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US THREATENS TO ACT ON KENYA AS TALKS ARE SUSPENDED

NEWS

Talks suspended as US threatens to act

Story by LUCAS BARASA and BERNARD NAMUNANE
Publication Date: 2/27/2008

Mediation talks between the Government and ODM were suspended Tuesday as the United States warned that it would take action against whoever obstructs the peace talks.

Chief mediator Kofi Annan addresses the press at the Serena Hotel yesterday. He said he had suspended the talks to allow President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga to personally step in and resolve the deadlock. Photo/PETERSON GITHAIGA

Chief mediator Kofi Annan put the talks on hold to allow for direct talks with President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

Mr Annan signalled that the talks had hit a deadlock “but had not collapsed”. 

A visibly frustrated Annan cautioned that the mediators could not go on “as if it was business as usual”. He emphasised that there would have to be constitutional and legal amendments to support the political settlement reached in the talks. 

His colleague, former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa said the talks appeared to be going round in circles.

Their remarks coincided with a hard- hitting statement from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who said the “legitimacy” of the parties in the talks depended on a political settlement. 

“I want to emphasise that the future of our relationship with both sides and their legitimacy hinges on their cooperation to achieve this political solution. In that regard, we are exploring a wide range of possible actions,” she said. “We will also exert leadership with the UN, Africa Union, European Union, and others to ensure that the political solution the Kenyan people deserve is achieved.”

At the Nairobi Serena hotel, Mr Annan said he had suspended further meetings to allow the President and Mr Odinga to personally take steps to unlock the stalemate.

It transpired that the talks were not moving forward with new demands being made every time the negotiating teams met.

The talks ran into trouble for the second day over the powers and duties of proposed prime minister’s post.

The talks were first suspended on Monday when the Government team of Cabinet ministers Martha Karua, Sam Ongeri, Moses Wetangula and MP Mutula Kilonzo presented a new  draft Act of Parliament with proposals on how to form a Grand coalition and sharing of the Cabinet positions among other issues.

ODM wanted the deal enacted through constitutional amendment and not an Act of Parliament.

As Mr Annan was announcing suspension of the talks, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who is also the Africa Union chairman, arrived in Nairobi. He will hold talks with President Kibaki tomorrow.

Mr Annan Tuesday gave the following verdict of the talks: Nothing is moving forward; there is no urgency in reaching solutions; no change in the mood of the two sides as the atmosphere is acrimonious.

On Monday, ODM Secretary General Anyang’ Nyong’o said he had written to Police Commissioner Hussein Ali to inform him that the party would hold protests if the talks failed to yield fruits.

Mr Annan first held separate talks with ODM and PNU representatives at the Serena Hotel in Nairobi Tuesday before their usual joint discussions but the teams still failed to agree on some governance issues. The ODM team arrived at the Hotel shortly before 9 am while PNU arrived at 10 am.

The negotiators including Foreign Affairs minister Wetangula, were optimistic that the talks would succeed.

“We are making progress,” Mr Wetangula said but warned Kenyans not to expect a quick solution.

He said Mr Annan briefed the PNU and ODM teams about what he discussed with President Kibaki and Mr Odinga on Monday. “We have resolved some (of the issues). We are still talking. The more we talk the more we get closer to agreeing,” he said.

Mbooni MP Mutula Kilonzo said the negotiators had completed the bulk of work on governance except the coalition agreement.

“We are finalising the proposals on draft laws,” he said. 

Mr Kilonzo accused the media of creating the wrong impression that PNU and ODM had agreed on some issues yet they had not. The reports, he said, only built unnecessary public expectations.
Concluded negotiations

He said the negotiators would have concluded negotiations on governance Tuesday  “if the principals had agreed on them.”
The two sides are yet to agree on whether the prime minister’s office falls vacant immediately a new constitution is enacted.

ODM has insisted that the office should only be declared vacant if the Grand coalition collapses.

A new twist was introduced when the Government team turned up at the Monday meeting with a draft agreement on the coalition. The new draft gave fresh guidelines on the membership of the Grand coalition, its policies, how the parties would work together in Parliament and how they would resolve their disputes among other issues.

Some of the key pillars in the draft were that each party should act in good faith to enhance national unity and reconciliation and that the expanded coalition’s policies would be guided by Vision 2030. 

The parties would also adopt a bi-partisan approach to issues in Parliament and in local authorities. According to the proposal, the appointment of ministers was to be pegged on the Public Officer Ethics Act and other laws requiring that all public office holders have a clean record. It also proposed that distribution of ministries be carried out through consultations.

The partner parties will also be required to hold joint parliamentary meetings and develop a common working formula in parliamentary committees.

The failure by ODM and PNU to reach an agreement forced Mr Annan to hold separate consultations with Mr Odinga and President Kibaki on Monday evening before the talks resumed Tuesday.

Sources at the talks said that the PNU and ODM teams stuck to their Monday demands.

Mr Wetang’ula however said some of the issues had been agreed on.

Hopes of an quick agreement emerged last week after Dr Rice’s visit with a message that President Kibaki and Mr Odinga agree on “real” sharing of power.

An agreement on governance, which is the only agenda remaining under short-term solutions to end the post-election crisis, had been expected last Friday but was delayed due to disagreements by the two parties.
Set deadline

Mr Annan had set a 15-day deadline, from January 29 when the talks started, for the negotiators to arrive at short-term solutions to the crisis.

Long-term solutions, including legal, land and constitutional reforms, were to take a year. Yesterday, Mr Wetangula said Mr Kikwete was in Kenya in his capacity as AU chairman.

The AU is spearheading the Annan talks which also enjoys full backing by the UN, the European Union and the international community.

Mr Kikwete’s visit comes just a week after he met Mr Bush who toured Tanzania and several other African countries.

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About SG

Secretary general of Chama Cha Mwananchi. This blog www.chamachamwananchi.wordpress.com, is based in Sweden.

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