- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It is disheartening to hear that formal talks between Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga were suspended on Thursday following the violent death of opposition lawmaker David Too. The talks began Wednesday and were aimed at reconciliation following tumultuous elections in December. From the outset, however, we have been skeptical of the mediation process, as it falls under the tutelage of Kofi Annan, a former secretary-general of the United Nations whose disastrous leadership as head of United Nations peacekeeping operations (where he failed to take any action to prevent the 1994 Rwandan genocide) gives reason for pause.

Mr. Annan has said he believes the immediate political crisis could be solved “within a week,” but this is now highly unlikely, considering that neither side offered significant compromises before talks began. Moreover, Mr. Too’s death follows Tuesday’s fatal shooting of Mugabe Were, another member of parliament belonging to Mr. Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

Since the results of the Dec. 27 election were announced, supporters of ODM have formed roving bands that are attacking members of the Kikuyu, Mr. Kibaki’s ethnic group. Nearly 900 people have been killed and more than 250,000 have been displaced following a vote that international observers said lacked transparency. On Dec. 30, Mr. Kibaki was sworn into his second term less than an hour after the surprising election results were made public. Early tallies had suggested Mr. Odinga would win, but after a series of apparent voting irregularities, Mr. Kibaki won by 200,000 votes.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected in Nairobi today to assist the Panel of Eminent African Persons under Mr. Annan. Ghana President John Kufuor, chairman of the African Union, failed to broker a peace agreement in January.

Should Kenya remain embroiled in strife, the United States will lose of one of its staunchest allies in Africa. Since September 11, Nairobi has served as a point of reference for U.S. military bases, communications networks and intelligence-sharing to prevent the spread of al Qaeda’s terror network. Michael Ranneberger, the U.S. ambassador to Kenya, said the FBI is available for help investigating the murders of Mr. Too and Mr. Were. Washington clearly hopes that justice for their deaths will lead to an end to the violence.

There are a number of possible power-sharing compromises that could bring stability, which range from filling half of Mr. Kibaki’s cabinet with ODM members to redrafting the constitution to dilute the presidency’s power.

The urgency of the situation demands a cool head from Mr. Ban and offers Mr. Annan perhaps a chance to redeem himself after his disgraceful time at the United Nations, where he also presided over the oil-for-food scandal.

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