Monday, March 3, 2008

Today's headlines - Mon 3/2/2008

Three stories followed by links to others:

1 - Kenyan rivals see speedy resolution to crisis issues - Reuters

Mon 3 Mar 2008, 11:44 GMT

By Duncan Miriri

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya's political rivals vowed on Monday to hasten talks to resolve longstanding disputes over land and wealth behind a post-election crisis that shattered the country's image as one of Africa's most stable democracies.

Kenyans exhausted by a wave of looting, burning and ethnic killings sparked by a disputed December 27 election have welcomed a power-sharing deal signed last week to end turmoil that has driven away tourists and dampened economic prospects.

Having brokered the deal, former U.N. boss and chief mediator Kofi Annan urged Kenyans to support the agreement and hold their leaders to the promises -- including land and electoral reforms -- made to them.

Annan, who handed over day-to-day mediation to Nigeria's ex-foreign minister Oluyemi Adeniji, had said long-term issues should be resolved within a year, but political negotiators were hopeful they could speed up their work.

"As far as I am concerned we ought to finish this phase, this week," government negotiator Mutula Kilonzo told reporters after discussions chaired for the first time by Adeniji.

Opposition negotiator Musalia Mudavadi also said he did not expect the remaining phase of the talks to drag on for a year.

"We will find a way of moving faster," he added.

Parliament is due to meet on Thursday to pass a constitutional amendment to allow for a coalition government led by President Mwai Kibaki. His opposition rival, Raila Odinga, will take a newly created post of prime minister.

More than 1,000 people were killed and 300,000 left homeless in violence that erupted when Kibaki was sworn in as president. Odinga says he was robbed of victory.

The turmoil was expected to cost Kenya 260 billion shillings in the first half of the year, according to a February 28-dated report by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers.

It said 100 billion shillings were lost in January alone, compared to the government's estimate of 60 billion.

Washington, which sent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Nairobi to shore up Annan's mediation efforts, has given Kenya $14.7 million in aid.

In a "message of hope" published in the Daily Nation newspaper on Monday, Annan saluted Kibaki and Odinga for agreeing to share power and "in that single act of statesmanship, saved your beautiful country, which was about to self-destruct".

Despite the relief felt by most Kenyans, many are sceptical that the two men -- who fell out when Kibaki reportedly reneged on a previous agreement to create a prime minister's job for Odinga -- can overcome differences to work together.

Annan, who spent six weeks in Kenya, said he was touched that a rhino born in a game reserve was named after him.

"I am told that rhinos can live 40 or 50 years. I hope that during baby Kofi's lifespan, he will see a Kenya that only grows stronger, more unified, more prosperous and more peaceful as the years go by."

© Reuters 2008. All Rights Reserved.

2 - Fifteen killed in Kenya as politicians thrash out reforms - AFP

3 hours ago

NAIROBI (AFP) — Fresh attacks claimed at least 15 people in Kenya's Rift Valley region overnight, police said Monday, while rival political leaders worked out details for reform under last week's power-sharing accord.

"A total of 15 people died: six burnt in their houses, six hacked with machetes and three shot dead," a police commander said after the attack that occurred in the Rift Valley's Trans Nzoia area.

Police said the attackers, armed with machetes and guns, pounced on their victims who were sleeping in the volatile area that was rocked by violence in the weeks after a disputed December 27 presidential election.

"It was horrifying. These people were merciless. They burnt people alive. Aout 10 houses were razed," said another police officer, who asked not to be named.

The government and opposition resumed talks in the capital Nairobi, under a new international mediator, after a weekend break in a marathon talks on the accord to end share power and end violence.

Former Nigerian foreign minister Oluyemi Adeniji replaced former UN chief Kofi Annan who left on Sunday, after obtaining a deal between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Negotiations are now concentrating on reforms to address historical injustices, with electoral, institutional, constitutional and judicial issues to address impunity and corruption and increase government transparency and accountability.

They are also to discuss land reforms, measures to address poverty, unemployment and inequity.

