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Former UN Chief Says Kenya Must Accelerate Reforms

Former U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan warns Kenya is at a crossroads and its leaders must act quickly to implement the country's reform process or risk destabilizing the country again. The Geneva-based Kofi Annan Foundation is hosting a two-day meeting aimed at reviewing the mediation process in Kenya in 2008, which achieved a power-sharing agreement in the country.

Kofi Annan says the meeting is not aimed at renegotiating the Kenya National Accord that he and two other eminent African personalities achieved last year. He says the goal is to take stock of the current situation in Kenya and draw lessons as to how this can advance peace and stability elsewhere in Africa and the wider world.

The former U.N. Secretary-General says negotiating and signing a peace agreement is the easy part. Implementing it, he says, is much more complex and difficult.

He says some progress has been achieved, but not enough. And he says, that explains the growing frustrations, cynicism and disillusionment of ordinary Kenyans regarding the good faith of their government.

"I believe this disappointment and anger stems partly from the fact that everyone understands what needs to be done, what needs to be done to move the country forward," he said. "So, the average person finds it difficult to comprehend why those changes, some of them very fundamental, are not taking place at a faster pace. But, the widespread disillusionment can also be explained by the fact that ordinary Kenyans do not feel they are part of the reform process."

Ethnic violence erupted after Kenya's presidential election in December 2007. About 1,200 people were killed and more than 600,000 displaced.

The country was brought back from the brink of disaster after Kofi Annan and two other eminent African personalities negotiated a power-sharing agreement between the two presidential contenders.

Under the agreement, Mwai Kibaki, remained as president and the leader of the Orange Democratic Party, Raila Odinga, became prime minister.

Annan calls the cessation of violence a great achievement on the part of the Kenyan political leadership and the people of Kenya.

"If the parties had not agreed to enter into negotiations at an early stage and made concessions because they understood what was at stake, the ethnic dimension of the violence could have made things much, much worse ... Kenya was bleeding and the people wanted peace," he said. "There was no alternative to dialogue and mediation. The leaders found the courage and the wisdom to seek a political settlement and stop the killing."

President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga were invited to attend the two-day conference. After initially accepting the invitation, they declined to come. But other high-ranking Kenyan officials are attending, as are a number of key actors who participated in the mediation effort in early 2008.

Kofi Annan says many of the problems that have been plaguing the African continent for decades continue to thrive in Kenya and elsewhere. He says he believes this is one reason why the world is paying such close attention to the way Kenya grapples with these issues.

He says the world is watching to see how Kenyan leaders respond to their peoples' demands for real change.