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Kenyan negotiators try to rescue talks amid looming threat of mass rallies by opposition

Kenyan negotiators try to rescue talks amid looming threat of mass rallies by opposition

A sharp rebuke from the former U.N. chief and a visit from the current head of the African Union Tuesday added to pressure on Kenyan government and opposition negotiators to agree to share power and end a deadly dispute over presidential elections.
The negotiators have held weeks of talks to try to end the crisis over a vote the opposition says was stolen. The head of mediation efforts, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, said almost no progress had been made. Each side has accused the other of blocking a deal.
"I had to conclude that they were not capable of resolving the outstanding issues," he said in a statement late Monday. Annan said the mediation team "has done its work. I'm now asking the party leaders ... to do theirs."
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, the current head of the African Union, was scheduled to arrive in the Kenyan capital later Tuesday. Kikwete is visiting to "lend support to the Annan-led mediation," said Eliphas Barines, a spokesman for Kenya's foreign ministry. Barines said Kikwete will "definitely meet" with President Mwai Kibaki, but said he did not know if the Tanzanian president planned to meet with opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Kenya was once a beacon of stability in a tumultuous region but a contentious Dec. 27 presidential vote sparked widespread fighting as both sides claimed victory.
Violence has largely subsided in recent weeks, but attacks that left more 1,000 dead and forced 600,000 from their homes have left the country on edge and worried about the potential for more violence.
Kibaki was declared winner of the presidential vote, giving him a second five-year term, after opposition leader Rail Odinga's lead evaporated overnight. International and local election monitors have said the results of the vote were manipulated, making it unclear who would have won.
Government negotiators maintained Tuesday that talks were continuing to progress, but the opposition was pessimistic.
Opposition negotiator Musalia Mudavadi told the Associated Press that the stalemate was "very distressing," as he arrived for talks Tuesday.
Negotiators for Kibaki and Odinga have agreed in principle to create a new prime minister's post for the opposition, but sticking points remain over just how much power such a post would carry.
A source close to the negotiations, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks, said that Annan believed that if there was genuine political will a resolution could have been reached a week or two ago.
Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement, meanwhile, filed notice Monday giving police the required three days' notice for a gathering planned Thursday.
Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said police had not yet decided whether to allow the demonstration.
"We are evaluating the proposal on its on merit," he said. "Each application is evaluated according to its merits and demerits... We are yet to decide."
The party had already threatened mass protests if a deal is not reached by Wednesday, and Monday's filing was a clear sign its leaders believe the talks could falter. Past protests have descended into violence as police forced back crowds.
Much of the postelection violence has been ethnic, between supporters of Kibaki _ a Kikuyu _ and western groups who rally to opposition leader Odinga _ a Luo.
Throughout the talks, low-level unrest has continued. Over the weekend, police said eight houses were burning in a western village in an ethnically motivated attack.
On Monday, police in the western town of Kitale arrested more than 200 youths accused of training to form a militia to protect ethnic groups seen as backing Kibaki in the opposition-dominated west.
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Associated Press writer Heidi Vogt, Malkhadir M. Muhumed and Tom Odula contributed to this report


Updated : 2021-07-28 03:44 GMT+08:00