Kenyan rivals sign deal to end political deadlock

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Kenya’s rival political parties have signed a deal to end the country’s political impasse which has persisted since the 27 December presidential and parliamentary elections. The deal was signed at a secret location, believed to be an animal park in Tsavo Game Reserve, about 300 kilometres outside the capital Nairobi, where intensive talks to end the impasse kicked off Thursday afternoon.

The exact details of the deal, signed under the supervision of the chairman of t he African Union (AU) and UN-backed mediating team led by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, have not been established. But Annan said the details of the agreement would be publicised at a news conference here Friday.

“Kofi Annan will return to Nairobi tomorrow (Friday). He will speak to the press to outline what was agreed in 48 hours of discussions at a location outside Nai r obi. Mr Annan will make available the text of the agreement signed today (Thursd a y) between the parties,” a UN spokesman said in a statement.

After their meeting with Annan, Kenyan parliamentarians Tuesday backed a plan for a grand coalition government proposed to end the ethnic violence that has rocked Kenya since its disputed presidential elections. The former UN chief had urged the Kenyan lawmakers to urgently seek ways to end the post-election bloodshed and appealed to them to consider a proposed “roadmap for legal, legislative and institutional reforms, covering the courts and election boards.

These, he said, were prerequisites for a fresh election within two years. Annan termed the challenge facing the parliamentarians a “big task” which must be undertaken urgently.

Legislators from the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and their rival s of the Party of National Unity (PNU) agreed to back a plan to end the politica l impasse but many were deeply divided on the specific details of a proposed political settlement. Kenya’s Finance Minister Amos Kimunya said the session set up the momentum for resolving the crisis but said decisions taken may not be binding. “We expect the outcome would be in the interest of the country. It is what all K enyans are waiting for,” said Kilemi Mwiria, a legislator on President Mwai Kibaki’s side.

Annan, leading the international mediation efforts to end the post-election cris is, met parliamentarians for a special session of the House to brainstorm on proposed constitutional changes during the closed-door informal session.

The former UN chief, racing under pressure to deliver a political settlement wit h 48 to 72 hours, heightened diplomatic efforts to reach a political settlement and urged parliamentarians to save Kenya from ruins, and warned the government of consequences of failure. “There is the need for a grand coalition government in which the two parties will work together. A failure to do this would paralyse the government,” Annan warned.

Annan’s plan to create a grand coalition Tuesday caused an uproar among the pro- Kibaki politicians with PNU negotiation leader, Martha Karua, writing a protest l etter to Annan over his proposal for elections after a two-year period. “We have sent a protest letter to the chair of the mediation (Annan). We didn’t agree to elections after two years. Annan said the issue had been agreed on. It i s a big thing, our supporters would not agree to it,” said Danson Mungatana, the PNU spokesman.

ODM wants the Prime Minister to take the role of head of government while the President retains his role as head of state and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. PNU legislators said they had agreed on the need for legal reforms but were not keen on constitutional amendments to create the post of a prime minister. “We have agreed to the proposals to set up an independent team to verify the tru th of what happened during the elections but we are not agreeable to the issue w h ere the legitimacy of the president is questioned, if there is a need for a join t government, it should be done within the constitution, not through an amendment , ” Mungatana said.

Earlier, Mutula Kilonzo, a member of the mediating team, said Annan’s call for constitutional amendments were “premature” and might require a referendum. “I am not in the negotiating table to create jobs for some people. Some people d o not know what the post of a prime minister looks like. The issue of the devolu t ion of the executive requires a referendum,” Kilonzo, a member of the smaller ODM -Kenya, said. “We are there, we will insist whatever changes are done must be done on the basis of law. Some amendments require a referendum. They are so fundamental like the devolution of the executive,” he emphasised.

“I am out there to bring peace for the country, not to create jobs…but we are on top of things. I do not think we can negotiate on the basis of pressure. We will insist whatever changes are done must be on the basis of the law,” Kilonzo said.

BY Panapress

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