Friday, February 1, 2008

Breaking news - more on peace talks progress 2/1/2008

Kenya's parties agree to stop violence

Fri 1 Feb 2008, 19:01 GMT
By Duncan Miriri

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya's feuding parties agreed on Friday to a framework for talks to resolve a violent political crisis, in which some 850 people have died, within 15 days, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said.

The two sides, at odds since a Dec. 27 election returned President Mwai Kibaki to power in a vote opposition challenger Raila Odinga says he rigged, said they had agreed only a skeleton model for talks but hoped to make progress quickly.

Annan said they would discuss stopping ethnically motivated killings, how to deliver humanitarian aid to the affected and how to resolve the immediate political crisis before tackling a longer term solution, which could take a year.

"The first is to take immediate action to stop the violence," Annan, who is heading the mediation, told reporters.

"But more importantly, the parties agreed that the first three items could be handled and resolved within 7 to 15 days."

Talks are to resume on Monday. Senior opposition official Musalia Mudavadi said they two sides agreed to urge supporters to end the violence, in which rival tribes are locked into a cycle of killings and lootings.

"We ... agreed on the agenda items ... We have made substantial progress on the first agenda item ... We are calling on the public to disband any illegal militia," he said.

Kenya's Justice Minister Martha Karua agreed and said steps would be taken to protect life and property after post-poll protests descended into bloodshed.

Annan's announcement followed a visit by his successor, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, to give clout to diplomatic efforts.

Ban met negotiating teams for Kibaki and Odinga trying to reach a deal to end the crisis in what had been one of the continent's more stable nations and strongest economies.

"What is important at this time is to maintain peace and security," he told reporters. "The killing must stop."

But even as he spoke, violence continued in flashpoints all over western Kenya.

"I saw around 20 torched houses including shops and two policemen with arrow wounds," said a local journalist who had visited the area and did not want to be named.

"At least 10 people have died from both sides."

Leaders at an African Union summit in Ethiopia want urgent action. Ban flew in from there for a one-day visit to Kenya.

"You have lost already too much in terms of national image, economic interest," he said.
More than 300,000 Kenyans are living as refugees.

Kibaki says he is Kenya's elected leader but international observers said the count was so chaotic it was impossible to tell who won.

At a meeting of an east African regional grouping, Kibaki made provocative statement accusing his rivals of instigating the bloodshed and telling them again to challenge his disputed re-election in court.

"Regrettably, although the election results reflected the will of the majority of Kenyans, the leaders in the opposition instigated a campaign of civil unrest," he said.

Odinga says he would not get a fair hearing in court because the judiciary is biased toward Kibaki, although the opposition has challenged legislative elections in the courts.

The unrest has taken the lid off decades-old divisions between tribal groupings over land, wealth and power, dating from British colonial rule and stoked by Kenyan politicians during 44 years of independence.

The United States and European countries have pledged their support for Annan's mediation efforts. Donors have said aid programmes to Kenya are under review.

Fresh protests, in which witnesses said at least two people were killed, broke out on Thursday after a police officer in the Rift Valley town of Eldoret shot dead an opposition legislator.

He was the second killed in a week.

The officer who fatally shot the legislator and also a female police officer with him, appeared in court on Friday.

Police have said they are treating the killing as a "crime of passion", but Odinga again called it a politically-motivated assassination when he viewed the legislator's body at a Nairobi mortuary on Friday.

Soldiers fired into the air to disperse angry mobs in Eldoret after the shooting killing. Hospital sources said at least 20 people were wounded in the fighting.

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