The rival leaders agreed last Thursday to create a post of a prime minister and two deputies under the east African country's current constitution pending a comprehensive constitutional review in 12 months' time.

Odinga accused Kibaki of rigging the presidential elections and the ensuing violence left more than 1,500 dead.

Odinga is set to become prime minister after parliament entrenches the deal in the constitution.

In article published in the Daily Nation newspaper, Annan told Kenyans to hold accountable leaders and urged them to forget the past.

"I know you will support this agreement, even if some of you might feel that your party conceded too much. But compromise was key to success, and this compromise opens the door to a unified, prosperous and peaceful Kenya," Annan said wrote.

"My heart aches especially for you, especially for those who have lost loved ones. We cannot bring them back. But you can, through the way you choose to live your lives without them, ensure that the legacy of their loss is not one of hatred and revenge," the former UN chief wrote.

"You and your country can move forward and find some solace in healing, if there are processes of justice, truth and reconciliation that will take leadership from your new government, but it will also take commitment from all of you."

Government and opposition lawmakers are to meet separately to discuss ways of getting the deal enshrined in the constitution when the 222-member assembly resumes on Thursday.

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

Besides the civilian toll, the crisis also affected the economy, particularly weakening the key tourism and agriculture, which both sides have pledged to rebuild.

On Sunday, Odinga pressed for foreign countries to lift travel advisories against visiting Kenya.

"There is no need for anyone to fear coming to our country, therefore I make a passionate appeal to the countries that issued travel advisories to the tourists ... to remove those advisories immediately," he told local media.

The state-run Kenya Tourism Board sent a delegation to the International Tourism Bourse in Berlin.

"For us in the tourism industry we welcome the return of peace to our country becuase our industry relies in the perception. Peace and stability is an important influence to potentions consumers of the tourism products," KTB spokeswoman Rose Kwena told AFP.

3 - Deal-broker Annan leaves Kenya - BBC

Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has left Kenya after helping secure a deal between the country's rival political leaders.

Mr Annan successfully mediated in talks following the presidential election in December which the opposition said was flawed by vote rigging.

A thousand people have been killed in violence since the poll.

The power-sharing deal gave opposition leader Raila Odinga the post of executive prime minister.

Mr Annan has now gone to neighbouring Uganda before returning to his base in Switzerland.

He has said he will be back in Kenya to monitor progress in efforts to reform Kenya's constitution and institutions.

Air of calm

We want Kenya to return to the old Kenya: stable, peaceful, prosperous and welcoming
--Kofi Annan

Mr Annan urged all Kenyans to take part in building a healed and reconciled country, and not leave it to the politicians.

"I would urge all of you to remain engaged," he said in a message to Kenyans on his departure. "We want Kenya to return to the old Kenya: stable, peaceful, prosperous and welcoming."

"Each and every one of you has a role to play," he added.

Mr Annan arrived in Kenya on 22 January when rival ethnic communities were engaged in horrific acts of blood letting following the disputed election.

He said he would come with no solution to Kenya's problems but to insist that one was found.


  • New two-party coalition government to be set up
  • Cabinet posts to be divided equally between parties
  • Raila Odinga to take new post of prime minister, can only be dismissed by National Assembly
  • Two new deputy PMs to be appointed, one from each member of coalition

The BBC's Adam Mynott in Nairobi says his arrival immediately injected an air of relative calm and that was reinforced when, two days later, he persuaded President Kibaki and Mr Odinga to meet and shake hands.

A negotiating process was set up and agreements on ways to end the violence and tackle the humanitarian crisis quickly followed.

The talks then stalled and started to lose ground.

The former UN secretary general insisted that negotiations were always going to be a matter of give and take.
Debt of gratitude

But a week ago they hit a crisis point and on Tuesday he suspended discussions between the panel and negotiators because no progress was being made.

He said Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga had to take responsibility and meet.

Five hours of discussions led to an agreement on power sharing and a path towards a stable future.

Our correspondent says Kenyans owe Kofi Annan and his diplomatic skills a huge debt of gratitude.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/03/02 11:22:58 GMT© BBC MMVIII

Google News Alert for: Kenya
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