Friday, February 29, 2008

Weekend headlines - Sat-Sun 3/1-2/2008

1 - KENYA: "Real work" begins after political deal - UN's IRIN service
2 - From Tutu to Kikwete-World leaders who came calling - Nation
3 - What would have happened had the peace talks failed? - Nation

1 - KENYA: "Real work" begins after political deal

NAIROBI, 29 February (IRIN) - While lauding the agreement between Kenya's two main political parties on power-sharing, humanitarian actors say the hard work has yet to begin - resettling the displaced and reconciling all Kenyans.

"We still have 200 camps [for the displaced]," Bob McCarthy, regional emergency coordinator for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), said. "People are being assisted to meet their immediate, short-term needs. The challenge now is to establish whether conditions are conducive for IDPs to return to their homes."

Describing the agreement signed between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga on 28 February as a starting point, McCarthy said now was the time to move forward "in a very robust way with recovery programmes".

Besida Tonwe, the head of the regional support office for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said: "Let's hope IDPs [internally displaced persons] can go back home to the places they left, not their 'ancestral lands'. there has to be a well-managed return. businesses should receive some kind of compensation for their losses. there should be a constant dialogue between those returning and those who perpetrated acts that led them to flee and with local officials."

She said now money needed to be pumped into early recovery efforts in areas that were severely hit by the post-election violence, which started soon after the announcement of poll results in late December 2007.

"The agreement between the two leaders came as a relief to all Kenyans but my worry is; 'what next'? Will these leaders remember the thousands of people who are still displaced?" questioned John Shikuku, a reverend with the National Alliance of Churches, who coordinated the alliance's secretariat in the IDP camp at the Nairobi showground.

Shikuku said that after the government's recent closure of the camp, about 148 IDP families had gone to the nearby compound of the Dagoretti district officer while another 48 families had gone to the compound of the Kibera district officer.

"Taking a displaced person from one camp to another does not help; we now need to focus on ways of getting these people settled and we hope the politicians will make this a priority," he said. Shikuku said the National Alliance of Churches was raising funds to pay rents for the displaced in urban areas and to begin peace and reconciliation programmes when all are settled.

Francis Mwangi, an IDP from Kuresoi in Molo district, Rift Valley Province, said: "It is good that the agreement has been signed; what we need right now is to stop suffering, we need to feel safe to return to our homes, right now we are still spending the nights at a primary school as we wait for security to improve."

Under their agreement, Kibaki and Odinga will share power, with the creation of a prime minister's post to accommodate Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement.

In Nakuru, IDPs had mixed reactions to the deal. "Most IDPs here in the camp [almost entirely Kikuyu] feel President Kibaki has sold them out - they see this agreement as strengthening their enemies," Jesse Njoroge, the camp's coordinator, told IRIN.

"Similarly, many Kalenjin people in town feel shortchanged - the post of prime minister, they feel, should have gone to William Ruto, and so they feel all the hard work they did in the run-up to the election has been lost to Nyanza Province."

The Nakuru Showground is hosting at least 12,800 IDPs.

"The announcement has had no major effect here," Njoroge said. "The IDPs feel that an agreement at the national level does not guarantee their safety and security at the grassroots level - these agreements don't always trickle down."

He said the IDPs would only consider returning to the homes once the security situation improved significantly, "to a point where they are able to live safely side by side with the people who evicted them. A few IDPs are ready to leave the camp yet they are waiting to see if they will be compensated for what they've lost," he said.

He added: "What is important is not co-existence of leaders, but co-existence of Kenyans."


2 - From Tutu to Kikwete-World leaders who came calling

Publication Date: 3/1/2008

On January 29, Mr Kofi Annan predicted that the squabble over the disputed presidential results would be solved within a month.

Turns out he still had a day to go when President Mwai Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga finally inked out an agreement at Harambee House on Thursday, February 28 — with everything else on his mind, the Ghanaian prophet must have forgotten that this was a leap year.

One month? Extra day or not, it sounded like an optimistic bet. After all, Mr Annan was hardly the first — or last — international envoy of repute to visit post-election Kenya with a bouquet of olive branches, most of which were used as firewood. Between all the presidents, ex-presidents, saints and wives of saints, Nairobi has had so many high-profile visitors since December 30 we were in danger of becoming fashionable.

