Friday, February 22, 2008

Kenya News Bulletin: Last Hurdle to New Prime Minister; Condi's Visit; Mediation Challenged Legally

The last hurdle to new prime minister

Publication Date: 2/23/2008

Only a constitutional amendment seemed to stand in the way of the long-awaited settlement to the country’s post-election crisis Friday after a day of long talks and factional consultations.

President Kibaki’s negotiators appeared to have accepted the legal proposals put forward by the drafting committee but insisted that they should not be anchored in the Constitution.

On the ODM side, the negotiators insisted that such landmark changes in the government structure must be supported by an amendment to the Constitution.

This would avoid the possibility of someone going to court to challenge the legality of the new government.

Last night, the PNU negotiators left Serena Hotel and headed straight to Harambee House to hold further consultations.

The ODM team was also expected to brief their leader Raila Odinga, who is out of the country.

The talks chairman, Mr Kofi Annan, issued a statement saying that the teams had been given a weekend off to go and consult with their principals.

Mr Annan appealed to President Kibaki and Mr Odinga to give clear instructions to their negotiators to enable the talks to move forward.

Earlier, the talks which were expected to start in the morning did not take off until midday when the two teams finally occupied their positions at the Serena Hotel.

The delay was apparently caused by the government team which held lengthy consultations with President Kibaki in his Harambee House office in the morning.

The President met with the mediators, a team of Cabinet ministers he appointed to spearhead peace and reconciliation efforts in the country, then held talks with the incoming chairman of the African Union Commission Jean Ping.

It is understood that the President discussed with mediators the legal proposals that would lead to a coalition and the kind of powers that should be ceded to a prime minister.

It was also understood that the powers which were being proposed for the PM were causing discomfort in the Party of National Unity ranks who were asking that the government negotiators should not give away too much.

At the Serena Hotel, the venue of the talks, the legal working group of Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua and Mbooni MP Mutula Kilonzo, ODM’s James Orengo and William Ruto held a marathon meeting from 12.05 pm to fine-tune the legal draft.

But Ms Karua left the meeting at 6.30 pm and the hotel precincts without a word leaving behind the three to continue with the work.

Earlier, Mr Annan’s personal assistant, Mr Nasser Ega-Musa, had told the press that the legal team was still working and that they would go to report to the negotiators later in the night.

“It is beyond what we expected, but at the end of their session, they will have to go into plenary. It is at the end of the plenary that we will decide whether or not to hold a press conference,” he said.

As the talks progressed into the night, ODM MPs held a Parliamentary Group meeting in Parliament Buildings where they announced that they would call for mass civil disobedience on Wednesday if the Annan talks fail to yield tangible results.

They insisted that they were demanding a Prime Minister with executive powers.

It also emerged that Mr Odinga had flown out of the country Friday in a chartered flight to South Africa in what party officials said was a private visit. This is Mr Odinga’s first foreign trip since the disputed presidential elections.

Sabatia MP Musalia Mudavadi, who is leading the ODM negotiating team to the peace talks being chaired by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan said Mr Odinga will be back in Nairobi at the weekend “but we are in constant touch with him”.

Mr Odinga is visiting South Africa at a critical stage of the negotiations which is the home of Mr Cyril Ramaphosa who the government turned down the proposal to join Mr Annan’s group of African Eminent Persons.

The South African politician-cum-businessman could have joined former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and former South African First Lady Graca Machel who are in Mr Annan’s team.

Sources in ODM said Mr Odinga was going to South Africa, then move on to Nigeria.

As Mr Odinga headed south, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka flew out to Kigali, Rwanda, to brief President Paul Kagame on the ongoing negotiations.

Mr Musyoka met Mr Kagame in State House Friday. President Kagame had earlier called for a military solution to the Kenyan crisis.

It is understood that President Kagame repeated his warning to the Kenyan government to find a quick solution to the conflict in the country to avoid violence spiralling to dangerous levels.

It wasn't business as usual when Condoleezza hit town

Kenya Daily Nation
Publication Date: 2/23/2008

She’s brisk, she’s bright, she’s (red, white and) blue — and oh yeah, black too. She’s Condoleezza Rice, “the most powerful woman in the world.” For a few hours on Monday, she was in Nairobi for the highest-profile visit to Kenya since her predecessor, Mr Colin Powell, came to bid President Moi adieu in 2001.

Busy day, huh Condi? After pulling in at Kenyatta International Airport around 10am, she barrelled straight to Serena Hotel in downtown Nairobi for a chat with Mr Kofi Annan (who no doubt wishes his Kenya stay was as short as hers), then onto Harambee House for tea with President Kibaki before heading to the American ambassador’s lush Muthaiga residence to meet the aspiring prime minister.

Conspicuous by their absence around Harambee House, though, were the usually tough-looking police officers.

Phew... no sooner had Mr Raila Odinga left than a delegation from the lobby groups — code for big business — piled into Ranneberger’s palace... er house... to put in their plea for business as usual. By the time all that was over, we journalists were basically an afterthought.

For our part, the press did little but think about Condi all day. Her closing remarks were scheduled for 10 minutes to 5pm, which in Nairobispeak usually means a quarter past six. Not so for team America: they told reporters to show up around noon so the guards would have time for a thorough pat-down.

Tennis rackets

If only we’d brought our tennis rackets! The distractions of the ambassador’s living room were off limits to all but the first handful of photographers to arrive. They were allowed inside for a brief photo-op on the condition that each cameraman was accompanied by a security guard.

Those of us who pulled into Muthaiga drive after 1 o’clock were whisked down an alleyway and shoved through a little black gate at the mansion’s rear end; metal detectors awaited us there, then a short walk past the tennis court to the pool deck, where we waited for the next three hours.

