicians on the PNU side have claimed that Ramaphosa had political-cum-business dealings with ODM leader, Mr Raila Odinga, claims the Lang’ata MP has repeatedly denied.
As a result, PNU dismissed Ramaphosa in the same way the Government had casually dismissed earlier mediation efforts by South African Peace Laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, four former African heads of State, Dr Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia), Sir Quett Masire (Botswana), Mr Joachim Chissano (Mozambique) and Mr Benjamin Mkapa (Tanzania) and even Ghanaian President John Kufuor.
Officials from the South African Embassy in Nairobi, and not Kenya Government ones, escorted a bitter Ramaphosa to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
The important role that Ramaphosa was expected to play was immediately felt at the stock market when the shilling lost marginally to the dollar.
But despite the setback, Annan steered the mediation and concluded yesterday’s scheduled agenda. Last evening, he announced that ODM and PNU had agreed on the formation of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission.
The proposed commission would include local and international jurists and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights investigation team, among others.
Annan said he was aware of the latest statements made by both sides and called for a compromise.
While addressing the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) leaders in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the sidelines of the African Union Summit, President Kibaki said the courts should settle the dispute. He also accused ODM of planning and executing post-election violence.
But Raila said Kibaki was wrecking the mediation efforts with his remarks and asked him to apologise to Kenyans. He said Kibaki was in charge of security and should not pass the buck.
An optimistic Annan said of the mediation team yesterday: “I am proud of the ladies and gentlemen, particularly in how they have handled the dialogue and reconciliatory process.”
He added: “I hope we will proceed tomorrow and by the end of the day we will be able to have an agreement.”
In the Annan’s team of mediators are Mkapa and Dr Graca Machel, the wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela.
Negotiating on the Government side are Justice minister, Ms Martha Karua, Education minister, Prof Sam Ongeri, Mbooni MP, Mr Mutula Kilonzo, and Foreign Affairs minister, Mr Moses Wetangula.
On the ODM side are Pentagon members, Mr Musalia Mudavadi and Mr William Ruto, and MPs, Dr Sally Kosgei and Mr James Orengo.
Meanwhile, the Director-General of the UN office in Nairobi, Dr Anna Tibaijuka, said staff had been put on “heightened alert”, meaning that they and their families had been warned against “non-essential mobility”.
Should the mediation talks fail, the UN would take necessary measures, starting with a caution, but ultimately leading to closure and re-location.
Under UN regulations, Kenya is now at Phase Two (Caution) and if chaos persists, it would move into Phase Three (Heightened Alert) at which point staff and their families would have to leave their workstations and be evacuated.
Canada’s envoy Hynes noted that millions of Kenyans had on December 27 performed their civic duty and demonstrated their commitment to democracy by turning out to vote in the presidential, parliamentary and local elections.
“But since then, the voters and millions of other innocent Kenyans have been badly — and tragically — failed by their governing institutions and leaders,” he regretted.
Hynes said only a political agreement between Kibaki and Raila offered any hope. He underlined the urgency at which the two senior protagonists must come to an agreement.
Ranneberger, on his part, described reports that Ramaphosa would not take part in the mediation talks as “unfortunate”, noting that the business magnate was a “good and effective negotiator”.
But the diplomat said as a sign of goodwill, the participation of any person in mediation talks should be acceptable to both parties.
Annan regretted the withdrawal of the negotiator, who he said was unanimously picked by the Panel of Eminent African Personalities to serve as the chief mediator.
Annan would then have become the ultimate overseer of the negotiations.
Annan said the search for a chief mediator would continue and he hoped it would not have serious setbacks on dialogue.
Speaking a few hours before his departure, Ramaphosa said he could not effectively perform without the confidence of both parties and had to return home.
“My experience in Northern Ireland and South Africa convinced me that a mediator can be effective only when he has the full confidence and support of all parties. Unfortunately, this is not the case,” he said.
He noted that he did not want to become a stumbling block in the mediation talks.
Ramaphosa, at the same time, dismissed allegations that he had business dealings with Raila.
“I do not do any business with Raila nor do I have any links or financial connections with Raila,” he said.
He also denied funding Raila’s campaigns during the last General Election.