Kenyan negotiators resume key talks

Negotiators for President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga resume talks on Monday under former UN chief Kofi Annan, six weeks after a disputed election left more than 1,000 dead and 300,000 homeless.


Kenya's feuding parties headed Sunday into a decisive week of negotiations on a deal to end the unrest sparked by disputed elections that has claimed more than 1,000 lives.

Negotiators for President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga were to resume talks on Monday in a Nairobi hotel to hammer out details of an agreement that could include a power-sharing government.

Chief mediator Kofi Annan hopes a settlement can be reached in the coming days between the rival factions whose dispute over the presidential election on December 27 ignited Kenya's worst crisis since independence.

Widely considered one of Africa's most stable countries, Kenya descended into weeks of rioting, tribal violence and police raids that have left more than 1,000 dead and 300,000 homeless.

After touring some of the 300 camps set up for the displaced, UN emergency relief coordinator John Holmes said there was "a very serious humanitarian problem" in Kenya.

Holmes said Kenyans who lost their homes in the upheaval, some of whom were chased out of areas in tribal clashes, should not expect to return in the near future.

"Clearly what we all hope is that people will be able to go home as soon as they can," he said.

"But it's clear from talking to them that for a vast majority of them, it's not something that we can contemplate in the near future, given the problems there still are."

"It is our hope that a political solution will be found in the short term so that the violence can stop," he said at the end of a three-day fact-finding mission.

Launched nearly two weeks ago, Annan's mediation is seen as Kenya's best hope for a political solution to end the violence in which Kenyans have been killed by machete-wielding mobs, burnt in churches and driven off their land.

"I think everyone realises that we have a serious problem in the country," Annan, a former UN secretary general, said last week, setting the stage for the crunch talks.

"We are all agreed that a political settlement is needed, that a political settlement is necessary and we are working out the details of such a settlement."

The turmoil began when the central elections commission proclaimed 76-year-old Kibaki, in power since 2002, winner of the election.

Odinga, 62, claimed he was cheated out of the presidency in a rigged vote while international observers found massive irregularities during the tallying of ballots from both sides.

Speculation about the political deal has centred on the formation of a national unity government in which leading opposition figures could take ministerial posts.

Kenyan press reports have also said talks had zeroed in on a package of reforms to election laws, the court system and the constitution that would be enacted within a set timetable.

Annan has asked parliament to convene on Tuesday to be briefed on details of a possible deal.

Kibaki's tribe, the Kikuyu, suffered heavily in the first wave of violence at the hands of Odinga's Luo tribe and other ethnic groups, but there have since been numerous revenge attacks.

The violence has tapped into simmering resentment over land, poverty and the dominance of the Kikuyu in Kenyan politics and business since independence from Britain in 1963.

"We must agree that Kenya will never be the same," said Dan Juma, the deputy executive director of the Kenyan Human Rights Commission.

"Kenya is very much polarized... ethnic identity has been wounded. It will take time to heal."

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