Four retired African presidents arrived here Tuesday t o mediate in the stand off between Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and opposition O r ange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga, who are locked in a bitter row ove r who won the 27 December presidential poll.
Former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano, retired Zambian President, former Tanzania President Benjamin Mkapa and Botwana’s Ketimire Masire said they were i n Kenya on their own volition to “stand with Kenyan people in times of need”.
Speaking before they left for a tour of Nairobi slums most affected in the six-d ay violence, Mr Chissano said they wanted to bolster international initiatives t o defuse the storm that has the potential to spin out of control to the rest of t h e region.
“We are here to see what has been happening in Kenya. We are shocked by the even ts of the past two weeks,” he said.
He added metaphorically, “When your neighbour’s house catches fire, run there to help. We came here to say we are concerned.”
He said the four eminent persons would tour the violence-hit provinces to asses the damage wrought by the mayhem before holding talks with President Kibaki.
The four leaders arrived here ahead of President John Kufuor of Ghana, who is he ading an international mediation team to end the post-election violence that has claimed nearly 500 lives and displaced 255,000 others.
President Kufuor, who is also African Union chairman, is expected here late Tues day to kick-start an international mediation process that was initially opposed by the Kenyan government.
The aftermath of the violence has unleashed a crisis that is being felt in East Africa given Kenya’s influence on the regional economies.
Already Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and eastern DR Congo have reported acute fuel sh ortages that have precipitated rationing as the knock-on effect of the political stand off is felt far afield.
The four countries get their supplies through the Mombasa port on the Kenyan coa st, which has been cut off from the rest of the region.
The violence, which has polarised the country along ethnic lines, began 29 Decem ber after President Kibaki was controversially declared winner of the polls cond u cted three days earlier.