Thursday, February 14, 2008

Kenya News Bulletin: Rivals Sign Agreement; Uhuru Backs Coalition; Bush Sends Envoy

Kenya rivals sign agreement in crisis talks

AFP - 1 hour 29 minutes ago

NAIROBI (AFP)--Kenya's rival parties on Thursday signed an agreement during talks mediated by Kofi Annan to end a crisis sparked by disputed presidential elections, a UN statement said.

No details were given but Annan has called a news conference for Friday to "outline what was agreed in 48 hours of discussion at a location outside the capital", said the statement.

"Mr Annan will make available the text of the agreement signed today between the two parties," it added.

The former UN secretary general had been pushing for a power-sharing agreement to resolve the dispute over the December elections that unleashed violence in which more than 1,000 people have died.

Talks were to resume on Monday in Nairobi, the statement added.

Kenya descended into violence after President Mwai Kibaki, 76, was declared the winner of the December 27 vote that the opposition said was rigged. International observers also found flaws in the tallying of ballots.

According to the Kenyan Red Cross, more than 1,000 people have died in rioting, tribal clashes and police raids since the vote and 300,000 people have been displaced, shattering Kenya's image as one of Africa's most stable countries.

In an address to parliament this week, Annan put forward the idea of a "grand coalition" government that could oversee reforms and pave the way to elections, possibly in two years.

But Kibaki's lead negotiator Martha Karua sent a protest letter to Annan, saying such a power-sharing arrangement had never been discussed in the mediation talks or "agreed upon."

Kibaki had steadfastly maintained that he won the presidential vote fairly and should not have to share power with his rival Raila Odinga, 62, who says he was robbed of the presidency.

A press conference was called for 5:00 pm (1400 GMT) Friday in Nairobi, said Nasser Ega-Musa, a UN spokesman who is also acting as the mediation team's press officer.

Annan had said he was hoping for a breakthrough on a power-sharing deal by the end of this week.

The former UN chief had been holed up with the two negotiating teams at a safari lodge in southern Kenya since Tuesday to finalise a deal far removed from the media glare.

Kibaki has been under mounting international pressure to agree to a power-sharing deal with the United States and Britain threatening visa bans among other sanctions if the Annan-led mediation failed.

The agreement was signed as US President George W. Bush prepared to embark on a five-nation Africa tour that his aides said would in part serve to "rally the continent" behind Annan's power-sharing plan.

Former colonial power Britain said Kibaki's government "as presently constituted" lacked legitimacy, serving notice that the power-sharing deal sought by Annan was the only option.

"Given the irregularities reported by observers around the presidential elections, we do not recognize the Kenyan government as presently constituted as representing the will of the Kenyan people," British High Commissioner Adam Wood said in an interview with Kenyan television.

Speculation on the deal centred on a possible power-sharing government in which Odinga, 62, could be named prime minister, a post that would have to be created by constitutional amendment.

The post-election turmoil has laid bare tribalism as well as simmering resentment over land issues and wealth disparities in Kenya, long considered a model of stability in Africa.

As Kenyans awaited details of the deal, relative calm has taken hold across the country for the first time in weeks, with no incidents reported in western Kenya, which had been the worst hit by the violence.

Uhuru backs grand coalition government

Kenya Daily Nation
Publication Date: 2/14/2008

Local Government Minister Uhuru Kenyatta Wednesday supported the formation of a grand coalition government to restore unity among Kenyans.

Mr Kenyatta, who adopted a conciliatory stance when he flagged off new fire engines at Nyayo Stadium, said the truth must be told about the last elections.

He said the talks between ODM and the PNU/Government side were on course, but skirted questions on why members of the team from the latter were attacking chief mediator Kofi Annan for giving a roadmap to peace.

Mr Annan has since clarified that the coalition idea was his perspective of the situation.

Church leaders

In Kisumu, a group of church leaders from Nyanza, Western and Rift Valley provinces have reacted angrily to a protest letter sent to Mr Annan by Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Martha Karua.

In a statement released Wednesday, the church leaders they said that the remarks were in bad taste.

“The country has shed a lot of blood and it is therefore important for politicians to weigh what they say regarding the talks,” the statement read in part.

Kenya rivals in power-sharing talks

Annan has urged Kenya's opposition parties not to make public the issues under negotiation

Kenya's opposition wants to share power for two years with the president's party before holding new elections, according to negotiators.

The news came as Kofi Annan, the former UN chief who is mediating the crisis, moved negotiations to a secret location outside of Nairobi on Tuesday to seal a deal in the next two or three days.

"During this period, he has asked for a complete news blackout," Annan's office said in a statement.

"He has urged the parties not to discuss issues under negotiations with anyone outside the negotiating room."

Both sides, however, have offered a glimpse of what is currently on the table.

Broad base

William Ruto, a member of Raila Odinga's opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), confirmed that his party had suggested a power-sharing government.

The proposal includes "forming a broad-based government that lasts for two years", Ruto said.

Odinga has accused Mwai Kibaki, Kenya's president, of stealing the election held in December.

More than 1,000 people have been killed and about 600,000 people displaced since the dispute over the December 27 vote sparked ethnic violence.

Ruto said that during the two years of power sharing, the government should concentrate on reforming the constitution and electoral commission, and establish a plan to rebuild parts of the country which have been destroyed in recent weeks.

He also suggested a truth and justice commission to look into land disputes that have contributed to the ethnic violence.

Proposal received

Mutula Kilonzo, a government negotiator, confirmed that Kibaki's party had received the proposal, and said it would be debated "to see if we can reach an agreement".

