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Former UN Chief Pressures Kenya on Reforms


Former UN Chief Pressures Kenya on Reforms
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Former United Nations chief Kofi Annan met with Kenya's president and prime minister Monday to urge their coalition government to hasten the pace of reforms in the country. Annan served as chief mediator in the emergency talks that produced the government's power-sharing deal at the beginning of 2008.

The former U.N. chief arrived in Kenya on Sunday and began Monday what he said would be a packed three-day push to pressure the government to fully implement the reform agenda he helped negotiate to curtail the nation's ethnic hostilities.

Addressing reporters outside his hotel in Nairobi late Sunday, Annan said that Kenyan people are losing patience with the lack of tangible action from their leaders, a full 18 months after the reform agenda was first agreed upon.

"Of course I've been following events very closely, and clearly the Kenyan people are expecting more from the coalition government - more unity of purpose, more progress on the reform agenda, and more concrete action to end impunity and combat corruption," he said.

The United States and other Western nations have begun upping their own pressure on Kenya's leaders to follow through on its commitments to key reforms.

Less than two weeks ago the U.S. ambassador to Kenya announced that 15 senior Kenyan officials have received private letters threatening action if the reform process continues to lag behind schedule.

A few days ago the British envoy to Kenya announced that the U.K. also has its own list of 20 individuals who it has hit with travel bans for involvement in corruption, and the European Union joined in by saying it too was greatly concerned with the pace of reforms.

According to the former U.N. chief, the reforms topping his priority list include the ratification of a national constitution, broad electoral reform, the overhaul of the police and judicial institutions, and land reform.

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Annan expressed worry that unless these core issues of concern were soon addressed, the nation could likely see a repeat of the deadly chaos the followed the nation's December 2007 elections.

"The challenge is to achieve these reforms before the country enters the next electoral cycle in about one year or 18 months time. That is what I will be discussing here, starting with the two principals, President [Mwai] Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga," he said.

A statement issued by the Kenya government following Annan's meeting with President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga described the government's current progress on implementing reforms as "impressive."

The government maintains that, besides the notable exception of internally trying the major suspects of politically-instigated tribal violence, it is currently on pace to implement the reforms. By the government's account, most of the reform items are currently held up in commissions, task forces, or waiting for cabinet or parliamentary approval.

Annan will also be meeting with other senior Kenyan politicians, representative of civil society, religious leaders, and key members of the private sector.