9 December 2009

Kenya: Annan Upset Over Cabinet Wrangles

Nairobi — MEDIATOR Kofi Annan yesterday expressed "grave concern" about the wrangling between political leaders in the grand coalition and warned it would undermine the government's efforts to achieve the reform agenda by the end of next year.

"It is imperative these reforms bear full fruit before end of 2010 and before the next wave of electoral politics hit the country - although the country seems to be in the mode already," he said.

In an apparent reference to the ODM wrangles over the Mau forest evictions, he said Kenya would only slide backwards if ministers attended Cabinet meetings, took decisions but then went and complained publicly as if they were not party to those decisions.

Annan said politicians must realise that the country and Kenyans have changed. Annan has been in Kenya for one week assessing the progress the government has made on reforms since his last visit in October, "It cannot be business as usual," he said and condemned politicians appealing to ethnic interests against the background of last year's post election violence.

"We talked with the two principals on the need for unity of purpose within the coalition. Lack of harmony from within will not help this country but distract it from reforms in this most critical time," he said.

Addressing a press conference yesterday afternoon at the Serena at the end of his one week visit to Kenya, Annan said that he was "greatly impressed" by the progress made in the constitution review but "regretted" the slow pace in other Agenda 4 reforms agreed in the National Accord.

He expressed "grave frustration" with Parliament's blockage of Gitobu Imanyara's Bill to establish a special local tribunal to deal with perpetrators of post election violence.

Accompanied by Dr. Graca Machel, Annan said he had discussed the matter with President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga and impressed on them the need to rally their troops to reform agenda.

Annan and Machel warned that reforms must not be superficial but deep rooted as to form firm foundations for a stronger Kenya.

"The progress made so far is an indication of what Kenya can achieve," Annan said.

Citing areas of progress, Annan said the Panel of Eminent Persons welcomed the decision by the two principals to cooperate with ICC. He denied that an ICC indictment might undermine reconciliation.

"An ICC intervention cannot cause chaos. It has happened before in other countries. Nations do not thrive or fail because of one man or several men for that matter," he said.

He commended the passing of the sessional paper on land reforms by Parliament; the publishing of the harmonized draft by Committee of Experts; the handing over of the police task force report to the two principals; and the holding of a Cabinet retreat in Mombasa.

Machel emphasized the need for deep-rooted reforms that must be felt by the average Kenyan. She encouraged Kenyans to show increased awareness and demand action from their leaders.

"Political leaders must take the lead but the citizens must also show some concern and be sensitive to their divisive ways. They must not show that they cannot tolerate certain things," she said.

Annan said he would return next year to further assess Kenya's progress and assured the international community that he would continue to assist the government to implement the reforms.

Earlier, Annan and Machel held a meeting with members of the Media Owners Association who gave their perspective on the reform process and pointed out areas where there was or was not progress.

Annan urged the media to take an active part in promoting the constitution making process and to ensure that the people had a voice in it.

He said the media had an important role in the fight against ethnicity by encouraging the development of a national identity. The media owners said it was imperative for the country to address the core problems in Kenya that can be attributed to ethnicity and ethnic prejudice.

They said they were discussing among ourselves how they can contribute to addressing the issue of ethnic hatred and prejudice as they realised most of the reforms contained in Agenda 4 of the National Accord would be jeopardised if this issue was not addressed.

"We are finding convergence in many areas. I am hoping that we will be able to carry out joint initiatives," Wachira Waruru said.

The MOA was represented by a four member team including its chairman Linus Gitahi, CEO of Nation Media Group; Wachira Waruru, Managing Director of Royal Media and the chairman of the Media Council of Kenya; Paul Melly, the deputy chairman of the Standard Group; and Patrick Quarcoo, Group Managing Director of Radio Africa.

"It was a very fruitful discussion and we are committed to the process of change in the country," said Quarcoo.

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