Annan talks shift to Raila and Kibaki
Published on February 28, 2008, 12:00 am
By Standard Team
Lead mediator Dr Kofi Annan made good his promise to directly engage President Kibaki and Mr Raila Odinga.
It was a day of intense shuttle diplomacy and building international pressure.
This appeared borne out of concerns that the stalled talks, a seeming belligerence of the protagonists in the disputed and discredited presidential election —Party of National Unity (PNU) and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) — and an uncertain future could touch off another round of bloodletting.
African Union (AU) chairman and Tanzanian President, Mr Jakaya Kikwete, who arrived on Tuesday for a two-day visit, extended his stay in Nairobi, underlining the urgency to restart the stalled talks.
But in announcements made after separate meetings with Annan, who chairs the Panel of Eminent African Persons facilitating the talks, Kibaki and Raila showed gestures that demonstrated some commitment to resolve the impasse.
ODM called off mass action and President Kibaki announced through a Presidential Press Service (PPS), that he was ready to create the post of prime minister and two deputies.
The PPS dispatch suggested that an accord would be reached under what it described as a “Coalition Agreement”, an arrangement, which ODM dismissed as possibly leading to another MoU without a legal backing.
However, the positions on the contentious issues that bogged down the talks, forcing a suspension on Tuesday, continued to linger.
ODM wants what it calls a “real power-sharing deal”. However, PNU has only agreed to “sharing of responsibilities” in Government, which is not the same as “power sharing” and has stuck to doing everything within the confines of the Constitution.
On Wednesday, 27 member States of the European Union (EU) issued a statement as international pressure on Kibaki and Raila piled, saying: “A power sharing settlement is a must.”
Pressure from the EU and US could nudge the leaders to shift ground as the EU echoed another statement issued a day earlier by US Secretary of State, Ms Condoleeza Rice, warning that the US was exploring “a wide range of options” on Kenya and that leaders seen as blocking the process to peaceful settlement would face dire consequences.
“We reiterate the position of many in the international community that attempts to undermine or obstruct such an agreement will not be viewed lightly and those identified as involved will have to face the consequences of their actions,” the statement signed by 24 European missions in Nairobi and headed by France, which holds the local EU presidency, said.
Saboteurs to be punished
On its part, Germany said political leaders who will boycott or derail the mediation talks aimed at solving the political impasse would be dealt with.
German envoy to Kenya, Mr Walter Lindner, issued a warning in Nairobi saying: “We support the Annan-led talks and whoever boycotts or derails the mediation talks will have to face the consequences. This has been our position and we hope a solution will soon be found.”
Earlier, deep apprehension over the suspended talks was expressed by Britain, which suggested that the army be called in for fear that the stalled search for a political settlement could trigger fresh bloodletting.
Mr Mark Malloch-Brown, British Foreign minister for Africa, Asia and the UN, said the Kenya Army was “by far the best option” to any violence.
“We’re going to have to stop the violence,” Malloch-Brown said. “The Kenyan military is by far the best option. The question is: Can the army be brought in a non-divisive way?”
Talking to the UK’s Guardian newspaper, he argued that the army was respected by the public as a genuinely national and multi-ethnic institution.
It was instructive that Kibaki’s meeting with the security chiefs came after this statement by the UK minister.
The President met the Chief of the General Staff Jeremiah Kianga, Police Commissioner, Maj Gen Hussein Ali, NSIS Director-General, Mr Michael Gichangi, Internal Security minister, Prof George Saitoti, and Defence minister, Mr Yusuf Haji.
Details of the meeting were not available, but the timing was read as a check on the level of preparedness of the security apparatus.
In his meetings with Kibaki and Raila, Annan is understood to have told the two that “the differences are bridgeable”.
But in his meeting with Annan, Kibaki dug in on a position earlier spelt out by his mediation team on Tuesday, saying he was ready to share power but within the Constitution.
“President Kibaki noted that the pending issues were not insurmountable and should be adequately addressed under the current Constitution, the Coalition Agreement and the upcoming comprehensive constitutional review,” the PPS dispatch read.
PPS quoted Kibaki telling Annan that the office of Prime Minister and two deputies would be created under the Constitution, even as the country prepared for a comprehensive review within 12 months.
President Kibaki asked that the terms of a Coalition Agreement being discussed be finalised.
“The President said the Coalition Agreement should be used to address the appointment and security of the offices of members of the coalition partners in Government,” reported PPS.
But Raila, who met Annan and former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa at Pentagon House, said ODM would not accept a deal that was not legally binding.
“We are not interested in entering a transitional government that will not carry out comprehensive, legal, institutional and constitutional reforms to avoid a repeat of the crisis that we have seen in the last two months,” Raila said.
He added: “We want power-sharing that is reform-based, through a transitional government that will be a means to an end, not an end in itself.”
Pentagon members, Mr Musalia Mudavadi, Mrs Charity Ngilu and Mr Najib Balala, accompanied the Lang’ata MP. ODM liaison person in the mediation talks, Mr Caroli Omondi, was also present.
The party called off mass action indefinitely and Raila asked supporters to allow for peaceful negotiations. The party had earlier called for mass action countrywide citing the slow pace of the mediation.
Speaking at Pentagon House after meeting Raila and his team, Annan remained upbeat: “We held constructive discussions with Government and ODM teams and with President Kikwete. The differences are bridgeable.”
On Tuesday, Annan sent out a passionate appeal to Kibaki and Raila to show goodwill in the talks and resolve the political crisis triggered by the disputed presidential elections, which has left at least 1,000 dead, 300,000 displaced and the economy rattled.
“We all know the fear, trauma of violence and displacement, and the desire for return to steadiness and to restore Kenya’s peace. Kenyans have lost jobs and leaders must think of the people,” Annan said.
When he met Kikwete, Raila stated that the position of prime minister and two deputies be made through appropriate constitutional provisions.
The prime minister, he insisted, shall be accountable to the Cabinet and Parliament and the premier may only be removed from office through a vote of no confidence by the House.
Raila said the PM’s office, if created, should supervise and co-ordinate ministries and the affairs of Government.
He insisted that key provisions of the mediation agreement be entrenched in the constitution.
Last night, a lawyer who sought anonymity cautioned ODM against the proposed Coalition Agreement, saying it amounted to MoU similar to the one that was dishonoured under Narc regime.