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Rice wants Kenyan solution 'yesterday'

Latest update : 2008-02-18

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has told political rivals President Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga that "the time for a political settlement was yesterday" after meetings with both on Monday.

NAIROBI, Feb 18 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice told Kenya's feuding parties on Monday to hurry
up with a pact to end a post-election crisis that has killed
1,000 people and dented their nation's global status.

"The time for a political settlement was yesterday," Rice
said after meeting separately with President Mwai Kibaki and
opposition leader Raila Odinga during her one-day visit.

"The current stalemate and the circumstances are not going
to permit business as usual with the United States or with any
other part of the international community."

Dispatched to Kenya by President George W. Bush during his
Africa tour, Rice was the most senior U.S. official to visit
since the disputed Dec. 27 vote triggered protests and ethnic
conflict that also displaced more than 300,000.

"They need to have a power-sharing arrangement ... There
needs to be a coalition," she said, echoing the line being
pushed by mediator and former U.N. boss Kofi Annan.

Odinga says Kibaki, for whom he once served in cabinet,
stole the 2007 election through fraud.

Kibaki's team says its man won fairly, points to the
official declaration by the election board, and says Odinga's
Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) unleashed violence after the
results emerged.

The election crisis took the lid off grievances between
different communities over wealth, land and power that date back
to British colonial rule and have been aggravated by Kenyan
politicians since then, especially at election time.



Government officials have become increasingly prickly over
foreign pressure. On the eve of Rice's visit, Foreign Minister
Moses Wetangula warned that nobody should "make any mistake of
putting a gun to anybody's head."

But Rice, noting she had been "especially moved" listening
to Kenyan civil society and business representatives, said the
pressure was coming from within not abroad.

"Kenya is a friend. Kenya is also an independent and proud
country ... So this is not a matter of dictating a solution to
Kenyans," she said. "What I hear is the impatience and
insistence of Kenyans that this is resolved."

Both sides of Kenya's political divide have agreed to an
independent review of the contested ballot -- but not what to do
about it or what form a shared administration might take.

Having missed Annan's target for a deal by last week,
negotiators are due to resume talks on Tuesday.

Government officials have said the only power-sharing being
considered is giving opposition members ministries in Kibaki's
half-filled cabinet. But the opposition wants a 50:50
arrangement and a position of tangible power for Odinga.

Like Rice, Annan also sought to answer the government's
fears of interference from abroad.

"I know there are political leaders in this country who are
unhappy about what they see as international involvement and
international interference," he said. "No one is here to
dictate, but we are here in solidarity."

Though emphasis at the moment is on a possible power-sharing
deal, many Kenyans also want solutions to complicated,
underlying issues such as wealth inequalities, land policies,
and the need for constitutional reform.

But there is deep scepticism over the calibre of leaders.

"The elections were merely a trigger for the crisis, with
the subsequent mayhem simply symptomatic of a wider leadership
failure," John Githongo, Kibaki's exiled former anti-corruption
adviser, told the East African newspaper.

"This will not change and we should not pretend it will.
Putting all the belligerents into one government merely buys
time. We need to be prepared to think outside the box."

Date created : 2008-02-18