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Jakaya Kikwete's role in saving Kenya from election chaos

By Ally Jamah | October 26th 2015
Outgoing Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete. (Photo: Boniface Okendo/Standard)

Early this month, President Uhuru Kenyatta acknowledged that Kenya’s history might have turned out differently after the disputed 2007 presidential vote that plunged the country in violence, had it not been for the intervention of outgoing Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.

“Let me begin by saying that President Kikwete is an old friend of Kenya.  It is no exaggeration to say that had it not been for his help in the past, especially after the disputed 2007 elections, Kenya’s history might have been very different.

So for that, we as a nation and as a people are grateful for his input,” President Kenyatta said on October 6 during the joint Kenya-Tanzania business forum at a Nairobi hotel.

Mr Kikwete was in the country for a State visit, which essentially was him bidding goodbye as he leaves office, and it was fitting that he chose Kenya for his last tour as Head of State.

At the height of the 2007-2008 post-election chaos, Kikwete flew into the country amid a deadlock in negotiations between the Party of National Unity (PNU) led by then President Mwai Kibaki and the Opposition Orange Democratic Movement led by Raila Odinga. At that time, he was the chairperson of the African Union.

Called off talks

According to his testimony shared on various occasions, Kikwete revealed that when he landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at the bleak moment in Kenya’s history, he learnt that chief mediator Koffi Annan had called off the crucial peace talks. This was after the two sides held tightly to their hardline positions in the negotiations.

At that time, the current Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula, who was then on Kibaki’s team, informed Kikwete of Mr Annan’s move to call off the negotiations and requested him to persuade Annan not leave the country.

During his recent address to both houses of Parliament early this month, Kikwete revealed how he shuttled between Kibaki and Raila until the two sides agreed to a deal that saved the country from further violence.

“To me and Tanzanians, Kenya’s problems are our problems. It is in this spirit that after the sad events after the elections in 2007 I did not wait to be invited. I came to lend a helping hand to relatives and that’s why I didn’t want to be invited. I came over,” he said.

Called Kibaki

In a previous interview with a local TV station, Kikwete said that before coming to Nairobi, he first called Kibaki and told him that he wanted to come and help in the efforts to mediate the dispute and prevent further violence. Kibaki readily agreed.

“When I arrived and met Kibaki at the airport, I just saw that the mood was not good at all. I was used to seeing him in cheerful mood. I knew things were not going well,” he recalled in the interview.

Kikwete explained that when he was briefed about the talks, he realised that the two parties had made some progress. But the talks had fallen apart after the two sides strongly disagreed about the proposal to create the post of prime minister.

“Another major sticking point at that time was whether to entrench into the constitution the provisions of the agreement between Kibaki and Raila or not,” he recalled.

“At that point, the negotiations were very difficult. So I kept shuttling between Kibaki and Raila seeking points of agreement until finally we managed to bring them together to sign the final accord,” he said.

During those difficult days of negotiation, when hopes for a deal between Kibaki and Raila seemed unrealistic, Kibaki requested Kikwete not to leave the country despite his enormous responsibilities as the head of state of Tanzania.

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