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ODM, PNU lock horns in Geneva

By | June 3rd 2009 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

By David Ohito and Beauttah Omanga

The spat between Coalition partners ODM and PNU over the UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston’s findings on extra-judicial killings threatened to degenerate into international embarrassment after the rivals took contradictory positions before a crucial meeting.

The two groups were last night locked in a meeting to make a last-ditch effort to mend fences ahead of the scheduled forum in Geneva, Switzerland, but little progress was reported hours to the meeting.

Time was running out for the 30-member delegation that will only get some seven minutes to make their position in response to Alston’s report in a session today.

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Talking to The Standard on the telephone from Geneva earlier yesterday, Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo said a meeting for the entire Kenyan delegation was scheduled for last evening. It was meant to have the two sides agree on the position to take on Prof Alston’s report on extra-judicial killings.

"We all arrived safely and we are set to meet later as a Kenyan delegation to see how best we can synchronise the positions we had taken as representatives of various interests ahead of a common position before the conference when our turn comes," said the minister.

Earlier, ODM maintained that the party would push for the adoption of the Alston report, hailing it as "balanced, well-researched and carefully considered."

But the Government, on the other hand, through the Office of Public Communication, maintains the findings cannot stand scrutiny, and question everything from his research mode to his alleged "paternalistic" attitude.

Particulars unacceptable

"Government expresses grave concern regarding the allegations contained in the report by the Special Rapporteur. His questioning of the very basis of the Kenyan State and in particular its institutions is totally unacceptable and impinges on Kenya’s sovereignty," read the statement posted on the Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua’ website.

Yesterday, ODM readied itself with a parallel report, which described the report as "highly credible," noting that it recognises that unlawful killings are being undertaken by both the security forces and by hard-core criminals such as the Mungiki sect.

It was not immediately clear if ODM would get a hearing at the UN as the Attorney General Amos Wako had already filed a response to Alston’s report. The PNU delegation includes the Justice Minister and his Internal Security counterpart Prof George Saitoti.

The ODM delegation has ministers James Orengo (Lands), Amason Kingi (East Africa Community) and journalist Salim Lone who is former spokesman for the party.

Others in the delegation include the AG, the Permanent Secretary in the Justice ministry Ms Amina Mohammed, Police Spokesman Eric Kiraithe and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights chairperson Florence Jaoko, among others.

Report not discussed

Yesterday, ODM Secretary-General Anyang Nyong’o said: "Neither the Cabinet nor the Cabinet’s Security Committee nor the Permanent Committee on the Management of Grand Coalition Affairs has discussed the report.

"We wish to reiterate that the official response to Alston’s report by a section of the Grand Coalition Government… only reflects the view and position of PNU wing of government and not that of the ODM wing of the same government," he said.

At the weekend, Prime Minister Raila Odinga pushed for the inclusion of ODM representation at the Geneva talks, which led to the inclusion of Orengo and Kingi. ODM revisited the killings of Oscar Foundation Executive Director Kamau King’ara and its programmes coordinator Paul Oulu, which Alston blamed on elements within the police force hell-bent on silencing human rights crusaders.

Sources said Orengo arrived in Geneva ready to make a presentation on behalf of the ODM wing.

Mutula said Saitoti would be making a presentation on behalf of Kenya.

"Prof Saitoti being the most senior of us, he is the one likely to make the Kenya Government position known. We hope Orengo will not have a problem with that," said Mutula.

Embarrassing situation

Mutula said PNU was ready to accommodate the ODM views on the report to avoid an embarrassing situation where ministers of the same Government strive to make contradicting presentations.

"Honestly, Kenya will be given only about seven minutes and that will not be enough to allow two ministers to speak. It’s my prayer that we will agree on the contents of our reaction to what Prof Alston will be making in his 45 minute presentation," said Mutula.

Alston will also report on his findings on five other countries including USA, Brazil, among others.

Sources said President Kibaki and Raila met and agreed to have Orengo and Kingi joining the delegation. This followed Raila’s disagreement with the outright dismissal of Alston’s report.

In the report, Alston called for the sacking of the Commissioner of Police Maj-Gen Hussein Ali for overseeing violations of human rights and the killing of at least 500 people on suspicion they were members of the proscribed Mungiki sect.