27 January 2008

Kenya: Kibaki, Raila Must Be Ready for Choices, Says Annan

Nairobi — Former UN chief, Mr Kofi Annan, visited internally displaced people then told President Kibaki and ODM leader, Mr Raila Odinga, to be ready to make hard choices on the negotiation table for the sake of peace.

Annan said, even as mediation talks go on, Kibaki and Raila "must be prepared to take tough decisions to restore peace to build a strong and viable Kenya."

Annan managed to bring the two protagonists to a meeting at Harambee House, the President's office, on Thursday to begin talks on resolving the crisis arising from the disputed December 27 presidential election.

Annan did not elaborate on the hard decisions he said the two leaders must face.

Annan and his team of former South African First Lady Graca Machel and former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa earlier in the morning flew to displaced persons' camps in Molo and Trans Nzoia.

At Kachibora, in Trans Nzoia, Annan urged for the arrest and subsequent prosecution of perpetrators of violence.

Annan flew to the camp currently hosting 20,000 people in a police chopper amid tight security. He was accompanied by Cabinet minister, Mr Samuel Poghisio. Rift Valley PC, Mr Hassan Noor Hassan, received them.

A spokesperson of the displaced victims, Mr John Motari, gave an emotional story on how they were evicted from Geta farm by armed youths.

The former UN chief asked Kenyan leaders to put heads together and resolve the violence, which has claimed lives and caused loss of property.

He called for adequate compensation for loss of property, saying this would enable the affected persons re-build their lives.

"I can imagine how comfortably you lived at your homes and then suddenly you were evicted by your neighbours, your children are not going to school and nothing is going on in your fertile farms," said Annan.

He reminded Kenyan leaders of their responsibility to bring peace through dialogue.

Back in Nairobi, Annan said in a press briefing: "The crisis has mutated from an electoral dispute into much deeper problems with a high potential for recurrence."

"We cannot accept that this sort of incident takes place every five years or so and no one is held to account. Impunity cannot be allowed to stand Any attempt to resolve the issue must go beyond electoral dispute if a lasting solution is to be found".

"We must tackle the fundamental issues underlying the disturbances -like equitable distribution of resources - or else we will be back here again after three or four years." said Annan at the Serena Hotel.

He said Kenyans must lay ground for future peaceful elections, adding that this was not only a challenge for leaders but every citizen, the civil society and religious leaders.

Abuses of human rights

He asked the civil society to remain engaged and ensure their voices are heard and continue to demand viable solutions.

He condemned what he called "gross abuses of human rights whose facts should be established and those responsible held to account."

Said Annan: "What we saw was rather tragic. We visited several IDP (internally displaced persons) camps, we saw people pushed from their homes, from their farms, grandmothers, children, families uprooted."

Annan later entered a closed door a meeting with ambassadors from the European Union and the UK High Commissioner, Mr Adam wood.

Details of the meeting were scanty after the media were asked to take pictures and leave the venue.

Separately, State House denied media reports alluding to the creation of the position of a Prime Minister.

It said that while the Government has welcomed dialogue with the ODM, there is no time when Kibaki has offered a post of Prime Minister to Raila.

The statement further noted that the issue of the post of Prime Minister is a constitutional matter and currently there is no provision in the Kenyan Constitution for the office of Prime Minister.

Kibaki called on all Kenyans to respect the rule of law and sanctity of human life.

He appealed to all Kenyans to embrace the spirit of reconciliation and dialogue to ensure that peace prevails.

Annan, who is heading a panel of eminent persons in the mediation process, later held talks with President Kibaki at State House, Nairobi, where he briefed the Head of State on his visit to the violence hit areas.

Annan suggested the increase of security personnel in areas rocked by violence.

He appealed to politicians from all parties to visit the affected areas and camps of the displaced persons to see for themselves the damage, which can be caused by reckless statements.

President Kibaki reiterated his commitment to dialogue, saying calls for peace should be matched by statements by all leaders in a manner that is reconciliatory and respectful of the wishes of the majority of Kenyans.

He also urged Kenyan leaders to give the initiative by Annan a chance, adding that he is encouraged by efforts by the Annan team that led to a meeting with Honourable Raila Odinga.

Copyright © 2008 The East African Standard. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.