Sunday, February 17, 2008

Weekend Headlines - Feb 16-17, 2008

Kenya rejects US pressure over power-sharing deal - AFP

2 hours ago

NAIROBI (AFP) — The Kenyan government Sunday issued a veiled warning to the United States not to put "a gun to anybody's head", on the eve of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to push for a power-sharing deal.

Rice is due in Nairobi on Monday for meetings with President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, whose dispute over who won the December 27 presidential election plunged once stable Kenya into violence in which more than 1,000 people have died.

"We encourage our friends to support us, to encourage us, but not to make any mistake by putting a gun to anybody's head and say 'either or' because that cannot work," Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula told reporters.

US President George W. Bush called for a power-sharing deal at the start of his Africa tour on Saturday and said he was sending Rice to Kenya to support Kofi Annan's mediation, which appears deadlocked over a proposed coalition government.

While Wetangula did not specifically mention the United States, he said: "Those who support us should avoid judgmental language that tends to appear like we are being told 'you must do this or you must do that'. We will find a solution, and as Kenyans and we are committed to that."

Kibaki's camp has balked at a power-sharing deal, saying in talks led by Annan that it was willing to include opposition members in government, but under the strong executive leadership of the president, according to a government official.

After initially welcoming Kibaki's re-election, the United States backtracked in the face of mounting evidence of flaws in the presidential poll and is now pressing Kibaki to agree to a coalition with Odinga.

During a visit to neighbouring Tanzania, however, Bush on Sunday took pains to specify that the United States did not want to "dictate" a solution to Kenya's crisis but wanted to "help move the process along."

The statement came after talks with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who holds the rotating chair of the African Union.

The United States considers Kenya a strategic ally in the fight against militant extremists and a key player in resolving conflicts in neighbouring Somalia and Sudan.

Negotiators for Kibaki and the opposition moved from a Nairobi hotel to a secluded safari lodge in southern Kenya last week to finalise details of a deal that Annan said was only days away.

But the former UN secretary general emerged from talks on Friday to announce that no final deal had been reached and that "the last outstanding issue" remained power-sharing in a new government.

Negotiations are due to resume on Monday, with Annan to meet separately with Kibaki and Odinga ahead of a new round of talks the following day.

US officials have stressed that Rice will support, and not upstage, Annan's embattled mediation when she holds meetings with Kibaki and Odinga to deliver the message that a power-sharing deal is the way out of crisis.

Launched by the African Union, Annan's mediation is seen as Kenya's best hope for a political solution to move beyond the violence in which Kenyans have been killed by machete-wielding mobs, burnt in churches and driven off their land.

More than 1,000 people have died and 300,000 uprooted in the carnage that erupted after Kibaki, 76, was declared the winner of the vote that Odinga, 63, maintains was rigged.

The violence has tapped into simmering resentment over land, poverty and the dominance of the Kikuyu, Kibaki's tribe, in Kenyan politics and business since independence from Britain in 1963.

As calm appeared to take hold over the country in the past week, the United States and Britain have turned up the pressure on Kibaki, fearful that a collapse of the Annan talks could re-ignite the violence.

Washington and London have threatened visa bans, an assets freeze and other sanctions.

Why world’s attention is focused on Kenya - Standard (Editorial)

Published on February 17, 2008, 12:00 am
By Dennis Onyango

When US Secretary of State, Dr Condoleezza Rice joins Dr Kofi Annan for the peace talks in Nairobi tomorrow, the full force of the world will have landed in Kenya in a way the Government never seems to have anticipated.

Rice’s arrival, together with that of the coming and going of top world leaders has globalised what some Government functionaries appeared to think was a minor internal affair that would fizzle out.

What began with the arrival of retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was not a very welcome guest, followed by Ghanaian President John Kufuor, also welcomed grudgingly, has become a huge exercise putting the country under diplomatic intensive care.

