Annan’s secret that made Kibaki sign deal


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By Martin Mutua

As Kenya swayed in the wind of post-election killings, displacements and dispossession in February, last year, a VIP ‘messenger’ in the person of Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwetu met Mr Mwai Kibaki. The day was February 26 and the leader whose declaration as winner of disputed presidential poll by Electoral Commission had refused to cede more than he had to his rival Mr Raila Odinga. Raila’s Orange Democratic Movement, which claimed its victory had been stolen, had put its last card on the table — they had reached the ‘irreducible minimum’.

With Government affairs being run by a half-Cabinet Kibaki formed as violence and protests escalated, the President’s team at the Serena Talks under Dr Kofi Annan vowed they would go no further. Annan called off the talks; the nation listened with trepidation.

Every eye and ear was on Serena – now there seemed little else to hope for. In any case ODM felt PNU, whose position had clearly said Raila should seek legal redress, was merely buying time to let the national anger and uncertainty dissipate before it could take a harder line. That evening Kibaki declared any power sharing would have to adhere to the Constitution, which vests executive power on the winner ECK declared.

Kikwete, then African Union chairman, until last month when he handed over to the Libyan leader, had one message for Kibaki and Raila. The two had variously spoken to then US President George Bush, British PM Gordon Brown, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and heads of EU delegations, among others.

Through Annan and Kikwete the message came in quick succession: they would either play ball or the international community would move in.

United Nation peacekeepers

At the time the epicentre of violence was moving from western and North Rift to Naivasha and Nakuru. The prospect of a civil war was real.

As the country stood still, temperatures were boiling. Violence threatened to tear the country apart. Kibaki and Raila were about to agree a deal that would stop international players from agreeing to dispatch AU and United Nations peacekeepers. In effect it would have cast Kibaki as one who had lost control, and the consequence was also grim for Raila.

The options were shrinking fast for both sides. They were either going to lock hands and agree, or give international community the leeway to dictate terms.

Veteran journalist Salim Lone, who was Raila’s spokesman, said: “President Kikwete arrived with a clear message: unless there is a voluntary deal signed to stem the violence the international community would mobilise for immediate intervention.”

“The realisation that international community placed a high premium on Kenya and threatened greater involvement helped to make President Kibaki and Raila change their minds to sign the deal,” Lone said in interview with The Standard on Saturday, on Friday.

Annan was increasingly getting impatient with the two leaders’ refusal to resolve the impasse.

Cabinet Minister Mutula Kilonzo, who was among the team of negotiators told The Standard on Saturday, on Friday, confirmed the limited options Kibaki and Raila had.

This answers the question many have been asking: What made Kibaki change his mind hours after his team at Serena showed they would go no further, and when he himself had said the Constitution was the final arbiter?

“It was actually a threat that Annan issued straight to the principals to their faces that failure to agree then meant he was going to ask the world to come in, particularly because of the violence,” Mutula said.

Mood changed

The minister said the matter was “so serious” Annan’s mood had changed from that of persuasive diplomacy to that of militancy –threatening the deployment of UN peacekeepers to quell the violence. The implication of having the UN peacekeepers would have meant Kenya had degenerated into a failed state.

Countries that have previously been under the UN peacekeeping forces include Sierra Leone, Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cambodia.

There were also threats from the international community the leaders who sabotage the talks would be slapped with travel bans.

Mutula further says the arrival of President Kikwete helped to bolster the deal.

Mutula said the presence of Kikwete by virtue of being the chairman of African Union was critical, as it helped to move the process.

He noted that aside, Kikwete was also a neighbour, a good friend of President Kibaki and more important, Tanzania already had a Prime minister.

Panel of Eminent Persons

The minister said Kikwete’s arrival was also critical in that Tanzania had been faced with disputed elections in Zanzibar, not so long ago and that there was need for Kikwete to share the experience of how they had resolved the problem.

Annan’s move to engage the two had been prompted by exchanges that had taken place the previous day. A member of the PNU negotiating team had engaged the Panel of Eminent persons in heated exchange. The exchange, according to sources, is understood to have let fly comments that stunned mediators before the talks were suspended.

A disappointed Annan is said to have decided to shift gears by engaging President Kibaki and Raila to advance the talks.

Deadlock

This emerged even as the US State Department announced that it was exploring “a wide range of possible actions” on Kenya in less than 24 hours after the deadlock.

Through the then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice the US warned it would draw its own conclusions about who was responsible for the stalemate and take necessary steps.

Post of Prime minister

Rice also warned the US would exert pressure through the United Nations, African Union, European Union and others to ensure a political solution was reached.

But, with time running out and the Government and ODM negotiators engaging in heated exchanges, with attacks directed at the mediators, Annan decided to engage the principals.

Intense shuttle diplomacy and building of international pressure took over as Annan and his team met Kibaki at Harambee House office and then later Raila and his team at Pentagon House. Kikwete was forced to extend his two-day stay, underlying the urgency to restart the talks.

And a sign of good gesture ODM called off mass action and Kibaki announced through a PPS dispatch he was willing to create the post of Prime Minister and two deputies. The deal was just hours away – on February 28, on the frontal steps of Harambee House Kibaki and Raila signed it.

On Saturday, the three who were top of the presidential polls chart are ranking in the order of their performance.

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