Saturday :: Jan 12, 2008

Kenya on the brink


by Turkana

As I've previously written, mediation by John Kufuor, the President of Ghana, and head of the African Union, was the best immediate hope of preventing more bloodshed, in Kenya. There is fear that tensions over the disputed presidential election could lead to Kenya's complete collapse, and the possibility of genocide is chillingly real. Well, there's terrible news.

From Agence France-Presse:

Kenya's opposition on Friday said it would restart nationwide protests next week, setting the stage for a fresh showdown after international mediation failed to broker a deal with the government.

Kenya's police chief immediately banned the protests, citing security reasons.

"Police think it is not appropriate at this time," police commissioner major general Mohamed Hussein Ali told journalists, shortly after opposition leaders called for three days of protests in some 30 towns across the country.

Kufuor left Kenya, Friday, after two days of unsuccessful talks. The opposition ODM claims the negotiations collapsed when Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki scuttled a deal that had been in the works before Kufuor arrived.

Kufuor did get the two sides to agree to further talks, with former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, but, as The Guardian explains, the protests are scheduled for Wednesday through Friday, at more than twenty different locations:

The timing of the opposition rallies is significant. Parliament is due to open on Tuesday and Odinga's party will have the majority of the seats.

The same day Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general, is due to arrive in Kenya together with Graca Machel, the wife of Nelson Mandela, and former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, as part of a follow up to Kufuor's visit.

Analysts say this gives Kibaki two separate opportunities to reach out to Odinga - who refuses to meet him without an international mediator present - and to avoid a repeat of the ugly scenes that marred earlier protests.

But so far there has been little indication that Kibaki is willing to compromise. Some junior members of the government have entered into tentative negotiations with the opposition. But hardliners in the president's office including Stanley Murage, a wealthy businessman from central Kenya who Kibaki appointed as his "special adviser on strategy" in 2004, are refusing to give any ground.

Approximately a quarter million people remain displaced from their homes.

Turkana :: 9:22 AM :: Comments (20) :: Digg It!