Kenya’s Lawmakers to Reconvene Despite Continued Unrest
Also, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrives in hopes of quashing post-election unrest that has left at least 612 people dead.
Leading a group of “Eminent Africans,” Annan is due in Kenya on Tuesday to try to kickstart dialogue between President Mwai Kibaki and rival opposition leader Raila Odinga, who have not met since a Dec. 27 election that the opposition has denounced as rigged.
Some 260,000 people have fled their homes since the violence erupted, prompting a humanitarian crisis in a country accustomed to sheltering refugees from neighboring states.
“We expect all people to work hard to find a solution,” Annan said in a statement, according to Reuters. “Pending this, no party should create facts on the ground or engage in acts that complicate the search for a negotiated solution.”
African Union chief John Kufuor left the country last week with little to show for after two days of talks with both camps.
Top U.S. Africa envoy Jendayi Frazer, who spent a week in Kenya, said afterwards she was “deeply disappointed” that the two rivals had been unable to reach agreement on how to hold direct discussions.
She also warned that the United States could not “conduct business as usual in Kenya.”
The crisis has dented Kenya’s democratic credentials and resurgent economy, hit supplies to east and central African neighbors, and rattled Western donors.
The government has indicated it is lukewarm to yet more mediation, despite international pressure for a breakthrough.
The Daily Nation newspaper quoted Roads and Public Works Minister John Michuki, a hardline Kibaki ally and member of his new cabinet, as saying the government may sever ties with countries questioning the Kibaki’s win.
“If Kofi Annan is coming, he is not coming at our invitation,” Michuki said, according to Agence France-Presse.
“We won the elections so we do not see the point for anyone coming to mediate power-sharing,” he added.
International observers have voiced concern over irregularities in vote tallying, but no foreign power has come out strongly against Kibaki, who took the oath of office an hour after the results were announced.
Neither Kibaki’s Party of National Unity nor Odinga’s opposition Orange Democratic Movement managed to secure a majority in Parliament, prompting a fight between both sides to woo smaller parties into forming coalitions ahead of the chamber’s re-opening on Tuesday.
Odinga has vowed his party will sit down on the government’s side on the parliament benches.
“We expect rough times and a major showdown in parliament, dominated by patronage, vendettas and unproductiveness if the situation remains as it is,” Kenyan political analyst Evans Manduku said Monday.
Senior ODM official William Ruto denied that by attending the opening of parliament convened by Kibaki, the opposition would be recognizing the legitimacy of his presidency.
“We are not going to sit back and allow them install a speaker who will pave the way for the illegitimacy to continue,” he said.
Meanwhile, police and opposition supporters braced for further clashes Wednesday, the first day of three days of nationwide rallies to protest Kibaki’s re-election.
A police ban on the rallies has fueled fears of fresh violence in the east African nation after a police crackdown with tear gas and water cannons on previous opposition demonstrations.
Evelyn Imbwana, a mother of three who has been displaced by the violence, said her children’s school was closed because it was attacked and looted last week.
“I’m worried that now they’ll fail their exams and need to repeat the year. That means more money for fees that I don’t have,” she told the Associated Press.
“It’s unfair that we suffer while politicians fight.”