Kenya police stand guard with arms amid continuing political unrest in this east African nation.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has said he is willing to form a government of national unity.
After a meeting with the US diplomat Jendayi Frazer, he said he wanted to "help in the healing" process in Kenya.
In response, opposition leader Raila Odinga indicated he was willing to negotiate, but reiterated his view that Mr Kibaki should step down.
Kenya has been beset by violence since polls last month which the opposition says were rigged in Mr Kibaki's favour.
In the latest clashes, several houses were set on fire in Nairobi's Mathare slum district, the Associated Press news agency reported, adding that one man had been shot dead by police.
And the BBC's Grant Ferrett in the western city of Kisumu says hundreds of ethnic Kikuyus were being forced to leave on buses after being targeted by opposition supporters who accused them of backing President Kibaki.
Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it expected that its convoy of 20 trucks with nearly 700 tonnes of food would leave the port of Mombasa on Sunday to help ease the crippling shortages of food across Kenya.
On the diplomatic front, the President of Ghana, John Kufuor, who also heads the African Union, is expected in Kenya next week to add his weight to the mediation effort.
Mr Kibaki said in a statement that he was "ready to form a government of national unity that would not only unite Kenyans but would also help in the healing and reconciliation process".
The statement also said Ms Frazer - the top US diplomat on Africa - had commended Mr Kibaki for reaching out to the opposition to stop the violence, and had called on all parties to embrace dialogue.
KENYA'S ETHNIC GROUPS
Population 34.5m, comprising more than 40 ethnic groups
Kikuyu are the largest tribe, mostly concentrated around Nairobi
Most of Eastern/ North-eastern regions sparsely populated with ethnic Somalis
Main ethnic groups are:
Other African: 15%
But Mr Odinga said he was not prepared to negotiate through the media, and he would only consider the proposal at official negotiations - to which he had not yet received a formal invitation.
"Our starting point is that Kibaki is there illegally. He should not come to the negotiating table as the president," he said.
But Mr Odinga showed little interest in a national unity government, saying it was a way to "cheat the Kenyans of their rights".
Mr Odinga's team has demanded that an international mediator help settle the dispute - his spokesman Salim Lone telling Reuters news agency that without such a presence, the opposition has little faith any agreement would be adhered to.
The US delegation is not releasing details of the discussions, but the BBC understands that it is pushing for a government of national unity.
More than 350 people have been killed in Kenya and 250,000 made homeless in violence since the 27 December elections.
The talks in Nairobi come amid warnings by UN officials that a humanitarian crisis was worsening across Kenya, with the west and the Rift Valley worst hit.
There is plenty of food in the country but trucks have been unable to deliver it because of vigilante violence on many roads, the BBC's Adam Mynott reports.
The WFP is providing supplies for 100,000 people in the northern Rift Valley.
"We need supplies up here urgently particularly of cooking oil and of corn-soya blend which is particularly important for feeding young children at risk of malnutrition," the WFP's Marcus Prior told the BBC.
Kenyan politics has been dogged by ethnic tensions since independence in 1963.
Mr Kibaki depends for support on the largest ethnic group, the Kikuyus, while the western Luo and Kalenjin groups - who seek greater autonomy - back Mr Odinga.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/01/05 23:41:21 GMT
Kenyan president offers to share government
Saturday 5th January, 2008
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has offered an olive branch to opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Mr Kibaki says he is prepared to form an interim government of national unity with his opponent to end the violence which has been taking place in the country.
Despite the president's offer, the opposition is still demanding new elections be held.
Peace has been returning to many Kenyan cities after days of savage fighting which followed the disputed presidential election results.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the African Union will visit Kenya to try to end the ethnic violence which has seen hundreds of people killed.
Ghanaian President John Kufuor will meet both sides in Kenya's political dispute next week in his role as leader of the AU.
KENYA: Diaspora clicks in to keep Kenya talking
NAIROBI, 5 January 2008 (IRIN) - The crisis prompted by Kenya’s 27 December elections has left large numbers of people stranded in various parts of the country due to insecurity on the roads and general uncertainty. Many Nairobi residents and migrant workers travelled "up-country" to spend holidays with family or to vote in their rural constituency.
Returning to the capital Nairobi has been impossible for many. They are now stranded without paychecks in places where shops and banks have only been open intermittently and are running low on stocks. Access to cash and mobile phone credit cards has become difficult and prices for basics have risen.
Keeping in touch with family and friends, and exchanging updates on the situation are a priority for many.
Kenyans in the US and Europe are thronging websites that sell Kenyan phone credit to send to family and friends back home. "The volumes are unprecedented" Segeni Ngethe, founder of leading Kenyan e-commerce site MamaMike's told IRIN.
He said, his operation was selling "easily ten times" more orders for mobile phone credit than usual and that mobile phone credit had overtaken his usual top seller, shopping vouchers. Customers abroad were especially buying for those "who are stuck in bad places", and can be "very desperate", he said. Almost all the orders are marked as "emergency" he added.
Ngethe said he was processing orders worth 30,000 Kenya Shillings (US$500) every hour today [5 January] to fulfill a backlog of orders.
Low liquidity in mobile cash transfer services
Kenya's two mobile phone operators, Safaricom and Celtel, both have e-money transfer services but volumes seem not to have taken off during the crisis, according to a source close to the industry. For the very poor, there is no money to transfer, let alone a mobile phone to transfer it with, a vendor in Nairobi said. The industry source said most shops and kiosks that usually turn e-cash sent by text message into hard currency had closed because of the crisis. The source added, however, that the sector could well pick up over the weekend and Monday (7 January) would be “very, very busy.”
