A powerful lobby within the government has hatched an elaborate plan aimed at pushing the African Union (AU) to end chief mediator Kofi Annan’s mandate in Kenya, according to well-placed sources.
The carefully calculated plan involves top government officials and Foreign Affairs people who want the AU to stop Mr Annan’s involvement in the country’s reform agenda, citing “undue intrusion”.
One of the options being explored by the architects of the plot is to push the AU to censure the former United Nations secretary-general for allegedly overstepping his mandate while overseeing Kenya’s reform process.
A consultant attached to the Cabinet Office at the Office of the President, Prof Peter Kagwanja, confirmed that the government was determined to seek the termination of Mr Annan’s mandate. Prof Kagwanja, who is also a political strategist for the Party of National Unity (PNU), told the Sunday Nation:
“Kenya is seeking, at the minimum, that the AU censures him. Their lobbying will get very good reception at the AU because members feel he overstepped his mandate on the ICC issue at a time when members are already dealing with the Sudan crisis.”
A senior official at the Foreign Affairs ministry, who cannot be quoted discussing confidential matters, confirmed that the government was determined to push Mr Annan out of the Kenyan process.
“We are going to push for an end to his engagement in Kenya because we feel he is taking it too far. He is almost micro-managing Kenya, and people like Raila (Odinga) think he is our headmaster. We can handle our own problems,” the official said.
But Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang’ula adopted a diplomatic approach to the issue when contacted. “As far as the government is concerned, (Mr) Annan was sent here by the African Union, alongside President Mkapa and Graca Machel by the then AU chairman John Kufuor.
They were obviously inherited by the subsequent AU leadership of President (Jakaya) Kikwete. As a government we are very grateful and appreciate their efforts in ending the turmoil that rocked our country.”
He added that it was only the AU which could end Mr Annan’s mandate. “I’m in constant communication with the African Union and, as far as I know, they are yet to communicate to us any intention of disengaging Mr Annan because they are the only ones who can do so. When they do, I’m sure they will communicate the decision to us,” he said.
Mr Wetang’ula welcomed President Kibaki’s opening of the fourth session of the Tenth Parliament on February 23 when he urged Kenyans to resolve their own problems instead of turning to “outsiders” for help. This was a thinly veiled reference to recent calls by Prime Minister Raila Odinga for Mr Annan’s urgent intervention to resolve the dispute between the coalition partners.
Mr Wetang’ula added: “We must have confidence in ourselves. While we welcome Mr Annan’s assistance in the past, we should not keep on running to outsiders to help us sort out even small differences because we emerge more respectable in the eyes of the international community when we handle our own problems.”
But ODM’s second in command, Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, warned that Kenya risked international isolation if it dares push for Mr Annan’s disengagement. “We should not even contemplate it. We risk burning bridges with our international friends because of that single move. Our friendship with the international community should not be one of convenience. When we were in a crisis, they came to our rescue, so we should not start rubbishing them simply because we now have relative tranquillity,” Mr Mudavadi warned.
As a first move towards achieving their goal, the anti-Annan group pushed for Kenya to join the AU Peace and Security Council during the recent AU summit in Addis Ababa. It is from this position that they intend to lobby for Mr Annan’s censure, a move they hope will culminate in the termination of his mandate.
The new countries elected for three-year terms to the crucial AU organ include Kenya, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Zimbabwe and Nigeria. Countries elected for two years include Burundi, Chad, Djibouti, Rwanda, Mauritania, Namibia, South Africa, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire and Mali.
The outgoing AU Peace and Security Council played a major role in ending the bloodbath that rocked Kenya in the aftermath of the 2007 General Election and which saw Mr Kufuor summon Mr Annan and his team of eminent personalities to mediate between President Kibaki and Mr Odinga.
But there are those within government who feel that the new AU Peace and Security Council ought to remain focused on the Kenyan situation and that the mediation panel led by Mr Annan should remain in place since there is still some distance to be covered to full implementation of the mediation agreement and entrenchment of the reforms. Part of Mr Annan’s mandate is to ensure that the reform process initiated under Agenda 4 of the National Accord is fully implemented.
The Agenda 4 reforms include establishing a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC), electoral reforms and the successful prosecution of those who planned and carried out the post-election violence that left more than 1,300 people dead and thousands displaced. Those pushing for the termination of Mr Annan’s mandate argue that Kenya has stabilised and no longer needs Mr Annan’s involvement.