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Former UN chief book reveals petty obstacles that dogged peace deal

By Amos Kareithi | Published Sun, August 19th 2018 at 00:00, Updated August 19th 2018 at 00:12 GMT +3
Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Anan, Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki. (File, Standard)

Former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Anan revealed how he sidestepped a trap set by former President Mwai Kibaki and his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Museveni to validate Party of National Unity (PNU) victory in the botched 2007 presidential polls.

The top diplomat who spent 40 years at the global body detailed this ploy which was hatched as soon as he agreed to mediate between Kibaki and his protagonist, ODM leader, Raila Odinga, following the violence which greeted the announcement of the election results. 

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“Museveni called me at Serena Hotel where I had just arrived. He said he had a peace plan that both government and opposition were willing to work with. It was based on first accepting the results of the elections. He then asked me to come to State House to meet and discuss the plan,” explains Anan in his autobiography, Interventions: A life in War and Peace, written by Nader Mousavizadeh. 

Annan says the ploy had been planned by the two presidents setting him up to go to State House, where his visit would be spin that he had validated the results.

His fears were confirmed when he called Raila who rejected Museveni as a mediator because he was Kibaki’s buddy.

Flatly refused

Later after he talked to Kibaki who agreed to meet with Raila, it was difficult to get the two to talk as the opposition leader flatly refused to go to State House arguing this would be interpreted as accepting PNU had won the elections.

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He recalls the difficulties under which the two men met at Harambee House and the complexity of getting the two to shake hands as no one was eager to talk.

Even as the reconciliation started on January 29, at a time the country was burning and people were being killed daily, Anan says how he met with representatives of non-governmental organisations, civil societies and churches.

After the initial meeting, it was agreed that Kibaki and Raila would open the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation but the talks were almost scuttled when the Secretary to the Cabinet, Francis Muthaura rearranged chairs and brought the special presidential chair. 

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“This isn’t a presidential meeting, I said softly. I am dealing with two protagonists. Put the chairs back,” Anan told the official.

Ideally, the seats had been arranged that Annan would be in the middle acting as a buffer between Kibaki and Raila. But Amb Mutharua retorted that the arrangement was demeaning the president. 

“Uhuru Kenyatta, Kibaki’s minister for local government then chimed from behind Muthaura,” He never goes anywhere in this country without his chair. And always sits in the most prominent position.”

Annan describes these as some of the childish obstacles he had to deal with adding that some leaders did not appreciate the urgency of reconciling the country at a time 60 people had been killed in Rift Valley and there were rumours that PNU politicians were funding members of the dreaded Mungiki group to cause mayhem.

According to the former UN chief two negotiation teams were set and they were supposed to tackle some of the fundamental disagreements and issues which needed to be addressed immediately. These issues included quelling the fighting and the escalating humanitarian crisis.

This is how the negotiators came up with the four point agenda where the last item was to bring long term reform programe for Kenya political system. The four point agenda was in the document which was finalised, signed and distributed publicly on February 1.

As the negotiations progressed, Annan says that, Kibaki, who was at the African Union summit in Ethiopia attacked the stance taken by the opposition even as observers started comparing what was happening in Kenya to the events which had led to the Rwanda genocide a decade earlier.

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He says he was moved by an open letter by a chief subeditor which was published on February 8, expressing fears that if he abandoned his peace mission in Kenya, the people would be devoured by a monster.

As he led the negotiations, Annan explains that he was against a repeat of presidential elections as the electoral system could not be trusted. 

During a retreat in Kilaguni Lodge on February 6, the former UN chief says that the negotiating team went through the merits and demerits of the various options available to settle the political crisis. 

Throughout the negotiations, it was clear that no other option except power sharing would calm the situation but this concept was alien in the country.

Punishing the perpetrators

“I brought in Craig Jenness, Director of UN Electoral Assistance Division of the department of political affairs to present expert details of what each option would mean.” 

He adds, “I invited Gernot Erler, a German minister of state to to speak to the negotiators and share his experience of coalition government. The negotiators then came to an agreement and signed a statement on February 14. 

The statement noted that since there was a serious crisis in the country,” we agree a political settlement is necessary to promote National reconciliation and Unity.” 

The statement also spelt out the measures to be undertaken including punishing the perpetrators violence and establishment of a peace and reconciliation commission for long term healing of the nation.

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By this time the death toll going by Red Cross statistics had risen to 1,000 and there were mass displacement of people occasioned by burning of villages and looting.

According to the power sharing deal, Kibaki would remain president, a post of executive prime minister would be created for Raila and a coalition cabinet formed which would be shared between PNU and ODM.

Frustrated by the deadlock, Annan says he decided to publicly announce he had finished his negotiations and now it was time for Kibaki and Raila to conclude the negotiations face to face.

“They were not expecting this sudden move and the prospect of negotiating face to face surprised them. Speaking to Odinga, I reminded him that if he worked through the compromise he would likely be set to become the next president. This message seemed to resonate,” he says.

However when he met Kibaki, this was a hard sell as Kibaki, “listened in his usual quiet and unemotional way but replied there were technical issues with a coalition government and questions as to the the validity of an executive prime minister in the Kenyan Constitution.”

When the president dithered, Anan told him, “Mr president, over 1,00 people are dead. Its time to make a deal.”

By going public, Anan had cornered Kibaki for if the negotiators walked out of Kenya without a deal, he would be blamed.

In the meantime, the former UN chief was in regular contact with the international community, Condleeza Rice who announced that any future relationship with the US would depend on the deal.

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It is against this background that Kibaki, Raila and the then Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete and his predecessor Benjamin Mkapa held a five hour meeting during which they explained how power sharing arrangement worked in Tanzania.

Before the meeting, Annan had told Kibaki and Raila that this was the final negotiation and nobody would be allowed to back down as after the agreement they would append their signatures in public.

The signing of the deal Annan believes was monumental because, “We had achieved something far too elusive in history of peacemaking-halting a spiral of violence before too m any of either side have little left to lose and live only for vengeance.”

Thereafter the Constitution was amended to create new posts and was later overhauled in 2010 creating a new political dispensation and levels of governance.

Annan’s last act was to hand over a list of suspects, Uhuru, Muthaura, Hussein Ali, William Ruro, Henry Kosgey and Joshua Sang to the International Criminal Court to be tried for committing crimes against humanity after the Kenyan government failed to prosecute them locally. The cases were thrown out.

 


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