The chief mediator in the Kenya reconciliation talks, Kofi Annan, says difficult steps remain before the government and opposition can reach a settlement to end the crisis over December's disputed elections, but he says a deal is close. Mr. Annan made the remarks Friday at the end of a third week of negotiations as we hear from VOA's Scott Bobb in Nairobi.
Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that government and opposition negotiators have made substantial progress and have signed a four-page agreement on how to resolve the political crisis in Kenya.
The agreement calls for the creation of an independent commission to review the disputed elections that caused the wave of deadly violence of the past six weeks.
"This committee would be mandated to investigate all aspects of the 2007 presidential election and make findings and recommendations to improve the electoral process," said the former U.N. secretary-general.
Mr. Annan said the commission would be a non-judicial body made up of Kenyan and non-Kenyan experts. He added that Kenyans have a right to know the truth about the cause of the violence that killed 1,000 people and displaced 300,000 more. The negotiators agreed that a vote recount or a re-run of the presidential election would be counterproductive.
Mr. Annan said the negotiators agreed that a political settlement is needed to promote national reconciliation and unity.
"The parties further agreed that this settlement is not about sharing ministries but about addressing the root causes of recurrent conflict in this country," he said.
He said a long-term solution is needed. This would include comprehensive reforms to Kenya's constitution, electoral laws, political institutions and security forces. It also includes the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission and prosecution of those responsible for the violence.
Mr. Annan said the two sides will consult their leaders in the coming days and on Tuesday resume negotiations with him to formulate a mechanism to implement the reforms.
He acknowledged that the talks, which were meant to last only two weeks, are taking longer than expected but he added this is understandable.
"The issues are complex," said Mr. Annan. "Reaching a compromise is difficult. But let me assure you that there is a real momentum. We are on the water's edge and the last difficult and frightening step, as difficult as it is, will be taken."
Mr. Annan said he hopes to meet separately Monday with President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga and ask them to instruct their negotiators to make a deal.
Both sides have been under intense pressure to reach a settlement. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is due to arrive in Kenya Monday to show support for the negotiations.
The British high commissioner to Kenya, Adam Wood, told the Kenya Television Network on Thursday that Britain does not recognize the government of Mwai Kibaki as representing the will of Kenya's people. He indicated Britain is considering sanctions such as a ban on visits by certain leaders and a freeze of their assets in Britain.
The comment drew a strong protest from Kenya's Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula who warned that his government might retaliate.