UN Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-moon jetted at the beginning of the month for talks to end the crisis.
Ban’s predecessor, Annan had travelled ahead of him and is leading the talks. On Friday, Annan declared he would be here for as long as it takes to find a solution.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela’s wife, Mrs Graca Machel, who is a UN expert on humanitarian issues and a former First Lady of Mozambique, is still with Annan together with former Tanzanian President Mr Benjamin Mpaka.

South Africa’s Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, a businessman who helped negotiate an end to apartheid, arrived and left.
The crisis has attracted the attention of British Prime Minister, Mr Gordon Brown and US Undersecretary of State Dr Jendayi Frazer, who was also here.

With the international community pulling together in the same direction and the Government tugging along grudgingly, Annan’s long pursuit at the UN that nations must not be allowed to use sovereignty as a shield could be taking shape before the eyes of Kenyans.

The arrivals and departures of top world leaders has left even Kenyans wondering why the country’s crisis has attracted so much unrelenting global attention.

Some Cabinet ministers have blamed it on the media, which they accuse of "exaggerating" the problem. Interviews with representatives of some of the nations that have put Kenya under pressure paint a different picture.

Ms Elisabeth Barbier, France’s ambassador to Kenya, who also heads the European Union group, says the battle the international community is fighting in Kenya is "bigger than Kenya". She says the aim is largely to protect democracy in Africa.

"Kenya was really considered to be a role model, especially with the transition in 2002. There were fears Moi would hang on to power. But it did not happen and that set Kenya apart as a model," Barbier said.

Unwilling to let Kenya collapse
The five years that followed Moi’s departure, she said, saw an expansion of democracy, creating the impression that Kenya had turned the corner and would provide a model for other struggling African states.

"When the elections led to this crisis, and observation missions clearly saying the elections were substandard, there was shock and disappointment. Since this country was a role model, there is concern that Kenya must not fall," she said.

"Everyone expected things to go in the right direction in Kenya. When they did not, everyone was taken aback and was surprised. The disappointment was greater because Kenya was a role model. The issue is now bigger than Kenya. If Kenya can have such problems with its presidential polls, what does that mean for the rest of Africa?"

These concerns, the EU head says, has made the international community keen to "see Kenya out of the ditch."
Part of that, she said, involves addressing the root causes of the crisis.

"If we let democracy collapse and stand aside as Kenya goes down, what do we tell nations like Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone and many other places where they are still struggling?" she posed.

"There is a strong interest in leading Kenya to show the way. We expected more from Kenya. It is a question of tendency. Kenya’s tendency was in the right direction. What happened in the last poll was disappointing," the ambassador added.

Before he began his tour of Africa, US President George Bush called for a "full return to democracy" in Kenya and announced that he would send Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to "deliver a message directly to Kenya’s leaders".

Mr TJ Dowling, the Head of Public Affairs at the US Embassy in Nairobi, says the concern from the rest of the world has been unwavering because "Kenya is a hub" in the region in many ways.

The country has long been cited as a pillar of democracy in a turbulent continent and acted as a launching ground for counter-terrorism activities in the region.

"The international community first reacted with dismay that Kenya could go this way. There were threats that the situation could trigger other bad ones in the region and the continent. It was a shocker. That’s why there was an outpouring of concern," Dowling said.

The embassy, the official said, never thought that the crisis could lead to a civil war, saying America’s view was that it could be sorted out.

"The violence was a manifestation of the people’s discontent. People felt the electoral process had cheated them," he said.

Kenya, he said, also happened to be a nation the international community was already heavily involved. The involvement in the effort to address the election mess was just a continuation of that involvement.

Risk losing donor funding
There is concern that sections of the Government could be trying to delay the talks and buy time hoping the violence and anger will burn itself out and the ODM will gradually be forced to take up seats in Opposition benches.

The EU however thinks such would be misplaced hope and cut of aid will be considered.

Although government officials have said Kenya no longer relies on donor aid for development, a fact the EU acknowledges, the donor nations still think Kenya would lose heavily if they were to cut the funding.

Foreign assistance, Barbier says, account for about five per cent of Kenya’s Budget. But it has been critical in important development areas like energy, particularly the rural electrification project.