This idle scene resembled a cocktail party, the only real difference being that the fruit juice brought around by white-shirted waiters lacked vodka. Everyone wore their finest but the expats who could hardly be troubled to tuck their shirts in.

We scattered across the pool deck and formed small groups that reflected the allegiances formed amongst the press corps over the last two months of war correspondence.

For the most part, print journalists stayed seated while the television personalities flitted from one clutch of journalists to another.

I joined a table of foreign correspondents — an Alabama girl, a Spaniard, a Frenchman, three Canadians and a Brit. Like everyone else, we filled the time with gossip. “Who are the Republicans more afraid of?” said the Spaniard; “Barack or Hillary? That’s what we should find out.” He seemed to think Hillary was the greater threat, but the rest of us were betting on the Luo.

“A friend of mine works at a five-star hotel in Jerusalem where Condi always stays,” said one of the Canadians. “She always has a treadmill brought up to her room, along with a personal chef.”

“Wouldn’t you? The chef, that is, not the treadmill.”

We all agreed that with Kosovo having just declared independence from Serbia, and Pakistan in the throes of its own electoral drama, America’s top diplomat would have to say something truly outrageous for this Nairobi afternoon to make news outside Kenya.

Shortly before the appointed hour, a press officer went around informing everyone that we would be allowed to ask only two questions at the end of Condi’s briefing. Two in total, that is, not each. A collective groan went up among the 50 or so journalists assembled, each of whose notebooks harboured several questions of mass destruction. Who, we wondered, would be chosen to address the mighty Rice?

At a quarter to 5, we were let out of our holding tank, and streamed through an ivy-decked gate into an impeccably manicured back lawn. Secret service agents you could have spotted a mile away were milling in the bushes.

It isn’t just Hollywood, these guys really do wear brush cuts and dark sunglasses and earpieces; they also communicate with crisp hand gestures which, together with the earpieces, make them appear vaguely deaf.

There followed the most respectful hush I’d yet witnessed in Kenya as we lined up like footballers a safe distance from the podium and waited for her majesty’s appearance. But where was she? Five, 10, 15 minutes went by. Feet shuffled, cameras sighed, and I heard a Reuters man whispering to a friend behind me: “What should I ask?” Lucky devil, he’d won the draw but now had the weight of all our curiosities hanging on his query.

And then out came Condi. Just like that, with no introduction, she strode out from the dark confines of Mr Ranneberger’s house — she was talking before reaching a full-stop in front of the microphone.

“I met with Kofi Annan today,” she began, listing off her day’s encounters without so much as a hello.

You’ve heard the rest of the sound bites: “This is not a matter of dictating to Kenyans? there is an urgent need to share real power... do it yesterday? business as usual?”

Here was a lady who had performed similar functions in places like Baghdad and Kabul, Islamabad and Beirut. What’s a little Nairobi, after all that?

Condi looked relaxed, alert, every inch the businesswoman. You don’t have to agree with her actions — say, helping to orchestrate the Iraq war — to respect her professionalism.

She spoke without pause for all of six or seven minutes; answered the two questions put forward by KTN and Reuters without hesitation, then did the same for two more questions hollered out from the anxious crowd.

One could almost fail to realise she didn’t say anything new.

And that was it — make of it what you will — that was Kenya’s biggest visit in recent history.

We shuffled off to file our stories. As for Condi, she had a plane to catch, a president (her own) to meet in Dar es Salaam, and perhaps a tread mill to jog on before bed time.

Mediation group’s legality challenged in court

Story by SATURDAY NATION Correspondent
Publication Date: 2/23/2008

A parliamentary loser has moved to court to challenge the constitutionality of the mediation team.

Mr Antony Ndung’u Kirori wants the High Court to issue an order restraining all the negotiators from adopting any resolution by the Kofi Annan team which is likely to alter the governance structure of Kenya in violation of the Constitution.

Also sought by Mr Kirori is an order directing that his case be heard and determined within a period not exceeding 21 days.

In the suit filed under a certificate of urgency, Mr Kirori has listed negotiators Musalia Mudavadi, William Ruto, Sally Kosgei, Caroli Omondi, Martha Karua, Mutula Kilonzo, Moses Wetangula, Sam Ongeri, Gichira Kibaara and Raila Odinga as respondents. Also being sued are Police Commissioner Major Gen Mohammed Ali and Attorney-General Amos Wako.

Mr Kirori said the negotiators are engaged in an unconstitutional “boardroom” exercise referred to as “mediation process” to discuss and determine what is, in effect, an electoral dispute between ODM and PNU.

This, according to him can only be done by a court of law which is vested with powers under section 10 and 44 of the Constitution.

He says he vied for the Lang’ata constituency seat against Mr Odinga and lost it. He argues that he should also be permitted to share power with Mr Odinga as MP for Lang’ata.

Reason? He believes that if Mr Odinga who lost the presidential race to President Kibaki is allowed to share power, then it would only be fair for him to also be accommodated as he represents those who voted for him in Lang’ata constituency.

Secondly, Mr Kirori says Mr Odinga and ODM Members of Parliament ought to have refused to turn up for the swearing in ceremony in Parliament if they did not believe or accept that President Kibaki, who convened the opening of Parliament, was not legally in office.

He noted that all the MPs from all parties attended and participated in the election of Speaker and Deputy Speaker.

And since they agreed to participate in the affairs of the House, they accept that President Kibaki was legally elected, he said.

He accused ODM of giving the impression that the country is ungovernable and on the brink of civil war.

This, Mr Kirori said, was a calculated intention to invite foreign entities to oversee the current mediation process in an unconstitutional manner.

The case is scheduled for hearing on Monday before High Court judge Mr Justice Paul Kihara.

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