Kofi Annan to lead Kenya mediation

January 10, 2008 7:18:57 AM PST
The African Union said Thursday that former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is taking over mediation in Kenya's disputed presidential election after days of international pressure failed to bring both sides together for talks. President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga agreed to work with a panel of eminent Africans led by Annan to resolve their differences over the Dec. 27 election that international observers said had a flawed vote count, the AU said.

The AU chairman, President John Kufuor of Ghana, also won an agreement from the two rivals to end violence and any other acts detrimental to finding a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Ethnic clashes from the dispute have left more than 500 dead and displaced some 255,000 people from their homes in one of Africa's most stable democracies and a prized ally in the U.S. war on terror.

Kufuor prepared to leave Kenya after failing to push Odinga and Kibaki into talks, and Anyang Nyongo, secretary-general of Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement, said the AU chairman's mediation effort had failed.

"The positive aspect is that both sides agree that there should be an end to violence," Kufuor said.

Odinga held a "tense meeting" earlier Thursday with Kufuor, Jendayi Frazer - the top U.S. diplomat for Africa - four former African heads of state and the ambassadors of France and Britain, said his spokesman Salim Lone.

"There is no indication that something will emerge from this," Lone said after the hours-long meeting.

Odinga has said he will only meet Kibaki with outside mediation, but the president wants direct talks.

Allies of Kibaki were sworn in as Cabinet ministers on Thursday, further dampening hopes for a power-sharing compromise. Kibaki has indicated there still was room for Odinga's party in his Cabinet, but Lone has called the appointments "a slap in the face" intended to undermine AU-mediated talks.

Odinga's party won 95 parliament seats and Kibaki's party 43 in legislative elections held the same day as the presidential vote, meaning it would be difficult for Kibaki to govern without making some overture to Odinga.

Women from Odinga's party marched in a Nairobi suburb on Thursday, chanting "No peace, no justice!" and "Kibaki is a thief!"

Police fired tear gas at the crowd and the women fled. "We are calling for truth about what happened to our votes and the votes of Kenyans," said the chairman of the party's women's league, Jacqueline Oduol.

A newly formed Kenyan civil rights organization demanded that members of the country's electoral commission be prosecuted, saying its investigation indicated officials had rigged a disputed presidential election that triggered clashes that have left more than 500 dead.

Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice, an umbrella group for civil society organizations formed after the elections, presented police with documents demanding the prosecution of all 22 members of the Electoral Commission and some commission staff, including vote counters.

Commission Chairman Samuel Kivuiti himself has said he is not sure Kibaki won the election, though Kivuiti officially declared him the winner by a narrow margin of some 230,000 votes. While multiparty politics is only 15 years old in Kenya, the country's democracy has been bolstered by a lively and independent media and increasingly vigorous civil society.

Kenyans for Peace presented a long list of alleged charges against the commissioners and some staff, including document forgery, subverting the rule of law, making out false certificates and abuse of office.

"The electoral process is so seriously flawed that, until that is redressed, and until we have truth and justice about the election, we are not going to have a viable society in Kenya," said Shailja Patel of the Kenyans for Peace, which includes the state-funded Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights and the Law Society of Kenya.

Kibaki said complaints should be taken to the courts, which he has stacked with his allies during his five years in power. On Wednesday, he rejected demands for a new election or recount.


Associated Press writers Michelle Faul and Elizabeth A. Kennedy in Nairobi, Katy Pownall in Kisumu and Todd Pitman in Burnt Forest contributed to this report.