Foreign assistance, the EU says, accounted for 40 per cent of the country’s investment in the energy sector in 2007-2008.

In the water sector, donor funding provided up to 60 per cent of the required money.

Donor funding was projected to finance up to 50 per cent of the education and health sector programmes, with projections of rising to 85 per cent for education and 75 per cent for health.

According to EU records, the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE), the flagship of President Kibaki’s economic achievements in the last five years, could suffer badly if Kenya’s relationship with donors is strained.

Of the 53 big firms listed in the NSE, 20 have strong links with Europe. Europe is also the biggest buyer of Kenya’s money minting products.

"There are a number of options, but we are following the talks very closely," Barbier said.

"We don’t have a solution. But we strongly support Annan’s efforts. We also feel all Kenyan players must work closely with Annan and in good faith. As long as Annan is here, we will support him," the French ambassador said.

She acknowledged that Kenya has a strategic significance in the region and could destabilise many states should it go down.

"The Horn of Africa and most of this region are quite unstable. Kenya has been useful in helping resolve conflicts in the region; from Somalia, Sudan all the way to Central Africa. That requires that Kenya remains stable. The impact of the chaos in Kenya is already being felt as far as Eastern Congo. What is happening in Kenya is bigger than Kenya," she said.

The US, other than defending democracy, has a lot more at stake.

Kenya hosts the US Government’s largest diplomatic mission in sub-Saharan Africa, where 18 federal agencies and offices are housed.

US Government’s presence in Nairobi is represented by the Department of State, USAid, Peace Corps, Centres for Disease Control, Department of Defence, Department of Homeland Security, departments of Agriculture, Justice, Commerce and the Library of Congress.

America’s Centres for Disease Control in Nairobi, which partners with Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), is the largest outside the US.

Data released by the US Embassy in Nairobi late last year indicated that America sponsors 180 Kenyans for overseas training or exchange programmes every year.

Google News Alert for: Kenya
2/17/08 5:20 a.m.

Peace Corps alum happy she got to go to Kenya
Indianapolis Star - United States
Ellen Nesbitt spent 16 months in Kenya living in a home with no electricity, walking and taking public transportation for an hour to buy groceries, ...
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Google News Alert for: Kenya
2/17/08 1:20 a.m.

Bush, in Africa, Issues Warning to Kenya
Washington Post - United States
16 -- President Bush opened a six-day, five-nation tour of Africa on Saturday with a warning to Kenya's government that it needs to agree
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Google News Alert for: Kenya
2/16/08 4:15 p.m.

Bush pushes for Kenya power-sharing deal
ABC Online - Australia
By Africa correspondent Andrew Geoghegan
US President George W Bush has called for a power-sharing agreement in Kenya to end the country's post election ...
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Kenya: ECK Sets Deadline for Civic Nominees - Washington,USA
The Electoral Commission of Kenya has directed political parties to forward the names of civic nominees by February 19. In a letter dated January 31, ...
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Kenya: PNU Finally Nominates Kombo - Washington,USA
Ford-Kenya chairman, Mr Musikari Kombo, has finally been nominated to Parliament only days after threatening to quit the PNU coalition. ...
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Why world’s attention is focused on Kenya
Standard - Nairobi,Kenya
Interviews with representatives of some of the nations that have put Kenya under pressure paint a different picture. Ms Elisabeth Barbier, France’s ...
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This as-it-happens Google Alert is brought to you by Google

Google News Alert for: Kenya
2/16/08 11:59 a.m.

Bush pushes Kenya deal during tour of Africa
AFP - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, expected in Kenya on Monday, will deliver a "clear message" that Washington backs Annan's plan for ending the crisis ...
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Bush gets restrained praise on Africa
Chicago Tribune - United States
Bush is bypassing such conflict-ridden nations as Sudan, Somalia, Kenya and Congo. "It is really good that the president wants to highlight positive things ...
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Bush arrives in Tanzania after pushing for Kenya deal
Reuters South Africa - Johannesburg,South Africa
He will not visit Kenya, which is torn by the worst crisis in its history following a disputed election, but is sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ...
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