Christmas holidays are a busy period for Safaricom's M-Pesa service which was used to transfer some 1.7 billion Kenya shillings (US$2.5 million) in December, the source said.
Ruth Wangechi, an M-Pesa agent in Nairobi told IRIN that she was serving about 30 customers a day in the run-up to Christmas, but very few today. "I think guys are broke" she said.
No bank and no phone either
According to a survey conducted by FinAccess in 2006, the formal banking sector is underdeveloped in Kenya with only about 450 bank branches in the country. Only 27 percent of the adult population participate in the formal banking system, 35 percent are members of informal credit associations and 38 percent are excluded from financial services. The latter group indicated that the most important reason for not having a bank account was the lack of regular income or savings.
Some 17 percent of respondents in the survey had sent or received money within Kenya. The most popular means of transferring money within the country is via family members or friends or bus companies. Formal channels were mostly used in international money transfers. In 2006, fewer than 1 in 5 of the people that are unbanked owned a mobile telephone. Since the survey, uptake of banking and mobile usage has increased, however.
Jecinta Kinyanjui, a shopowner in Mathare, a slum area of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, who also sells phone credit scratch cards explained why M-Pesa had not taken root in this part of town.
"There are not many transactions in this area. When people in Mathare send money upcountry they prefer buses. The money is sealed in a newspaper or cloth, then we put a telephone number on the package and an ID number. The package is checked in as a regular customer. Then it goes to the bus company's office upcountry for the recipient to pick up".
"Due to poverty there are not many mobile phones. People use public phones which are much cheaper," she said. "In case of a disaster upcountry, the people in Mathare do not send money to the affected area. They go there themselves to help and bring money with them".
MamaMike's Ngethe said he was praying for peace in Kenya, but that he was doubtful the current "mindframe" in Kenya was in tune with his company's latest tagline: "Share love. Send happiness"
Report can be found online at:
ECK could go to court soon
Story by: DAVID OKWEMBAH
Publication Date: 1/6/2008
The Electoral Commission of Kenya may go to court this week to have an independent audit of the December 27 presidential ballots set up, the Sunday Nation has learnt.
An official of the beleaguered elections body confirmed that some of the 22 commissioners had agreed to seek the intervention of the High Court in setting up a team to carry out an audit of the presidential elections whose results has triggered violence, resulting into death and destruction of property.
Last Monday, four of the ECK commissioners called a press conference at which they suggested that a way be found to set up an independent audit of the presidential votes to determine who between President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga won the election.
However, none of the parties in the disputed poll has taken up the matter, leaving ECK to try and salvage whatever good it can from a general elections judged by a majority of the observers as flawed.
The move comes amid fears that some of the commissioners had contemplated quitting following pressure from members of their various communities.
At least two of the commissioners had their houses in their rural areas razed after last Sunday’s release of the presidential election results and the swearing-in of President Kibaki.
The decision to go to court, if implemented, would open another front to the already raging dispute between Mr Odinga’s ODM and President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity.
But an assistant minister for foreign affairs and MP-elect for Sirisia Mr Moses Wetangula wondered how the ECK could originate such a motion on its own yet it is not one of the aggrieved parties.
“Once the ECK named the winner and losers in the poll they became functus officio(no longer seized of the matter). Their business was done”, the assistant minister who is also a lawyer added.
The Commission can only be enjoined in a suit filed by one of the aggrieved parties or appear as a witness, he said.
ODM is on record as having said that it was no longer interested in the re-tallying of the presidential votes claiming that key documents may have already been “doctored”.
The Law Society of Kenya last week said it would go to court this week to have the presidential poll probed by an independent body.
One of the 22 commissioners who spoke to the Sunday Nation on condition of anonymity said their petition will hinge on sections 84 and 123(8) of the Constitution.
According to Section 84 of the constitution, any Kenyan who feels that their fundamental rights have been violated can go to the High Court to seek redress.
The fundamental rights include liberty and security of persons, freedom of association, expression and the right to live and work anywhere in the country.
And section 123(8) empowers the courts to hear any matter brought before it as long as it does not contravene the country’s supreme law.
While the ECK may not have jurisdiction to originate a motion to have its own conduct examined, the elections body has found itself in an awkward situation where neither the loser nor the winner wants to go to court.
It also risks becoming irrelevant following a disastrous performance and conflicting information from its chairman, Mr Samuel Mutua Kivuitu.
The move by the ECK commissioners follows the rejection of the presidential elections polls results announced by the Mr Kivuitu last Sunday in which he named the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki as the winner.
Mr Odinga, the President’s most serious challenger, has however contested the results saying he was robbed of victory. But he has refused to go to court maintaining that they are not independent.
Already the ECK is consulting South African and Ugandan poll officials on how to get out of the fix.
South African elections officials were expected in the country last Thursday on the same flight as the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Also to be consulted by the ECK are judges from South Africa and Uganda who were expected to arrive in Nairobi this weekend. The judges failed to get flight connections to Nairobi due to the heavy travel during the Christmas and New year festivities.
A long-serving ECK commissioner Mr Jack Tumwa said none of the delegations from South Africa and Uganda had arrived in the country by Friday evening.
Mr Tumwa was one of the four commissioners who held a Press conference last week suggesting that a way be found to set up an independent audit team for the presidential ballots.
Sources at ECK headquarters informed the Sunday Nation that an observer mission from South Africa-The Election Institute of South Africa-had offered their proposal on the way out of the rigmarole that has become of the Kenyan election.