Kenya tells African Union not ready for mediators

Saturday November 4 2017

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed

Kenya's Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has rejected a political mediation proposal by the African Union. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By ERICK ODUOR
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An attempt by the African Union to broker a political deal between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga has been scuttled, forcing the continental body to send only hapless election observers.

It has now emerged that AU Commissioner for Political Affairs Minata Samata had proposed to the Kenyan government a team of African leaders led by former Namibian president Hifikepunye Pohamba to spearhead talks between the protagonists before the repeat election, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected the proposal.

According to sources, the ministry told the continental body that there was no crisis in Kenya that needed an intervention as that proposed by Ms Samata.

The Kenyan government further informed Ms Samata that only six people had died as a result of the violent post-August 8 protests experienced in parts of the country mainly Kisumu, Siaya, Migori and Homa Bay counties and the Kibera and Mathare slums in Nairobi.

Attempts to get a comment from the ministry proved futile as only Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed is allowed to comment on such matters.

However, the AU observer mission, which now the continental body relies on to give a clear picture of the situation in Kenya, has given the October 26 repeat polls a clean bill of health despite protests from the opposition who have now established a resistance wing of the coalition.

In its interim report, the AU election observer mission led by Thabo Mbeki urged aggrieved parties to seek legal redress.

“Following the announcement of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, the mission calls upon all parties that feel aggrieved by this election to follow the legal process in challenging any aspects of the electoral process,” said Mr Mbeki.

Relationship with observers

But the opposition has dismissed the mission, saying the AU should vet their observers in future to ensure they do not have any relationship with senior people in government.

In the 2007 post-election crisis, the African Union was instrumental in the formation of a panel of Eminent African Persons led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, which midwifed a grand coalition government.

The idea was mooted by former Ghanaian president John Kufuor, who was then the serving AU chairman, paving the way for Mr Annan to lead the process dubbed “Serena Talks.”

The AU was therefore following the same arrangement, according to Ms Semata, who said the continental body will have to wait for advice from the Mbeki-led mission before taking its next step.

However, Jubilee friendly politicians led by former Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba kicked off another process urging the AU to take action against Mr Odinga, claiming that he has fomented a political crisis to negotiate for a coalition government.

According to a petition sent to the AU and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), Mr Namwamba and a group calling itself the Council for Kenya Professionals, among them former speaker of Senate Ekwe Ethuro, told the two bodies that Mr Odinga and his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka were sponsoring violence that could lead to genocide if action is not taken.

Mr Odinga continued to dig in when he announced the formation of People’s Assembly to put pressure on President Kenyatta to support a fresh presidential election in 90 days.

Dismissing the repeat poll of October 26, Mr Odinga maintained that electoral reforms were necessary to allow for a credible election that would restore confidence among the majority of Kenyans in the national electoral process.

President Kenyatta on the other hand stated that the Constitution must be adhered to, saying he would only welcome talks once the appeal period has elapsed and a new government has been formed.