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Annan Urges Kenyans To Unite For Good Of Nation

Former U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, urges Kenyans to focus on what unites them rather than what divides them for the sake of their country's future prosperity and stability. About 250 people, including Kenyan political and civic leaders, attended a two-day conference sponsored by the Geneva-based Kofi Annan Foundation to take stock of what Kenya is doing to implement reforms and tackle widespread corruption.

Kofi Annan played a key role last year in negotiating a power-sharing agreement between Kenya's President, Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

The former U.N. Secretary-General says the government has made some progress in implementing the reforms agreed to in the National Accord, but, not enough.

He says Kenya is at the crossroads and it must waste no time in reforming its judiciary and penal systems and in addressing what he calls a culture of impunity.

"Failure to take decisive action on these reforms will undermine the credibility of all other reform efforts and the search for peace," said Kofi Annan. "It is not too late for Kenya's political leadership to lead, but, at times, at times when there is growing skepticism about the behavior and motives of the ruling elite, the window of opportunity is closing. Time is running out."

Kenya's President and Prime Minister were invited to attend the conference. But, they declined to come. However, Kenya's Deputy Prime Minister, Musalia Mudavadi, did attend.

He expressed his appreciation for the interest shown in his country and said he valued the interchange of ideas. He also took the opportunity to refute charges that his government was no longer working with the Kofi Annan Foundation in pursuing the reform agenda.

About 1,300 people were killed and some 300,000 displaced in an outbreak of violence following Kenya's disputed Presidential elections in late 2007. The unrest and ethnic clashes were triggered in part by reports of vote rigging.

Kofi Annan says it is imperative that electoral reforms be pushed through well in advance of the 2012 elections. Otherwise, he warns violence once again could erupt.

"In my judgment, you probably have a year to maximum 15 months for the Parliament to push through the reforms before the window closes because people will be focusing on their political future in 2012," he said. "What I would hope, and I would urge the Kenyan people is to monitor the performance and the behavior of the leaders to determine who is serious and genuine about reform, who is serious and genuine about helping build a stable, democratic, prosperous Kenya."

Annan says people should reward and vote for those leaders who seem to be genuinely interested in rooting out corruption and in reforming Kenya's constitutional and parliamentary system.

He urges people to lay aside their ethnic identities and feel proud of their national identities as Kenyans. That, he says is the way to build a unified, viable society.