Sunday, January 13, 2008

World watches Kenya

BY Sunday Standard Team and Agencies

African Union’s (AU) mediator between President Kibaki and Mr Raila Odinga has asked political leaders not to take any further steps that would compromise the search for peace.

The US declared support for the latest peace initiative, with a raft of demands on ODM and the Government.

"Although we welcome the fact that both sides have indicated their commitment to dialogue and to ending violence, we are deeply disappointed that they have not been able to reach an agreement on the modalities for direct discussions."

The UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-Moon said, "The death toll stands at an appallingly high figure of more than 500 people, with more than 300,000 Kenyans displaced".

He called for a quick resolution to the crisis.

"In the face of the deeply troubling situation in Kenya, the Secretary-General calls once again on the political leadership of Kenya to find – urgently – an acceptable solution through dialogue so that the political crisis is resolved and the country returns to its peaceful and democratic path. The Secretary-General wishes to express his continued support for the various efforts being made by regional and international actors to help Kenyans arrive at a lasting solution,’’ read a statement from United Nations Information Centre, Nairobi.

He added: "Many of them are living in fear. That much of the violence appears to have been directed at specific communities is all the more worrisome. The killings must stop, alleged human rights violations should be investigated and those found responsible for crimes should be held accountable for their actions. The potential for further bloodshed remains high unless the political crisis is quickly resolved."

President Kibaki called for reconciliation a day after ODM called for mass action. He said there was no need to harbour grudges against each other.

"Let’s all forget the past and preach peace and reconciliation," he said.

Annan, a former United Nations secretary general, also asked them "not to create facts on the ground that would make it difficult for the Panel of Eminent African Personalities, which both sides to the election dispute had agreed to work with, to find viable and lasting solution."

The 2001 Nobel Peace laureate spoke as the US Government once again called for direct talks between Kibaki and Raila on the post-election violence that has claimed 300 lives and displaced 300,000.

"In our view, it is imperative for President Kibaki and Raila Odinga to sit together directly and without preconditions to discuss how to end the post-election crisis in a way that reflects the will of the Kenyan people,’’ said the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Dr Jendayi Frazer.

The US called for respect for the rule of law and the peoples’ right to assemble, as well as media freedom.

Serious flaws in the vote tallying

"We favoured no side during the electoral contest. We supported efforts to carry out transparent and fair elections. The generally peaceful and orderly voting process, and the record voter turnout, was a triumph for the Kenyan people, but the serious flaws in the vote tallying damaged the credibility of the process,’’ said the superpower.

The three statements came a day after ODM gave notice of three-day mass action rallies across the country beginning Wednesday.

It also came as government ban on live television coverage remained in force.

Frazer emphasised the fact that Kenyans believed the deadlock could be unlocked through a power-sharing arrangement.

Frazer added: "Both should acknowledge serious irregularities in the vote tallying, which made it impossible to determine with certainty the final result, and both must take forthright steps to end violence and ensure respect for the rule of law, consistent with respect for human rights."

The statement whose tone appear to harden compared to previous ones issued went on: "This particularly includes restoration of media freedom and freedom of peaceful assembly. We believe the Kenyan people have made clear that the way forward must embrace equitable power-sharing, an end to violence, reconciliation, and agreement on a specific agenda for constitutional and electoral reform."

Annan, who arrives in the country this week, to carry on from where AU chairman and Ghanaian President John Kufuor left, called on the Government and opposition to consider the interests of Kenyans and to show goodwill, leadership and maturity.

Annan said they were going to put together a secretariat to enable the panel work as expeditiously as possible to resolve many of the issues and to restore the East African country to normalcy.

Former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and South Africa’s former First Lady Mrs Graca Machel will assist him.

Referring to the AU chairman’s trip to Kenya, he said it was essential and it had made a difference.

News agencies reported Annan would have more time to spend in Kenya than Kufuor, who stayed for just two days. Kufuor did bring Raila and Kibaki to the negotiating table for direct talks on poll dispute and subsequent post-election violence.

Annan spoke in Ghana and his statement was relayed by the national news agency there. He formally accepted the invitation from President Kufuor to head the panel.

President Kufuor, whose visit to Kenya was at the invitation of the two feuding parties, said he came with a programme, to get them to agree to immediate cessation of violence, to accept to use dialogue to settle their differences and to agree to talk under the aegis of the Panel of Eminent African leaders.

His visit coincided with the arrival of four former African presidents – Mkapa, Mr Joachim Chisano, Dr Kenneth Kaunda, and Sir Ketumile Masire – and Frazer’s.

Kofour on Saturday said during the two days, he won the support of both the Government and the opposition parties to abide by these.

Called for Kenyan solution

The US, however, insisted, "the post-electoral crisis can only be resolved through a Kenyan solution."

"In the meantime, the United States cannot conduct business as usual in Kenya. The Kenyan people recognise that the post-electoral crisis has revealed longstanding problems that must not be ignored. As a close friend and partner of Kenya, the United States will remain intensively engaged to help encourage resolution of the post-electoral crisis. We are convinced that Kenyans will achieve this, and that the country will emerge out of this crisis a stronger and more just democratic society,’’ the statement ran.

"Political negotiation is not an event, it is a process that can take a very long time, or a short time, all depends on the co-operation of the leaders," Annan said in Accra after meeting Kufuor.

"I regard it as a great responsibility and we’ll take it seriously to restore stability and quickly end the humanitarian crisis in that country," Annan added.

"We are not going to impose solutions but work together with (with both parties) to arrive at viable and long-lasting solutions to the problem," Annan said.

Addressing a press conference at Teleposta Towers accompanied by Defence minister Mr Yusuf Haji and Government Spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua and Information Minister Samuel Poghisio termed the agreement advertised by ODM as the one the President was to sign a fallacy.

"Kibaki never sent any emissary nor did he mandate anyone to hold discussions with ODM leaders through any intermediary on his behalf," said Poghisio.

Church leaders added their voice to the need to return to negotiations, which they cited as the only way out of the crisis.

The Catholic Church opposed the proposed mass action by ODM next week and called for dialogue.

Archbishop John Cardinal Njue said following the many deaths and massive destruction of property, dialogue was the best option.

"The country is undergoing a very difficult situation at the moment and calling for mass action next week would only add fuel to the already existing problem,’’ Njue said.

In Nairobi, 33 Anglican Church of Kenya bishops told Kibaki and Raila to submit to mediated negotiations.

"People should resort to mediated dialogue. A lot of suffering has taken place. Mass action will worsen the situation, as they will lead to looting. This will cause loss of life," warned Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi.

"We are calling for mediated settlement between the two so that a solution can be found. Both parties should submit themselves to dialogue," he added.

Religious leaders from the Kalenjin community supported mediation and called for prayers among Kenyans while encouraging peaceful co-existence.

The religious leaders, under the umbrella of Emo Community Development Society said in a statement: "We are encouraged by the numerous mediation efforts from world leaders and locals and prayers from many people all over the world who would wish to see Kenyans live peacefully and progressively as before."


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