Saturday, January 12, 2008

ODM plans three days of mass action

By Saturday Standard Team

Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) plans countrywide three-day rallies beginning Wednesday as part of its mass action programme to push up its claim President Kibaki stole their victory.

The prospect of a confrontation immediately sprung up as Police Commissioner Hussein Ali once again decreed all rallies, no matter the profile of the organisers, will not be allowed.

"The ban on public protests and rallies is still on. The ODM protests are thus illegal and outlawed," said Ali. But ODM maintained its rallies would be peaceful.

ODM also struck a different cord, a day after African Union effort to bring Mr Raila Odinga and President Kibaki to the negotiating table failed, by calling for aid freeze. ODM, whose previous attempts to hold a rally in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park were blocked by a security human wall around the venue, also conceded negotiations had flopped.

ODM escalated the scope of its planned rallies as news arrived former UN secretary general Mr Kofi Annan, who replaces the African Union chairman and Ghanaian President Mr John Kufuor, won’t arrive before Tuesday.

Annan’s office in Geneva broke the news the global peacemaker who takes up negotiations from Kufuor, would not be around before Tuesday when the Tenth Parliament sits.

Terming the mass action ‘a call to defence of our nation’ the party said the protests would be held in the full glare of Annan.

"We want Mr Annan to mediate the talks with full knowledge of the magnitude of the problem," ODM secretary General Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o said, in a statement read before 100 MPs-elect and Pentagon members.

"How can donors trust a government that steals votes to use funds judiciously without pilferage?" Nyong’o asked.

"Talks are just an opportunity for them to delay and silence us, while they consolidate power," the party said.

Pentagon members Mr William Ruto, Mr Najib Balala, Mr Joe Nyagah and Raila were present.

The venues of the rallies released by the party include Ruringu stadium in Kibaki’s home turf, as well as Tonoka Grounds (Mombasa) Jomo Kenyatta Grounds (Kisumu) Afraha Stadium (Nakuru), Muliro Gardens (Kakamega), Kipchoge Keino Stadium (Eldoret), Gusii Stadium (Kisii), Kericho Green Stadium, Moi’s Embu Stadium, and Mulu Mutisya Gardens in Machakos.

At the same time four former African leaders continued to push for face-to-face talks between Raila and Kibaki as the African Union names three new mediators.

Meanwhile, President Kibaki attended a funeral service of a family member in Nairobi and called on leaders to help heal the nation from the post-election violence.

The violence, which exploded in Kitale yesterday after days of relative calm, has claimed about 500 lives, displaced close to 300,000 people and led to wanton destruction of private property in Western, Nyanza, Coast, Nairobi and Rift Valley provinces.

Kibaki said there was need for leaders to find solutions to these problems.

Kibaki calling for dialogue

In a brief speech that hinted that Kibaki had not closed doors on dialogue with the opposition, the President said the challenge facing political leaders was to rebuild the nation and "each one of us is going to rise to the occasion".

"The challenge is to build the nation and each one of us is going to rise to the occasion," he said.

But Kibaki was silent on how he would engage the opposition in talks to end the sporadic skirmishes and the humanitarian crisis that has rocked the country for two weeks.

Finance minister Mr Amos Kimunya said: "The position taken by ODM that the talks had collapsed was not correct, the Government is still open to dialogue."

Kimunya said Kufuor left the country after he looked at the issues under dispute and realised "he had better things to do at home".

"ODM wants to join government and we are encouraging dialogue. We do not see the need for mediation for such an issue. We did not need mediation between ODM-Kenya and us,’’ Kimunya said.

Kanu chairman and Local Government minister Mr Uhuru Kenyatta said the call for mass action by ODM was a sign of bad faith since negotiations were on-going.

"It is not a sign of good faith because we are open for dialogue. The President waited for them and they did not turn up. We are ready and waiting to talk. We ask the same from our colleagues,’’ Uhuru said.

Kibaki’s statement came as senior PNU politicians trooped to a city hotel for a meeting with MPs elected on small parties’ tickets reportedly to discuss a power-sharing arrangement and a partnership deal in Parliament where PNU is outnumbered.

It is believed PNU dangled the seats left vacant after Kibaki named half the Cabinet this week, to MPs falling under the Small Parties Parliamentary Group.

Raila said he shared every sentiments expressed by his colleagues for protest. "I share in every sentiment expressed here. The views expressed here are also my views," said Raila, in response to a BBC question.

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth offices said in a statement Annan would be joined by South African First Lady Graca Machel and former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa.

A statement by Foreign Secretary David Miliband said UK supports the effort.

Former African Head of States who came in to support the mediation rendered another international effort, rekindling hope all is not yet lost.

Under the aegis of the Africa Forum Mission to Kenya, former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, Dr Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia), Sir Ketumile Masire (Botswana) and Mkapa called on the parties to end the turmoil.

Talks collapsed

They maintained the talks were still on course, terming the perception that a breakthrough had stalled, ‘dangerous.’

Said Nyong’o: "Talks between ODM and Kibaki collapsed due to the refusal of that side to negotiate with us. We’re are responsive and working for a just solution."

"Kibaki side is hell-bent on clinging to power, regardless of the verdict of Kenyans. His side wants to dictate terms for us without the will to redress the situation" Nyong’o added.

Government members insisted mediation had not collapsed and that the doors for negotiations are still open.

Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Ms Martha Karua has maintained a hard line, arguing President Kibaki was validly elected during an interview with BBC’s Hard Talk programme. "President Kibaki had been validly elected and those who opposed to it should seek redress in court,’’ Karua said.

"There is nothing like negotiations for power. The talks are to restore peace and calm, not for power," the Government spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua is on record saying.

But Science and Technology minister Dr Noah Wekesa said the Government was still committed to mediation and refuted claims it had declined to have round-table talks with ODM.

"There is room for negotiations and we are willing to sit with ODM. We must allow ourselves to talk to each other," he said.

Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly has announced the commitment of the assembly in finding a solution to current political crisis.

"The assembly reaffirms its commitment to play its part in this process and do all in its power to assist in getting a lasting solution," said Mr Abdirahin Haithar Abdi.

Other appeals for negotiations to go on came from National Council of Churches of Kenya, Hindu Council of Kenya, Evangelical Churches of Kenya, Anglican Church, and the Nairobi Pentecostal Church, after a press conference to back negotiations.

Acknowledging the daunting task in front of the ODM’s media consultant Mr Salim Lone, told Britain’s Sky News, on Friday, "It is going to be very hard," to resolve the impasse.

He said ODM had "gone two or three extra miles to show we are reasonable, we are flexible, even though we won the election. The whole world knows we won the election."

The Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya asked Kenyans not to react violently to the collapse of talks between the Government and ODM.

The secretary general Sheikh Mohammad Dor, however, says Kenyans should continue fighting for their rights peacefully, "Until Kibaki steps down".

"Kenyans should continue with countrywide but peaceful protests until they get their rights," Dor he advised.


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