Kenya in stalemate as Kibaki digs in
Sunday 13 January 2008
Kenya is braced for another week of political unrest as Western diplomats admitted they were running out of ways to persuade an intransigent President Mwai Kibaki to accept a power-sharing deal with the opposition leader, Rala Odinga.
Attempts at mediation between the two sides following December's deeply flawed presidential election have failed, despite the likes of South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, US assistant secretary of state Jendayi Frazer and African Union chairman John Kufuor each spending days in Nairobi shuttling between the two camps.
Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan will become the latest international figure to try to find a political solution when he flies in this week alongside Nelson Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, and the former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mpaka.
The trio will touch down in Nairobi as the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) launches a series of rallies over three days in 28 towns and cities. ODM leaders are also promising to occupy the government benches in parliament when it is convened for the first time since the election on Tuesday. The ODM won 95 of the 210 seats, almost three times as many as President Kibaki's Party of National Unity.
Mr Odinga has suggested he is willing to sharing power with Mr Kibaki on an interim basis, ideally ahead of an election re-run. Mr Kibaki initially offered to set up a government of national unity before unilaterally appointing allies to all the key cabinet positions – a step described by Western diplomats as a "huge slap in the face".
But the unfolding political crisis, which has seen around 500 people killed in a wave of post-election violence, has also demonstrated the impotence of the international community. Concerns over corruption have already led to Western countries cutting the amount of direct aid put into government coffers. Any withdrawal of that aid would probably harm the 500,000 people in need of emergency assistance following the violence. The US in particular sees Kenya as a vital ally in the "war on terror".
"There is not much we can do," said one senior diplomat. "And Kibaki knows that. The longer this goes on, the easier it will be for him to stay in power."
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