The head of the African Union on Wednesday held separate talks with President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga in a bid to solve Kenya’s political crisis, as refugees fleeing ethnic violence streamed out of the western city of Kisumu.
Ghanaian president John Kufuor met Mr Kibaki at his State House residence, then went to a Nairobi hotel for talks with Mr Odinga, who claims he was robbed of the presidency in an election marred by serious irregularities. Post-election violence, much of it aimed at Mr Kibaki’s Kikuyu community, has claimed at least 500 lives and left an estimated 250,000 homeless.
The president’s office said Mr Kibaki assured Mr Kufuor he would continue to “reach out to Kenyan leaders”, while Mr Odinga described the meeting as “fruitful”. But analysts said the distance between the two sides remained wide and mediation efforts had been undermined by Mr Kibaki’s decision to unveil half his cabinet as Mr Kufuor flew to Kenya on Tuesday evening.
The US state department had expressed disappointment at the timing of the announcement, but said Mr Kibaki had assured it his aim was to keep government running, not antagonise Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement.
But the Kenyan president’s brinkmanship has dismayed many members of his own community, who feel it is exacerbating already dangerous levels of animosity towards Kikuyu people. The new partial cabinet does not list a single Luo minister and includes many politicians, such as justice minister Martha Karua, long regarded as hardliners.
“There’s a very strong and stubborn streak in the group around the president,” said a banker who asked not to be named. “This is Kibaki saying to the opposition: ‘I’m the president. Deal with it.’ ”
On Wednesday the Kamba was the latest group to feel the brunt of opposition anger, as ODM supporters sought revenge for the perceived betrayal of Kamba politician Kalonzo Musyoka – third in the poll – who has accepted the post of vice-president.
Kambas were braced for expulsion from the Nairobi slum of Kibera, a mainly Luo settlement, which has seen anti-Kikuyu violence.