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Masire to mediate in Kenya conflict
January 9, 2008
Masire to mediate in Kenya conflict

Former President, Sir Ketumile Masire, is in Nairobi as part of an elder statesmen's delegation that is seeking to act as mediators in the post-election conflict.

The other members of the delegation are Tanzania's Benjamin Mkapa, Mozambique's Joachim Chissano and Zambia's Kenneth Kaunda.

The group intends to meet and work in concert with President John Kufuor of Ghana, the current Chairperson of the African Union. President Kufuor is now also expected to travel to Nairobi.

Meanwhile, opposition leader, Raila Odinga said Tuesday he was prepared to meet President Mwai Kibaki to resolve Kenya's political deadlock but only if the African Union chief acted as mediator.

"He will not meet Kibaki for negotiations unless Ghanaian President Kufuor is there," said Odinga's spokesman, Salim Lone.

Kufuor was expected in Nairobi yesterday evening to help mediate an end to Kenya's political crisis after presidential elections that triggered an eruption of violence.

Kibaki's contested re-election victory over Odinga in last month's polls sparked nationwide riots that tore at Kenya's multi-ethnic fabric and left at least 600 people dead.

Attempts to bring the rival leaders together have so far failed, although Kibaki extended an invitation on Monday to Odinga for face-to-face talks.

The opposition leader had previously made any negotiations conditional on the president acknowledging that the December 27 vote count was rigged.

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis have accelerated in recent days, with a number of former African presidents now in Nairobi following up on a mediation mission by the top US Africa envoy, Jendayi Frazer.

Newspapers reflected public relief at the increasing diplomatic activity, a day after Odinga cancelled nationwide protest rallies that many feared would reignite the clashes.

"It is indeed welcome if both sides are abandoning intransigent positions and edging towards the negotiating table," the Daily Nation said in an editorial.

The Standard newspaper lamented the images of tribal clashes last week that prompted a UN-backed panel to compare the manner of the killings with ethnic cleansing and genocide.

"Apart from the temporary disruption, the ongoing crisis will cast a shadow over the economy for years to come," The Standard said.

"This has worked to dampen foreign investors' interest with potentially enormous and devastating economic implications," it added.

According to the United Nations, 250, 000 Kenyans have been displaced by the violence and aid groups have warned of a potential health emergency in makeshift camps in schools, hospitals and churches in the isolated and still tense Rift Valley region of western Kenya, as well as Nairobi's slums. (Mmegi-AFP)


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