Thursday, July 18, 2024

Raila Odinga: Big powers pushed us into signing peace deal

Cord leader Raila Odinga has spoken of pressure from the US and other powers that saw him and President Mwai Kibaki sign the National Accord in 2008.

Speaking on the seventh anniversary of the agreement that saved the country from civil war, Mr Odinga said he and Mr Kibaki received calls and emissaries from leaders of permanent members of the UN Security Council. There was pressure from Kenyans too.

“I talked to various heads of state and governments. Africa was not left behind and the President of Ghana, as Chairman of the AU, spoke to me and Kibaki before initiating the Committee of Eminent Persons led by Dr Kofi Annan. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon came to push for peace and resolution of the crisis,’’ Mr Odinga said.

The agreement came after nearly a month of bloodletting, following the 2007 presidential elections, which handed the victory to Mwai Kibaki.

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Mr Odinga disputed this.

It brought fundamental changes in Kenya, including the new Constitution, something acknowledged on Thursday by the then Ghanaian President John Kufuor.

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But Mr Odinga, who is pushing for a referendum on the Constitution, said many of the ills they fought against, including the politics of exclusion and attempts to curtail human rights, were back.

Mr Kufuor told of hostilities which greeted his efforts to reach out to the two sides.

“I cannot help but be proud of the progress made so far from the turbulent times when everything seemed bleak,” Mr Kufuor said on the sidelines of the Governors’ Summit at Enashipai Resort and Spa, Naivasha.


Mr Kufuor arrived in the country in January 2008 to try to bring Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga together as the country burned.

“Brother had risen against brother,” he recounted before recalling how some officials contemptuously said he was in Kenya “for a cup of tea.”

Mr Odinga said it was Mr Kufuor who first came up with a clear roadmap to the National Accord.

“There were interventions from the international community, peace organisations and the loud cry for dialogue from Kenyans. The AU came with the first concrete blueprint for a negotiated settlement but in broad terms,” he said.

“Major transport corridors were barricaded. We were on the brink of a civil war and genocide,” Mr Odinga said.

“We had called for mass action. Reactionary elements within the administration wanted power at all costs, including conducting pogroms like those unleashed by security forces in Kibera. Somebody had to give in for peace and we did. Loss of lives could not be justified.”

He cited an incident in Kibera in which he and other ODM leaders were violently dispersed by GSU officers during a funeral service for victims of the violence.

Musalia Mudavadi, a member of the ODM mediation team who is currently allied to the government, told of the initial obstacles to the talks even within ODM but which were soon overcome by other forces.

“Some people strongly felt that pressure should be sustained through mass action. At the end of it, the majority who saw sense in negotiating carried the day,” he said.

The ODM team comprised William Ruto (now deputy president), Mr Mudavadi, Sally Kosgei and James Orengo while the PNU side had Moses Wetang’ula, Martha Karua, Mutula Kilonzo and Sam Ongeri.

The mediators were Mr Annan, former South Africa First Lady Graca Machel and former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa.

According to Mr Mudavadi, the negotiations were long, painstaking and acrimonious. Both teams would take time to consult with their principals.

“If we felt that the decisions taken were not balanced, we would take leave to consult with the bigger group. When issues were very sensitive, we could call time out and discuss them collectively,” he added.

President Kibaki’s decision to name his cabinet in January 2008 almost led to the collapse of the talks, according to Mudavadi.

“To us, this was aimed at scuttling the process,” he said.

He added that it was the turning point for the talks.

“That was when we pushed for any agreements to be entrenched in the Constitution. At this point, Orengo and Mutula became very critical. Kofi Annan also brought in some consultants from the United Nations to help in drafting the legal framework,” the former Deputy Prime Minister said.

Mr Mudavadi also recalled events leading to the collapse of the final stages of the talks at Kilaguni Resort in the Tsavo Game Reserve.

“The talks did not yield much. The problem arose when some guys from the PNU side tried to join the talks. They called themselves President Kibaki’s advisers. We left Kilaguni very disappointed,” he added.

It is the failure of the Kilaguni round of talks that pushed Mr Annan to call off the mediation team talks and deal directly with Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga.

“On the morning of February 28, 2008, we negotiated directly with Kibaki under the auspices of Annan’s team with President Jakaya Kikwete on the chair. He was the AU Chairman,” he said.

Using the template prepared by the Serena team, they negotiated all the clauses that became the National Accord.

At the conclusion of the negotiations, Attorney–General Amos Wako and Mr Orengo were dispatched to work on the final agreement signed on the same day.

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