Tuesday, February 19, 2008
KENYA: THE PEACE-TALKS HAVE COLLAPSED! WHAT NEXT? TOTAL WAR!
Mediation efforts to resolve the post-election crisis are in danger of collapse after the government ruled out possibilities of sharing out power under the so-called grand coalition.
President Mwai Kibaki and MPs allied to his PNU party appeared to seal the fate of the power sharing arrangement when they insisted that “any political solution that will be proposed must be in tandem with the current Kenyan constitution.”
The President’s insistence on sticking to the constitution--a colonial-era treaty which both ODM and PNU agree is long overdue for reform--could block any special new arrangement to accommodate Raila Odinga’s party which is pushing for the creation of the premier’s post.
Political analysts believe the power sharing arrangement can only come into effect if undertaken in tandem with constitutional reforms. The current constitution does not have a position for a prime minister.
And last evening, the European Union warned that it would not hesitate to take “stern action against individuals perceived to be the stumbling block to the negotiations.”
The EU stressed that it was watching the unfolding events in the country keenly and asked the two parties to adhere to the outcome of the Annan sessions. President Kibaki, however, in a statement dispatched by the Presidential Press Service (PPS) soon after a meeting with the chief mediator at Harambee House, gave assurance that the government is supportive of the mediation process.
“The current constitution must serve as a guide while the mediation team discusses what legal and institutional reforms are needed to move the country forward,” the PPS statement quoted the President.
He nevertheless expressed his willingness to work together and share responsibilities (not executive power) in government with members of ODM. Besides, the President conceded that the negotiations, chaired by Mr Annan, had reached a critical stage and reiterated his resolve to ensure that they go through all the remaining stages.
President Kibaki released the statement hours after his negotiators almost paralysed talks in yesterday’s morning session in which they had expressly rejected international calls for a power sharing deal with the opposition.
The PNU negotiators had told chief mediator Kofi Annan that the Government is instead willing to co-opt ODM members into a Government of National Unity.
In what could jeopardise the outcome of the talks that are now in their crucial stage after the violence that rocked the country following the disputed December 27 presidential election results, PNU negotiators are reported to have told their ODM counterparts that it was upon the President to use his discretional powers to incorporate anyone in his cabinet. The latest crisis emerged a day after the visit of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who in no uncertain terms told parties on either side of the negotiating table to reach an agreement on the formation of a joint government. One of the PNU negotiators Mutula Kilonzo bristled when reporters quoted Rice to him as he walked into the afternoon session.
“Those are her own views. This is not America, this is Kenya. We have a constitution,” he said, noting a subcommittee was formed to discuss the issue of “structures of governance”.“We have a system of laws. I believe we are going to come to a reasonable arrangement.”
On the other side, ODM negotiators insisted that a package of piece meal constitutional amendments be passed to accommodate the proposed power sharing agreement pending comprehensive constitutional reforms. The hard-line positions by the feuding camps compelled Kofi Annan to hastily convene a meeting with President Kibaki at Harambee House at 2 p.m. yesterday. Annan was accompanied by Nigerian diplomat Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji who will be assisting in the mediation efforts.
Mr. Adeniji, a former Nigerian minister and UN official, was appointed to assist the Annan team after the government side had rejected the participation of South African businessman Cyril Ramaphosa.
It was after the one-hour meeting between President Kibaki and Annan that the PNU negotiators agreed to resume the talks at Serena Hotel.
The President further cancelled a PNU parliamentary group meeting that he was scheduled to chair at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) at 4 p.m.
The new development comes barely a day after United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had impressed on President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga to agree to a “real power sharing deal” to resolve the current crisis.
Secretary Rice had nevertheless explained that the United States was not dictating a solution to the Kenyan crisis. During yesterday’s morning session, PNU negotiators informed chief negotiator Kofi Annan that the government would under no circumstance share executive power with the opposition.
The government side argued that the proposed power sharing deal is not provided for in the current constitution and they would therefore not be coerced into entering into an illegitimate agreement with the opposition. They insisted that President Kibaki must continue to be the head of state and the head of government pending constitutional reforms that would accommodate the proposed power sharing between PNU and ODM.
The PNU negotiators told Annan that the President had won the elections genuinely under the current constitution and should be allowed to exercise all the powers legally vested in the presidency.
But even in their proposed Government of National Unity with ODM, the PNU team maintained that the President must retain his discretion to appoint cabinet ministers from both parties pending comprehensive constitutional reforms that will accommodate power sharing.
The deadline set by former U.N. boss Annan for a political deal by mid-February has passed, even after last week’s trip to a secluded safari lodge to focus minds.
But the Ghanaian has vowed to stay on until mediation reaches an “irreversible point”.
The meeting between President Kibaki and Kofi Annan was attended by PNU negotiators Martha Karua, Moses Wetangula, Mutula Kilonzo and Sam Ongeri. Others present at the meeting included Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, ministers George Saitoti, Amos Kimunya and Uhuru Kenyatta.And as the PNU negotiators outlined their rigid conditions to Kofi Annan team, PNU legislators convened a press briefing at Parliament Buildings where they reaffirmed the party’s resolve not to share power with ODM. Led by Ganze MP Danson Mungatana, the PNU legislators galvanised their support for a Government of National Unity with ODM. The government parliamentary group rejected any proposal for power sharing insisting that President Mwai Kibaki won the elections and therefore has the sole constitutional right to create his government.
They said the constitution allows the President to “incorporate” members of the opposition into his government.
Last week, Justice Minister Ms Martha Karua had harshly dismissed the western envoys as irrelevant, stating that Kenya was no longer under colonialism
“Kenya is under no obligation to follow the instructions of western countries. They are abusing our hospitality. They should not step on our soil and start telling us what to do,” said Karua, answering the High Commissioner in Kenya Adam Wood after the latter maintained that Britain does not recognise President Kibaki’s government as it “does not represent the democratic will of Kenyans.”
Again last weekend, following the confirmation of the visit of the United States top diplomat, PNU had made clear that it would not be rushed into a deal. Condoleezza Rice tried in vain to address those concerns explaining that the US is “not dictating but aiding in what Kenyans have expressed in their impatience for the two parties to agree,” failing in reassuring the upset PNU hardliners.