- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 2, 2008

From combined dispatches

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s feuding parties agreed yesterday to a framework for talks to resolve within 15 days a violent political crisis in which about 850 people have died, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said.

The two sides, at odds since a Dec. 27 election returned President Mwai Kibaki to power in a vote opposition challenger Raila Odinga says was rigged, said they had agreed only on a skeleton model for talks but hoped to make progress quickly.

Mr. Annan said they would discuss a halt to ethnically motivated killings, how to deliver humanitarian aid to the affected and how to resolve the immediate political crisis before tackling a longer-term solution, which could take a year.

“The first [step] is to take immediate action to stop the violence,” Mr. Annan, who is heading the mediation, told reporters.

“But more importantly, the parties agreed that the first three items could be handled and resolved within seven to 15 days.”

Talks are to resume Monday. Senior opposition official Musalia Mudavadi said the two sides agreed to urge supporters to end the violence, in which rival tribes are locked in a cycle of killing and looting.

“We have made substantial progress on the first agenda item. … We are calling on the public to disband any illegal militia,” he said.

Justice Minister Martha Karua agreed and said steps would be taken to protect life and property.

Mr. Annan’s announcement followed a visit by his successor, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, to give clout to diplomatic efforts.

Mr. Ban met negotiating teams for Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga trying to reach a deal to end the crisis in what had been one of the continent’s more stable nations and strongest economies.

“What is important at this time is to maintain peace and security,” he told reporters. “The killing must stop.”

But even as he spoke, violence continued in flash points all over western Kenya.

Much of the bloodshed set off by the political feud has pitted other ethnic groups, including Mr. Odinga’s Luo tribe, against Mr. Kibaki’s Kikuyu, Kenya’s largest ethnic group, which has long been resented for its dominance of the economy and politics.

Yesterday, nine persons were killed in western Kenya, including a police officer attacked by a mob of 3,000 people armed with bows and arrows, spears, clubs and machetes in the home village of an opposition lawmaker who had been fatally shot by a police officer the day before.

Six persons were hacked to death and two killed with poisoned arrows, witnesses said.

The police casualty yesterday was the first authorities have linked to the monthlong postelection turmoil. The mob accused the officer of wounding a civilian Thursday during protests after the killing of lawmaker David Kimutai Too, police said.

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