Thursday, February 28, 2008

Today's headlines - 2/28/2008

Crisis summit to save Kenya talks - BBC
Kofi Annan and the African Union head are holding talks with Kenya's rival leaders in a bid to salvage talks aimed at ending the political deadlock.

Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete, who heads the AU, is trying to persuade President Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga to drop their hard-line positions.

There are growing fears of renewed violence if the talks fail.

Some 1,500 people died in political violence after Mr Odinga said he was robbed of victory in December's polls.

Mr Odinga's opposition Orange Democratic Movement had called for fresh protests on Thursday if no deal was reached but cancelled them after Mr Odinga met Mr Annan, who has been leading the talks for more than a month.

The former UN secretary general wants the two sides to share power, with Mr Odinga taking the post of prime minister.

We are hopeful that we shall achieve
something - both leaders want the crisis to end
Jakaya Kikwete
Tanzanian president

President Kibaki has agreed to create the post but is opposed to changes to the constitution needed to create the position.

Mr Odinga insists on further constitutional changes to legitimise a transitional administration that would oversee reforms before elections.

Talks challenged
Local media report that professionals, traders and politicians are currently raising funds to arm groups that would protect their communities in the event of violence when the talks collapse.

A report by the International Crisis Group think-tank published last month said that both government and opposition officials were mobilising youths to carry out fresh attacks.

The post-election violence saw thousands of people targeted because they belonged to ethnic groups seen as either pro-government or pro-opposition.

About 600,000 people have fled their homes and some forced back to their ancestral homelands.

Addressing reporters after his day-long shuttle diplomacy on Wednesday, President Kikwete, who has extended his trip, expressed hope that Thursday's meetings would break the ice.

"We are hopeful that we shall achieve something - both leaders want the crisis to end," he said.

Mr Annan, the chief mediator, who also held separate talks with the three leaders, reiterated his position that the differences between both sides were bridgeable.

Donor countries have warned they will impose sanctions on any politician seen as blocking a deal - threats condemned by the government.

Meanwhile, a politician has lodged a legal challenge to the ongoing talks, saying they were unconstitutional and do not involve all Kenyans.

Antony Kirori, who vied for a parliamentary seat and lost to Mr Odinga, says any resolution would alter the country's governance structure.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/02/28 10:02:43 GMT© BBC MMVIII
Kenya Government, Opposition Agree to Share Power (Update1)
By Eric Ombok

Feb. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Kenya's government and main opposition party reached an agreement to share power in talks aimed at ending clashes following the East African nation's disputed election.

``All I can tell you is we have an agreement,'' Annan said in remarks broadcast on national television today in the capital, Nairobi. Further details will be released at 4 p.m. local time, he said.

More than 1,500 people died and 300,000 more were forced to flee their homes when ethnic violence erupted after a Dec. 27 vote in which President Mwai Kibaki was elected to a second term in office. The opposition Orange Democratic Movement, led by Raila Odinga, says the balloting was rigged.

Annan led efforts to mediate in the dispute between the two sides, with a team that included former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and Graca Machel, the wife of South Africa's first black president, Nelson Mandela.

Talks stalled on Feb. 26 after negotiators failed to resolve outstanding issues, details of which haven't been disclosed. Last week, the two sides agreed to create a post of prime minister and two deputies, a proposal that has been touted as crucial to finding a political solution to the crisis.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Ombok in Nairobi via Johannesburg on .

Last Updated: February 28, 2008 07:42 EST

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