Kenya power deal must succeed: Commonwealth

April 16, 2009 12:00 am

, LAGOS, Apr 16 – Kenya’s power-sharing deal must pull through until the next elections in 2012 despite the divisions that threaten to tear apart the ruling government, Commonwealth chief Kamalesh Sharma has insisted.

"The Commonwealth wants this experimental power-sharing to succeed until such time as the next due election," Commonweath Secretary General Sharma told AFP Wednesday on the second leg of a two-nation West African trip.

Kenya’s power-sharing government, put together after a bloody post-election political crisis and originally heralded as a model of crisis resolution for the rest of Africa, is showing serious signs of strain.

Tensions within the government of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, came to a head early in April when Justice Minister Martha Karua resigned.

Ms Karua had been one of President Kibaki’s staunchest supporters but when she stepped down she alluded to the appointment of judges by President Kibaki without her knowledge.

Key members of the government have accused President Kibaki of systematically flouting the power-sharing principles.

An attempt two weeks ago to resolve the problem failed after the two sides could not even agree on an agenda for talks.

But talks would have to come sooner or later, Sharma told AFP.

"Whatever differences that may arise politically in this process it is inevitable that … (they) are resolved amicably in political dialogue among themselves," said Sharma.

"It’s a very important message of working together in harmony which I am sure both parties are interested in," he added.

Sharma, on his first trip to Nigeria since taking up office in April last year, was due to meet President Umaru Yar’Adua in the administrative capital Abuja on Thursday.

He has already visited Ghana, where he held talks with newly elected President John Atta-Mills.

Both countries were "respected and valued members" of the Commonwealth, he said.

"At a time of great global, regional and national challenge, it is vital that their voices are heard" in the run-up to the next Commonwealth summit in Port of Spain slated for November, he said.

The Commonwealth is a 53-nation body created nearly 60 years ago and comprising mainly former British colonies.

Sharma was hopeful that Zimbabwe, which pulled out of the Commonwealth in 2003, would rejoin.

"I have always said the time will come when Zimbabwe will express an interest in rejoining the Commonwealth and I have always felt that whenever this political decision is taken by the leadership, it will be welcome by the membership of the Commonwealth," he said.

President Robert Mugabe had described the Commonwealth as an "evil organisation", a front for Britain to "enslave" Zimbabwe, and vowed his country would never return.

Mugabe and his political foe, Morgan Tsvangirai, in February entered into a power-sharing government after nearly a year of political crisis that followed elections in March 2008.

Sharma said part of what he is discussing with Commonwealth governments are ways to strengthen electoral institutions, among them the idea of a pan-Commonwealth body of election commissioners aimed at improving standards.

"I know the … president (of Nigeria) is very committed to strengthening the credibility of the election machinery here," he said.

Nigeria last month proposed a raft of electoral reforms to enhance the credibility of future polls in the continent’s largest democracy.

Its last elections in April 2007, which brought Yar’Adua to power, were condemned by local and foreign observers, including the Commonwealth, as falling short of international standards.

Yar’Adua subsequently promised vowed to clean up the electoral system.


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