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Tanzania President to Meet Both Sides in Kenya Today Over Suspended Talks

The leader of Kenya’s main opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Raila Odinga is expected to meet Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete today (Wednesday) over the suspended talks between the opposition and the government. This comes after United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized both the opposition and embattled President Mwai Kibaki’s government for failing to end their political stalemate. Rice said Washington, would take “necessary steps” if a solution is not reached. Former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, who is the mediator of the talks, reportedly said he was suspending negotiations to make certain that a lasting solution is found soon.

The talks have been trying to resolve the ongoing political crisis, which is blamed for a loss of lives and property. General secretary of the opposition ODM Peter Anyang Nyongo tells reporter Peter Clottey he believes the government is not serious about the suspended talks.

“We are going to appraise President Kikwete on what has been happening, what we as ODM think should be the best way to find a solution to the political crisis in Kenya. So we have put proposals to the mediation team under Kofi Annan, and we think our proposals are reasonable, I think it’s important to move forward and avoid further suffering in Kenya. And we so hope that as chair of the AU (Africa Union), we would reiterate to him that we have total faith under Annan’s led mediation effort. And we should exhaust all possibilities to make it a success,” Nyongo pointed out.

He described the government’s negotiating team at the suspended talks as halfhearted.

“Our perspective is that Kibaki’s’ team has been dragging its feet on moving forward on the key issue of the item number three on the agenda that is governance issues. We do think that the spirit of power sharing should mean sharing of executive powers, and sharing that power to the highest level. And we made a very constructive proposal that the head of the executive is the president and the prime minister should share those powers. And that the president as the head of state to be given certain executive responsibilities, particularly in reference to defense and foreign affairs, just like in France, and then the prime minister should drum the government from day to day basis,” he said.

Nyongo concurs with what he describes as Washington’s frustration with a lack of progress in the suspended talks.

“I can understand Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s concern. It takes two to tango, and of course when you are tangoing and the other one goes out of sync, it is difficult to tell who caused the other to go out of step. But that not withstanding, we do feel that the PNU (ruling party of National Unity) is deliberately getting out of step and making it a difficult matter. So we don’t feel they are as serious as and genuine negotiating partner on the part of the PNU,” Nyongo noted.

Tanzania’s President Kikwete, who is also the new chairman of the African Union, is expected to meet President Kibaki to jumpstart the suspended peace talks.