Kenya's governing partner plots to undermine rival:Kalonzo visits Kigali

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One of Kenya's governing coalition partners, the Party of National Unity (PNU), has waged a fierce diplomatic campaign to disband the Kofi Annan mediation team, but it is coming up against strong resistance from the international community which fears the country will descend into chaos if exter n al intervention is blocked.

The party, which has succeeded in peeling away from its coalition partner, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), has put together an ad hoc 'team of experts' to lobby the African Union (AU) into disbanding the Panel of Eminent African Per sonalities under Annan's chairmanship.

The flurry of activities hightened two weeks ago after Prime Minister Raila Odinga appealed to Annan to intervene in the crisis in government, sparked by the de c ision to suspend Education Minister Sam Ongeri and Agriculture Minister William Ruto after the two scoffed at calls to accept political responsibility over corruption scandals in their respective ministries.

Ongeri is under pressure to resign over financial embezzlement by his subordinates, while Ruto is fending off calls to step down over a maize scandal in which Sh 3 billion was lost.

Odinga's petition to Annan touched off a high-profile diplomatic manoeuvres in the grand coalition that culminated in Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula travelling to African Union (AU) headquarters for a one-hour meeting with AU Commission chairman, Jean Ping.

In his petition, the PM wanted AU to order the power-sharing accord re-negotiated.

Encouraged by the split in ODM and certain of a Ruto camp backing in parliament, PNU despatched Wetangula to the AU headquarters on 19 February to lobby Ping into disbanding the Annan team.

ODM acknowledges there is spirited campaign to tame Odinga, who is increasingly being listened to by development partners as the president dithers on taking decisive action against corruption in government.

The response to PNU's manoeuvres was swift and damning. Annan directed the two principals to meet urgency 'to agree on a practical and workable application of the principle of collaboration; on the continued need for investigation of the alleged acts of corruption; and on the imperative of joint sustained efforts to implement the reform agenda.'

Kibaki was apparently angered by the oversight role by the AU and the Annan team.

In his speech during the state opening of the Fourth Session of the 10th Parliament on Tuesday, he took a swipe at the PM, chiding him for seeking foreign intervention to a local problem.

He said, 'We must also not politicise or personalise the fight against corruption. Kenyans should trust the leadership of the country and abandon the tempta tion to look externally for solutions that can easily be found locally.'

Kenyan embassy staff in Addis Ababa confirmed to PANA that Wetangula met and held talks with Ping from 7am before bouncing back to Nairobi aboard Ethiopian Airlines, which touched down at the Jomo Kentta International Airport at 9 am the same day.

Ping has reportedly told his colleagues that he objected to the PNU intentions. This is the third time AU has snubbed Wetngula, the first being when in January 2 008 former AU chairman and Ghanaian President John Kuffuor declined to listen to him when he led a delegation to Accra to seek the organisation's support for Kibaki's disputed presidency.

In Addis Ababa the same year, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon snubbed the Kenyan team led by Kibaki and Wetangula.

Senior AU officials, including AU Commission's Deputy Chairperson, Mr. Erastus Mwencha, a Kenyan, were curiously not invited to the meeting between Wetang'ula and Ping.

Reached to shade light on his meeting with Ping and his decision to avoid Kenyan staff at AU headquarters and embassy, the minister did not answer phone calls or replied text messages.

It is also intriguing why senior ministry officials were not informed of Watangula's visit as is the practice at the foreign office. Even the Director of Africa and African Union, Mr. Patrick Wamoto, currently on leave, said he was not aware of the visit.

The visit is reminiscent of the flurry of diplomatic delegations in early 2008 - - President Kibaki dispatched to various countries on the continent seeking support after his poll victory was violently disputed.

As Kenya burned, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka flew out to Rwanda on, in his words, for 'solution-finding visit' during which he met President Paul Kagame.

Kagame gave him a cold shoulder, and so was the reception the deputy Prime Minister was accorded in Dar es Salaam as Kibaki sought Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete's backing.

The reasoning is that the grand coalition is functioning and the AU mediation is putting the country under unnecessary international spotlight.

The PNU manoeuvres took place two weeks before Kenya was due for reinstatement to the powerful Peace and Security Council for a three-year term.

Kenyan diplomats in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, told PANA that the sudden visit by Wetangula on Saturday morning took them by surprise, coming just days after the AU heads of State Summit, which Kibaki attended.

Diplomats familiar with the government's attempts to have the AU mediation panel wound up, are lobbying the AU against prematurely winding up the Annan Panel.

In Nairobi, a diplomat told PANA in confidence, 'One side of the government has not been honest. It will be difficult to block the Annan team from playing an active role in Kenya's peace process.'

However, AU officials conversant with Odinga's request for international intervention said the ODM leader called for a fresh round of negotiations over the power-haring agreement.

The current move prompted Annan to move back the national dialogue and reconciliation review meeting initially set for next month to September.

Analysts had feared the Wetangula's meeting with the AU chief would overshadow Odinga's request for a new round of Annan-led mediation because of the AU's tradition of siding with the incumbents.

Wetangula succeeded in meeting Ping after several aborted attempts in December and mid-January.

Earlier, a delegation of Kenyan civil societies had tried to lobby the AU against authorising the withdrawal of the Annan panel during the 14th AU summit, which ended on 2 February.

AU Spokesman ElGhashim Wane, the commission's interim Director for Peace and Security, was non-committal on the purpose of the 19 February meeting between Ping and Wetangula.

Nairobi - Pana 03/03/2010

By Juma Kwayera, Kennedy Abwao, PANA Correspondents

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