Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Mr Annan opened formal mediation talks between the two on Tuesday. Kenya's government and opposition are due to begin full negotiations to try to end the crisis resulting from last month's disputed presidential election. President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga have each appointed three-man teams to discuss proposals drawn up by former UN chief Kofi Annan.

At earlier preliminary talks, he urged both sides to help restore calm. Ahead of the talks, the top US envoy to Africa described recent violence in the Rift Valley as "ethnic cleansing". Up to 900 people have died as violence has spread since the 27December presidential poll, which the opposition claims was rigged. At least nine people were killed in outbreaks of violence throughout the country on Tuesday, following the killing of Mugabe Ware, an MP from Mr Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

Meanwhile, Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula has said Mr Kibaki will attend the African Union summit on Thursday, dismissing suggestions that there were more pressing issues for him to attend to at home. On Monday, ODM Secretary General Anyang Nyong'o called on member states not to recognise what he called the illegitimate and illegal government of Mr Kibaki.

But Mr Wetangula said there was no injunction against the president and so he had to discharge his function as a head of state. The three-man teams of representatives from Mr Kibaki's Party of National Unity and the ODM were due to begin their deliberations in the capital, Nairobi, on Wednesday.

Negotiations will be based on a series of proposals drawn up by Mr Annan and his team, which includes former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and Graca Machel, the wife of ex-South African President Nelson Mandela. The former UN secretary general has given the two sides four weeks to resolve the "immediate political issues" and up to a year to sort out details.

Party of National Unity:
Justice Minister Martha Karua, Mutula Kilonzo, former Health Minister Prof Samson Ongeri
William Ruto, former Kenyan UK High Commissioner Sally Kosgei, former Vice-President Musalia Mudavadi

Launching the formal mediation process on Tuesday, Mr Annan warned that the crisis was having a "profound and negative impact" and urged both sides to take the talks seriously or risk losing international aid.

The BBC's Adam Mynott in Nairobi says parts of the country, particularly the Rift Valley and western Kenya, are cauldrons of hatred as a result of inter-ethnic fighting during the past month. Even if the talks are successful, some of the wounds caused to Kenyan society may take many years to heal, our correspondent says.

Members of Mr Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe have in recent days been launching attacks on Luos and Kalenjins, who largely backed Mr Odinga in the election. The initial violence was characterised by mob attacks mainly targeting Kikuyus. Earlier, Kenyan Internal Security Minister George Saitoti said the authorities would now "act tough" when dealing with those behind the ethnic and political violence.

"We do not want to have the criminals running around and disrupting the activities of this country and I would like to tell those... who have been used to taking laws into their hands... that they are going to face very, very, very serious consequences," he told NTV television.

Speaking in Ethiopia on the eve of the AU summit, US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Jendayi Frazer, described recent violence in the Rift Valley as "clear ethnic cleansing". Ms Frazer said that what she had seen when she visited Kenya earlier this month was a clear effort to drive out Kikuyus. "The aim originally was not to kill, it was to cleanse, it was to push them out of the region," she said "The cycle of retaliation has gone too far and become more dangerous." Ms Frazer criticised leaders from all sides for making inflammatory remarks and said those guilty of inciting or carrying out the violence should be held to account.

The UN's special adviser for the prevention of genocide, Francis Deng, has said he is sending one of his members of staff to observe the situation in Kenya. "At the moment I would not use the word genocide," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme. "At the moment we are concerned about certain atrocities that could conceivably escalate if they're not stopped."



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