Can anyone remember them all? Say, Ahmad Tejan-Kabbah, formerly the President of Sierra Leone and these days the chairman of the Commonwealth Observer Group?

He was the first man to try whispering some sense into President Kibaki and Mr Odinga’s ears, having been in the neighbourhood as an elections observer. But of course we’ve forgotten about him, because on January 2, 2008, Desmond Tutu showed up. The archbishop himself!

“We did not invite him to talk,” said PNU’s spokesman when they heard he was coming. “For us, he came as a tourist.”

Well, that was indeed the stamp they gave him at customs, but one has to wonder which tour company he signed up with. Whoever they were, they landed old Tutu a fine presidential tour of State House. So much for the Mara; perhaps President Kibaki was trying to lure nervous travellers back to the country with this new rare package.

Re-entry pass
Exit Archbishop Tutu, enter Ms Jendayi Frazer, the US assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. No one had much to say about the stamp on her passport, but given the way she came and went over the next two months, she must have had a re-entry pass at least.

By this time, Ghana’s President (also the African Union chairman) John Kufuor had expressed his interest in joining the party, but presidential protocol meant he needed a formal invitation from President Kibaki, who was reluctant to give it.

While thinking it over, he sent his minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Moses Wetang’ula, over to Mr Kufuor’s house for a frank and unbiased briefing on Kenya’s situation.

Thus informed, it was January 8 before Mr Kufuor finally got the nod, and even then President Kibaki’s chin hardly budged.

According to Dr Alfred Mutua, Mr Kibaki’s wily spokesman, President Kufuor was simply “coming to have a cup of tea” with his buddy Mwai. There was “nothing to be negotiated.” This was before the tea estates were razed and their workers sent into refugee camps — the death toll hadn’t reached 600 yet.

Later that same day, a delegation flew in from the Forum for Former African Heads of State — a sinister sounding group if there ever was one.

But apparently they came in good faith. Dr Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia), Mr Ketumile Masire (Botswana), Mr Joaquim Chisano (Mozambique) and Mr Benjamin Mkapa (Tanzania) all knocked at State House that evening, a visit they followed with another to Mr Odinga the next day.

The tea must have tasted bitter all around, because President Kufuor and his retired colleagues all left shortly without managing to get the two rivals to sit down together. The best Kufuor could manage was convince them to work with his countryman, Mr Annan.

To fill the time between President Kufuor’s departure and Mr Annan’s arrival, the EU Commissioner for Development, Mr Louis Mitchell, flew into Nairobi on January 19. He met briefly with Mr Odinga and President Kibaki, accomplished nothing, and left.

Spurred by failure
Mr Annan finally appeared on January 22, the same day as Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni — who, it must be said, received much less applause.

We were more than three weeks into the crisis now, and President Museveni was the only African leader to have congratulated President Kibaki.

But Mr Annan didn’t waste much time. Spurred, no doubt, by his failure in 1994 to prevent Rwanda’s genocide, he promised not to leave until Kenya had found a way out. Two days later, President Museveni was on his way out, and Mr Odinga and President Kibaki were shaking hands for all the world to see.

Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi had been thoughtful enough to send his own Secretary of African Union Affairs that day as a gesture of goodwill — Dr Ali Abdul Salam Triki came bearing humanitarian gifts for the countless displaced victims in the country, but if he wanted to capture the spotlight, his timing was poor. All eyes were on the handshake. By the time you finish reading this sentence, I bet, you’ve already forgotten his name.

Britain’s Foreign Office minister Mark Malloch-Brown was a touch more memorable when he came on the 28th.

“The British Government doesn’t have a horse in this race,” he said, perhaps to calm PNU’s disgruntlement over suggestions that the UK considered Mr Kibaki’s presidency illegitimate. It wasn’t quite that, he said, they simply weren’t ready to recognise its legitimacy either.

Two days later, the UN’s secretary-general, Mr Ban Ki-moon, hopped down from the AU summit in Addis Ababa. He squinted, smiled and left.

Uneasy calm
February turned the corner, and Mr Annan’s mediation hit its stride. An uneasy calm prevailed across the country.

He had Graca Machel, Nelson Mandela’s wife, and Mkapa at his side, but everyone knew it was Mr Annan all the way.