Under the current constitution, Kibaki has the power to appoint opposition members into the cabinet, Kilonzo said in an interview with the Associated Press news agency.

For his part, Annan urged Kenyan legislators to enact laws needed to resolve the political turmoil, such as land-reform measures.

"You will need to work together to implement this heavy agenda. Your active involvement across party lines is necessary," he told a special session of parliament on Tuesday.

He said the two parties had already agreed to form an independent commission to look into the electoral commission, which faced heavy criticism for certifying Kibaki's victory in December.

Divided parliament

Mohammad Adow, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Kenya, said: "Parliament is crucial to the whole process. Members of the house will be called to carry out constitutional reforms to enable the implementation of the outcome of the talks."

Parliament, like the country, is divided and acrimony marked the first session of parliament last month.

But Farah Maalim, deputy speaker of parliament, said the legislative body has no option but to co-operate.

He said: "Parliament has no choice. We either have to accept the outcome and proceed on the basis of that, and use this as a transitional parliament ... or we perish."

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Kenya hits out at British envoy

Kenya may take "remedial measures" against the British high commissioner for failing to recognise President Mwai Kibaki's government, a minister says.

Adam Wood told a local TV station that Britain does not think the government represents the democratic will of the people following disputed elections.

But the foreign minister said Kenya did not need "the stamp of confirmation" from its former colonial masters.

Mediators hope a deal to end the post-poll crisis will be agreed soon.

At least 1,000 people were killed and more than 600,000 displaced during violence over the disputed presidential election results.

The BBC's Karen Allen in the capital, Nairobi, says Kenya is keen to paint this as a diplomatic spat with its former colonial master, but other members of the international community have been loud in their criticism of the elections.

During an interview with the KTN news channel, Mr Wood repeated the position that the UK recognises states and not governments.

"Having seen the irregularities in the presidential elections documented by the whole range of the observer missions including the EU [European Union], we do not find the government as presently constituted represents the democratic will of Kenyan people," Mr Wood said.

This prompted Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula to issue a statement expressing his surprise at the envoy's remarks, which come after the British minister in charge of African affairs, Mark Malloch-Brown, held talks with President Kibaki during a recent visit.

He reminded the envoy that Kenya won independence from Britain 44 years ago, and the government did not need what he called the "nod or the stamp of confirmation" from the British, to reflect the will of Kenyans.

He also threatened "remedial measures", without saying what these would be.

News blackout

This is the second run-in between the two men over the issue.

Last month, Mr Wetangula summoned Mr Wood to complain after Foreign Office Minister Meg Munn said London did not recognise President Kibaki's government.

Meanwhile, talks to end the post-poll crisis being chaired by former UN chief Kofi Annan are continuing in a secret location outside Nairobi.

Both the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and President Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU) have tabled proposals for a power-sharing agreement.

Earlier this week, Mr Annan called for a news blackout on the talks and said that at the appropriate time, he would release the outcome of discussions to the media.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/02/14 13:24:55 GMT

Bush to send top envoy to Kenya

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is to go to Kenya amid efforts to end the violence that erupted after a disputed presidential election.

President George W Bush said Ms Rice would back the mediation efforts led by former UN chief Kofi Annan.

She would press for an immediate halt to violence, justice for victims, and "a full return to democracy", he said.

At least 1,000 people have been killed and more than 600,000 displaced during Kenya's post-election unrest.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Kenya to probe radio hate speech

The Kenyan government has ordered an investigation into claims that radio stations broadcast hate speeches during the disputed presidential elections.

Information Minister Samuel Poghiso said a task force would identify cases and politicians who had fuelled the ethnic violence would face the law.

At least 1,000 people were killed in the violence that followed the poll.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is to go to Kenya to support efforts to help political reconciliation.

There are reports of a possible agreement at talks between the government and opposition.

Mediator Kofi Annan will give details between the two sides on Friday. Talks are to resume next week.

The BBC's East Africa correspondent, Karen Allen, says it is understood that representatives for President Mwai Kibaki's Party of National Unity and opposition leader Raila Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement have agreed in principle to form some kind of grand coalition.

Mr Kibaki was declared the winner of the disputed December poll but opposition supporters claimed the count was rigged and political clashes fuelled inter-ethnic violence.


Correspondents say a number of Kenyan media stations were accused of fuelling the ethnic conflict.

Radio is the most popular medium, especially in rural areas. Nearly all households have a radio set.

There are scores of stations broadcasting in the numerous local languages, as well as Swahili and English. Most outlets are privately-owned and entertainment-oriented.

Mr Poghiso told the BBC said the task force would look into ways to prevent hate speech being broadcast in future.

One consideration would be following the example of Tanzania, where radio stations can broadcast only in Swahili and English.

Mr Poghiso said one of the problems at the moment was having to transcribe all the broadcasts in different languages from the time.

But he said those transcriptions could provide evidence that would be used against politicians who used hate speech.

Code of ethics

Mr Poghiso said he supported suggestions of a South Africa-style truth and reconciliation commission to help bring people back together.

"Unless we deal with the actual situation, the messages will not stop. Unless neighbour begins to go back to neighbour and say: 'I am sorry' and the other one says the same, you can't stop what is going on."

Mr Poghiso said another major issue would be advising media outlets on how to act professionally, especially in terms of employing qualified professionals to do the job "rather than picking people off the street who can speak the language".

"Our own media law provides a code of ethics for what can and cannot go on air," he said.

"All the professional journalists have that code and they know the code. Any politician caught in hate speech distribution would have to face the law."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/02/14 16:41:04 GMT

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