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Annan takes on Kenya peace role

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) — Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will take over mediation efforts in the dispute over Kenya’s presidential elections, a U.S. diplomat told CNN Thursday.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Jendayi Frazer said she hoped Annan would take over sooner rather than later, and that the United States continues to urge dialogue under the auspices of Kofi Annan.

The African Union’s chairman, Ghanaian President John Kufuor, arrived in Kenya earlier this week to help resolve the dispute between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Although he spoke separately with both leaders in closed-door meetings, he was unable to bring them together for direct talks, Frazer said Thursday. Kufuor left Kenya Thursday without a resolution to the dispute.

But Frazer said it would be too strong to describe the talks as having collapsed, noting that Kufuor was able to negotiate an agreement in principle from both sides, which included a commitment to non-violence.

The news followed Kibaki’s swearing-in of a partial Cabinet in Nairobi on Thursday, a move that Odinga’s party, Orange Democratic Movement, dislikes because the president is choosing a government before the current political crisis is settled.

Kibaki said he swore in the 17 officials to keep the government running, but didn’t fill all the posts because of the political negotiations.

Of the 17 officials sworn in, all are members of Kibaki’s group and another opposition party. None are affiliated with Odinga’s party.

Frazer, who is in the country until Thursday night, characterized the swearing-in as worrying, and said the timing was suspect.

However, U.S. State Department spokesman Scott McCormack indicated Wednesday Washington was satisfied with Kibaki’s explanation.

Kibaki clarified … that this was in fact, not meant as a fait accompli, but was intended just keep the government up and running while there was some negotiated political settlement through the crisis, McCormack said at a press briefing.

Violence began Kenya after accusations of voting irregularities in the December 27 presidential elections, and was further enflamed when official results three days later showed incumbent Kibaki the winner over Odinga, whose backers believe the election was rigged.

Hundreds of people have died in the unrest, and hundreds of thousands have left their homes to avoid the violence. Odinga is contesting the results through the courts.

On Thursday, CNN’s Paula Newton saw a small demonstration that was broken up when police shot tear gas into the crowds to disperse the crowd.

Hundreds of people fearing new violence have fled western Kenya despite a plea by Kibaki to refugees not to abandon their homes.

Kibaki made his first trip to a trouble spot on Wednesday, addressing more than 1,000 refugees in western Kenya, many of whom had fled blazing homes, pursued by rock-throwing mobs wielding machetes and bows and arrows.

Do not be afraid. The government will protect you. Nobody is going to be chased from where they live, Kibaki said in the community of Burnt Forest, according to The Associated Press.

Those who have been inciting people and brought this mayhem will be brought to justice. He indicated he would not consider demands for a new election or vote recount.

The election is finished and anybody who thinks they can turn it around should know that it’s not possible and it will never be possible, he said.
found here.

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January 10, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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