Progress was good, and just when it seemed it might be flagging, Ms Condoleezza Rice popped in to give him a boost from Uncle Sam on February 17. Not everyone was happy to see her. Mr Wetang’ula, her Kenyan counterpart, warned her not to “make any mistake of putting a gun to anybody’s head,” since as everyone had learned by then, that was a job for the police.

When her turn came, Condi met with all the principals and, in much more subtle terms than Mr Wetang’ula’s, let it be known that the US was ready to pull its six-shooters if necessary.

“I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Mr Annan said a few days later.

Mr Jean Ping, the new chair of the AU Commission, had arrived by then, followed a few days later by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.

The mediation had come to within millimetres of a close, then seemed to fall apart when Mr Annan announced a suspension in talks.

And then, out of the blue, came February 28. President Kibaki shook Mr Odinga’s hand, and signed over the prime ministership. Just what Mr Annan said behind closed doors in those final hours will be the source of endless speculation — I’ve already invented a few conversations myself — but for now let’s just hope the deal sticks.

Put your guns down, Kenya, and your bows and arrows too. Save those pangas for the harvest.

3 - What would have happened had the peace talks failed?

Publication Date: 3/1/2008

Although there is some breakthrough in the Kofi Annan-led mediation talks, more work needs to be done to ensure they succeed. It is important, therefore, to reflect on the consequences if they had failed, or if the process falters.

ODM’s earlier threat of mass action if a political settlement was not reached is laughable. When will our politicians judge the mood and spirit of the people they claim to represent? Surely, the mood and spirit were about the success of the mediation.

ODM leader Raila Odinga perhaps captured that mood when he called off mass action. But it would have been interesting to see how many Kenyans would have answered the mass protest call had police commissioner Hussein Ali kept his violence machinery in check.

If the talks failed the country would have faced partitioning. Eldoret could easily have become the capital of the ODM government, and Kenya a failed state without the rule of law to talk about as ethnic barons and warlords would have used their ill-gotten wealth to tear the country apart.

Central Province and parts of Eastern would mostly likely have been President Kibaki’s only area of jurisdiction, surrounded by the rest of the country that has allegiance and pays taxes to ODM.

Regional trade routes through Kenya would not have been viable. And with two parallel governments, a vicious civil war pitting the Gema (Gikuyu, Embu, Meru Association) communities against the other 38 would have been unavoidable.

This tragic scenario would not perhaps have been allowed to happen by the regional and international communities. Grapevine has it that Kenya would have been invaded by one or more of its regional neighbours, and international intervention would not have been ruled out.

Possibly, the regional forces would have acted as proxies for the international forces and Kenya’s independence and survival would have been in serious jeopardy.

Are Kenyans always scared of imagining the worst scenarios? Are they always hoping that things will turn out well? Probably, because we are a fanatically religious nation and are constantly seeking divine intervention. Well, Annan is part of the divine intervention, yet some Kenyans are yet to show support for his mission.

If secular and religious lobby groups and Kenyans in general understand the dangers and internalise the gravity of the situation, it is our duty to show that we have faith in Mr Annan and his team. We should hold mass action for them. Let us carry out mass action against President Kibaki and Mr Odinga and the parties they lead so that they keep their eyes on the prize — the success of the talks.

Kenyans need not march or do anything to invite Maj-Gen Ali’s violence machinery, and they could be creative by showing their support for Mr Annan and his team as well as venting their anger on the two party leaders.

Demonstrators driving past Serena Hotel, the talks venue, could honk their horns twice. Those walking past could wave paper national flags.

These actions could be repeated near State and Pentagon Houses. As the movement grows, Kenyans would be creative in their mass action and other actions would follow.

The message Kenyans should give to both President Kibaki and Mr Odinga and fellow travellers is that the people need a political settlement that goes beyond the sharing of political power between ODM and PNU. Economic, security and social reforms are fundamental to peace.

While sharing power and having a time frame for the presidential election are important, the implementation of economic, social and security reforms cannot wait. Illegal militias and criminals must be brought to justice.

Politicians and business people involved in the creation of illegal militias must be prosecuted, and the displaced resettled and given the right to return to their land accompanied by robust security. Constitutional and legal reforms that underpin the political settlement must be carried out.

A programme that immediately deals with youth unemployment must be implemented forthwith. There are no longer any other political short-cuts for diffusing the tensions that threaten to tear the country apart. Mass action in support of Mr Annan and his team is the thing.

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