Row over diplomatic insults made by Kenyan Foreign Minister

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Professor Oluyemi Adeniji, the Nigerian envoy chairing the ongoing peace and reconciliation talks in Kenya, has told off the country’s foreign minister, Moses Wetangula, for suggesting that the mediator and his team should pack up and go home.

Adeniji, the Chief Mediator at the National Dialogue and Reconciliation Committee talks, responded strongly to Wetangula’s remarks that the Eminent African Personalities team at the talks should leave because they had finished their work.

The undiplomatic remarks from the foreign minister whose ministry was rated among the worst performers in last week’s rating of Kenya’s ministries and public institutions, drew a swift and robust reaction from Adeniji, himself a veteran diplomat.

Adeniji, a former Nigerian Foreign Minister, told Wetangula that he was neither a refugee nor an economic migrant, and that there were many other things he could do other than mediating in the talks.

“I am not a refugee. I haven’t come to Kenya to seek political asylum, nor am I an economic refugee. In fact I have another job waiting for me,” said Adeniji, who took over from ex-UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, who led the African Union ( AU) initiative that hammered out the power-sharing arrangement that brought to an end the post-election violence precipitated by the disputed Kenya presidential election.

The violence, sparked by the disputed 27 December election which saw both incumbent President Mwai Kibaki and his then main opposition challenger Raila Odinga, claim victory, left 1,200 people dead and 350,000 displaced.

Annan brought Kibaki and Odinga to the negotiating table, culminating in the formation of the Grand Coalition Government. Kibaki is the President while Odinga is the Executive Prime Minister.

Adeniji, visibly irritated by Wetangula’s diplomatic gaffe, reminded the Kenyan foreign minister that he was not desperate: “Some of us have homes to go to,” he said.

On Wednesday, Wetangula, a lawyer who is probably not trained in international relations and diplomacy, said he saw no reason why the mediators were still in the country. “I honestly feel that whatever is remaining should be left to Kenyans,” said Wetangula, who ironically is a member of the negotiating team.

The talks have not been progressing at the requisite speed as the bulk of team members are cabinet ministers serving in the Grand Coalition Government. Some appear to have lost interest in the exercise — geared towards narrowing the political divide that tore the country apart in December and January and ensuring there will be no repeat of the skirmishes in the future.

Reminding Wetangula, that he (Adeniji) had been a minister back home in Nigeria and knows ministerial responsibilities, he asked the team members not to be excited by the calm prevailing in the country and disregard concluding the talks. Panapress.

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