Kibaki summons rivals for peace talks, but opposition says no

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Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki on Monday reached out to his opposition rivals, Raila Odinga and five of his five senior associates known as the “Pentagon” for talks on Friday to discuss an end to post-election violence.

However, the Kenyan leader’s gesture of goodwill, coming hours before the arrival of the African Union (AU) Chairman John Kufuor of Ghana for mediation efforts on the post-election crisis, was immediately rejected by the opposition chiefs.

Odinga said the opposition party was not willing to attend talks with the President because they did not recognize his ascension to the top political office. The opposition also has issue with the invitation, which was sent through the news media.

Odinga termed the move a public relations venture that is a result of the international pressure mounting on the Kenyan leader to quit in the face of mounting ethnic violence.

He said the invitation to the talks was a sign of panic by the president.
His party, he said, would only attend talks mediated by the AU chairman and urged his rival not to pre-empt the AU mediation efforts in which he is demanding a re-run of the presidential polls.

“President Mwai Kibaki has invited the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga for a meeting to dialogue on the stoppage of violence in the country, consolidation of peace and national reconciliation,” State House said in a short statement.

“The meeting is scheduled for Friday at 2.30 P.M. The invitation also includes five other members of his party,” the statement added.

Political analysts predict the invitation could help soften the hard-line stance of the opposition and pave the way for the start of talks.

President Kibaki has also invited religious leaders, including John Cardinal Njue of the Catholic Church, Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi of the Anglican Church, Bishop Silas Yego of the Africa Inland Church, Professor El Bussaidy, Chairman of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) and its Secretary General, Aden Wachu.

The religious leaders have previously demanded that “justice and reconciliation must prevail before peace is achieved”.

Meanwhile, the Kenyan President has also summoned Parliament to begin its sittings on Tuesday, 15 January. The session would begin with the election of the Speaker of Parliament.

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