|US President George W. Bush adjusts the sash of Benin’s President Thomas Boni Yayi after being presented with the Grand Cross in Cotonou on Saturday. Photo/REUTERS
Pressure is mounting on feuding political camps to compromise and strike a power-sharing deal that will help lift the country out of the crisis into which it sank following the announcement of disputed presidential election results.
US President George W. Bush has called for a power-sharing agreement to end the post-election conflict that has left about 1,000 people dead, more than 300,000 internally displaced and billions of shillings worth of property destroyed.
The American president spoke two days ahead of the expected arrival of that country’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is expected in the country tomorrow for private meetings with President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
“In terms of Condi’s visit, the key is that the leaders hear from her first hand that the United States desires to see that there be no violence and that there be a power-sharing agreement that will help this nation resolve its difficulties,” President Bush told reporters on a brief stopover in Benin.
“That’s what diplomacy is,” he added.
President Bush, who began a five-nation visit to Africa in Benin, is sending Dr Rice to Kenya to back two-week-old mediation efforts between the government and opposition coordinated by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.
From New York, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that he was deeply concerned about the safety of citizens and respect for human rights and urged leaders to arrive at a compromise.
“The Secretary-General calls on Kenya’s leadership to continue to display the spirit of compromise and the vision of national reconciliation that will be critical to healing the Kenyan nation.
The understandings reached by the parties to the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation process – including the planned establishment of an independent review of the electoral process – are important steps toward addressing the most urgent issues that led to the current situation,” the statement said.
Sources privy to the talks told the Sunday Nation that a power-sharing arrangement, constitutional reforms and the structure and timing of a political solution will dominate the talks mediated by the Annan team when they resume work on Tuesday.
Members of the ODM team say they favour a grand coalition in which they would share ministries with PNU right down the middle.
The arrangement would see the weight attached to ministries come into play before the appointments are made.
“Our team has proposed that if one party gets the ministry of Internal Security, for instance, the other gets the ministry of Defence,” one of the leaders in the mediation effort told the Sunday Nation on Friday.
The PNU team, that is opposed to the move, says that it would amount to giving their opponents power through the backdoor, but they say they are still open to further discussions on the subject.
ODM has proposed that they should nominate the MPs they best feel should occupy the negotiated positions while Parliament forges ahead with a national reform agenda that includes comprehensive constitutional reforms.
On the other hand are proposals by the government to strengthen the office of Official Leader of the Opposition to give it status akin to that of the Vice-President and provide a budget and government offices as well as vehicles and police bodyguards.
“That leader would be consulted by the government on a wide range of issues including, of course, a comprehensive constitutional review package, which should take two years, and other bills, which will enable the government to operate for that period,” said a leader who requested anonymity.
A number of leaders from the government side involved in the talks told the Sunday Nation that President Kibaki’s team would, however, like to see the constitution overhauled within two years to pave the way for a radically different power structure.
After two weeks of negotiations, Mr Annan on Friday gave the clearest hint yet that a new government incorporating ODM members could be formed to end Kenya’s post-election crisis.
Mr Annan believes that a new government bringing together PNU and parties in its coalition and the Orange Democratic Movement is necessary to push through legal, constitutional and other reforms necessary to heal the country.
Government and ODM representatives to the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation talks were discussing the possibility of such a government, and President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga are expected to state their positions for an agreement to be sealed, he said.
To make further headway, Mr Annan said he had requested separate meetings tomorrow with President Kibaki and Mr Odinga to try to bring the two sides closer as the teams search for a solution to the political crisis.
He told a press conference on Friday that he would appeal to them “to give instructions to their negotiators to really have the courage and make a deal.”
He said several options for a governance structure had emerged, and the parties were going to consult their principals and leadership on these options and would get back to him shortly.
Mr Annan said he would not tire and would remain in Kenya as long as it takes to reach agreement on a political solution.
“I will stay as long as it takes to get the issue of a political settlement to an irreversible point. I will not be frustrated or provoked to leave. It is in the interest of the men and women of Kenya, the region, Africa and the international community to have a new government,” he said.