Ramaphosa role in talks rejected

The government and the Party of National Unity objected to the choice of the South African businessman Cyril Ramaphosa as a mediator in talks to end Kenya's post-election crisis, claiming he was too close to the opposition party.

Mr Ramaphosa was the choice of former UN secretary general Kofi Annan. The talks in the Kenyan capital continued without him.

The fighting has killed more than 1,000 people and made 300,000 homeless since the presidential election on 27 December, which foreign and local observers say was rigged. Protests have deteriorated into ethnic clashes, with much of the anger aimed at President Mwai Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe, long resented for dominating politics and the economy.

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan brought together Kibaki and his chief rival, Raila Odinga, and the two sides agreed on Friday to take immediate action to end the violence. They said they would complete talks within 15 days on measures to resolve the political crisis, but Annan said it would take up to a year to solve the deeper problems.

Both sides have expressed trust in Annan's efforts, but Cyril Ramaphosa withdrew yesterday because of objections by Kibaki's government and ruling party.

Ramaphosa, a South African businessman who had played a leading role in talks to end apartheid in his own country, said he could not function as mediator "without the complete confidence" of both parties.

"I thought I should withdraw and go back to South Africa, so I don't become a stumbling block myself," he told reporters outside the hotel where the talks were being held.

News of his departure came as ethnic fighting flared in western Kenya, scene of some of the worst bloodshed. At least seven people were killed overnight in battles between Kisii and Kalenjin communities in a region 155 miles west of the capital, Nairobi, said district commissioner of Sotik town, Humphrey Nakitare.

The fighting continued Monday with hundreds of youths — armed with bows and arrows and machetes — attacking one another in an area where 2,000 people have fled their homes during nine days of clashes, Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner Hassan Noor said. Dozens of houses were burned overnight, witnesses said.

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