Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Former UN chief tries to save Kenya settlement

Word that former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had arrived in Kenya brought some hope that the troubled coalition government in Nairobi can be saved. Annan arrived Sunday to restart efforts to revive the moribund reform process, which began in 2008 in the violent aftermath of a disputed presidential election in December that brought Kenyan society to the brink of collapse. Kenya's president, Mwai Kibaki, announced that he had won the election after a long-delayed count of the ballots but his main challenger, Orange Democratic Union leader Raila Odinga, charged that the count was fraudulent, sparking massive protests. More than 1,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in post-election tribal violence that continued for nearly two months until Annan and the acting African Union chairman, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, arranged a power-sharing deal that allowed Kibaki to remain as head of state and created a new prime minister position for Odinga. That arrangement has held despite a series of disputes. "I have been following events in Kenya very closely, and clearly, the Kenyan people are expecting more from the coalition government,” Annan said after arriving in Nairobi, according to Cable News Network (CNN). “More unity of purpose, more progress on the reform agenda, more concrete action to end impunity and combat corruption," Annan said. "These sentiments are understandable, and I will be urging the coalition government to listen to the voices of the people and do more to push forward the essential reforms." Primary among the disputes are about the pace of reform in Kenya, which has been slow, despite the settlement agreement's commitment to constitutional and police reforms, including prosecution of those responsible for the violence. "Far-reaching reforms such as the ones agreed on during the National Dialogue negotiations last year will necessarily take some time, and a lot of hard work, not only on the part of the government but on the part of all Kenyans,” Annan said. “And yet, with a sense of urgency and national spirit, it can be done and done in a reasonable time.” Annan said he would urge Kibaki and Odinga to pick up the pace of change.

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