Kenyan opposition calls for protests unless its proposals accepted

Other News Materials 20 February 2008 17:16 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Kenya's opposition threatened Wednesday to call its supporters onto the streets in protest at sluggish mediation talks unless the government accepts the proposals it has suggested in the negotiations to end the crisis.

The talks to end the stalemate over December's disputed polls have been deadlocked over a political settlement, seen as the only resolution to the political standoff and the bloodshed that has left more than 1,000 dead.

The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), which claims December's vote was stolen from its leader Raila Odinga, said President Mwai Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU) was "not a serious partner in peace," and demanded that changes be made to the constitution by next week.

"We thought the pressure of the international community will be able to make PNU to be flexible and come to a middle ground. It seems it has not worked. The only thing they can listen to is power of the people and that power needs to be revived," said Najib Balala, a senior ODM member.

Protests marked the weeks after the polls, with slum dwellers - who make up a significant portion of ODM's support base in the capital Nairobi - coming up against police tear gas and live bullets. The demonstrations paralyzed business in the city and in other parts of the country.

ODM has proposed the creation of an executive premier as part of a power-sharing deal being negotiated by former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, but the government has so far refused such a position, claiming the constitution does not allow for it.

The opposition said Kenyans were becoming impatient, echoing US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who, in a lightning visit Monday, said "the time for a political settlement was yesterday."

The government could not be reached for comment on ODM's threats.

While teams negotiating an end to the crisis that has marked a disturbing change from the ordinarily stable country have been unable to agree on a political settlement, they have found middle ground on solving the humanitarian crisis and ending the violence.

Earlier, Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai said she has received numerous death threats over her outspoken role in the post-election crisis, accusing her of not toeing the government line.

"Because of opposing the government all times, we have decided to look for your head very soon ... take care of your life," she said, reading out the text message sent to her three times late Monday night.

She criticized legislators for fighting over ministerial positions while Kenyans continue to suffer in violence that has taken an ethnic dimension.

"Even as I speak people are still being killed. Surely this must be more important than being a minister," she said.