Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Raila takes the lead in search for a way out

By Standard Team

ODM leader Mr Raila Odinga last night took the lead in trying to find a way out of the impasse caused by alleged fraudulent tallying of votes that cost him victory in the just completed poll and led to loss of lives.

The declaration by the Electoral Commission of Kenya that President Kibaki had won the fiercely contested poll led to spontaneous protests countrywide, and which have led to the killing of nearly 300 people.

Last night, Raila dropped the preconditions he had earlier set for talks, and declared that he was agreeing to international mediation, through which he would negotiate with Kibaki.

Raila also said he was willing to participate in an interim government whose only purpose would be to prepare for a re-run of the presidential election.

"The interim government should last no more than three months," he said, adding that such a poll should be conducted by an independent body and not the ECK, which has been discredited as partisan and whose members are President Kibaki’s appointees.

Raila’s roadmap to get the country out of the abyss it is slowly sinking into came even as suspicion, mistrust, and arrogance were evident in the Party of National Unity and his own party.

In the meantime, the violence and bloodletting that has engulfed the country continued.

Prospects of another round of confrontations with law enforcement agencies loomed large, after Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) announced it would proceed with today’s prayer rally at Uhuru Park, Nairobi. The Orange party also reeled out what it said was evidence of a massive election fraud, and put its terms of engagement on the table as the country remained on the international spotlight.

But as the ODM top leadership and MPs-elect retreated to Pentagon House, on another day of high tension, President Kibaki reacted by inviting all MPs-elect from all political parties for a meeting at State House, Nairobi.

The agenda of the meeting remained unclear, and even the outcome.

Independent media were denied entry to the venue, even after the Presidential Press Service (PPS) circulated an alert to all newsrooms.

When The Standard contacted Mr Isaiya Kabira, the head of PPS, he responded through a short text message, thus, "We will provide".

Last night, however, a PPS dispatch said 85 MPs-elect met President Kibaki, where they roundly condemned the acts of violence across the country.

On his part Kibaki reportedly urged the MPs to be focused on issues that affect the people once Parliament starts its sessions. He called on legislators from different political persuasions to close ranks on issues of national importance, saying they should deliver on their election promises.

Orange parties skipped meet

However, no ODM or ODM-Kenya MPs turned up for the meeting.

ODM said it had no business attending a meeting whose principal convenor, it insisted, had been rigged into office.

The party’s presidential running mate and Sabatia MP-elect, Mr Musalia Mudavadi, chaired a meeting of ODM and its affiliate National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) MPs-elect, where the decision to boycott the meeting was reached.

"We can not attend such a meeting. As much as we want peace, justice must prevail and the winner of the election be given what is due to him," Mudavadi said, at a press conference the Pentagon attended.

ODM-Kenya’s Mr Kalonzo Musyoka also said his party did not send representatives.

This unfolded as a new battlefront opened up between ODM and ODM-Kenya, who advocated for a release, without any further delay, of the controversial presidential vote outcome; a decision which quickly plunged the country into anarchy.

Signs that PNU and ODM were not reading from the same script over the impasse gripping the country that has also drawn international concern emerged at a news conference by outgoing Vice-President Moody Awori and another one by PNU hardliners, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, Raphael Tuju, Amos Kimunya and George Nyamweya.

This is the message the VP had for Mr Raila Odinga, the ODM presidential candidate, whose camp believes President Kibaki stole their hard-earned victory: "You want to lead Kenya and I have no doubt that you have the ability to do so. You must be prepared to uphold and even extend democracy. Democracy is cumbersome, it is slow and bureaucratic but ultimately, it is the only fair system".

He added: "Democracy has its institutions and structures. I am not telling you anything you don’t know. You know more than I do. These institutions and structures must be upheld and respected. ECK is one. The Judiciary is another. They must be used at all times and not selectively. That is the law".

More indications that President Kibaki’s hold on power was tightening became evident when Uhuru, the Gatundu South MP-elect and Kanu chairman declared: "We won the elections and whoever feels aggrieved should go to court and we will be available for response. It’s not our responsibility to initiate dialogue."

Forms 16A missing

Matters were further complicated for ODM when the controversy that has dogged the outcome of the presidential poll took a new twist amid reports that the crucial Form 16As kept in a safe at the KICC by some returning officers had disappeared.

There was tension at the ECK operation centre on Wednesday morning after some returning officers openly protested that the Form 16As, which they had kept in a Cabinet at KICC, had gone missing.

"We came here this morning and they told us that the forms had been stolen," an official told The Standard as tempers flared.

But officers from the General Service Unit immediately ordered journalists to leave.

Earlier in the day, ODM called for the establishment of an international mediating body to examine the documents pertaining to presidential tally that put President Kibaki ahead of its candidate, Raila.

Mudavadi led Pentagon members in announcing that ODM had drawn up a list of individuals to represent it in such a body should it be established.

Reading the party’s report on the just-concluded General Election, Mr William Ruto, the Eldoret North MP-elect, urged the international community to facilitate the appointment of the entity to help in resolving "this crisis and stop the mayhem and growing anarchy".

He said: "Peace can only follow logically from the restoration of justice."

Meanwhile, a new controversy appeared to engulf Kalonzo and his ODM-Kenya amid reports that he was planning a coalition with Kibaki, in which he would be vice-president.

This came as ODM leader, Mr Raila Odinga denied meeting Kalonzo, even as the latter insisted they met as reported in sections of the media.

"Kalonzo’s claim is not surprising. He is an irrelevance to resolving the current crisis and is seeking cheap publicity through exploiting the national agony that has been inflicted on us by Kibaki’s open theft of the election," he said.

Raila accused Kalonzo of being part of the problem "that currently besets and besieges our nation".

He added: "Tens of thousands votes were stolen in Ukambani for Kibaki and (Kalonzo) has refused to condemn it. He is indeed part of the scheme to defraud the country of inaugurating the President Kenyans elected".


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