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Mediated talks on course, negotiators say

NAIROBI, May 22 – Members of the National Dialogue and Reconciliation Committee have defended themselves against criticism that they have abandoned mediated talks.

Speaking separately on Wednesday negotiators James Orengo and Mutula Kilonzo downplayed claims that parties were no longer committed to the talks even as session after session was cancelled.

The duo said consultations and debate on key issues on the final mediated question Agenda Item Four were well on course but being done behind the scenes.

Orengo said: “There is a lot of work that is going on; we do business more expeditiously by meeting amongst ourselves and going to the mediator when we do not agree. We had agreed to prepare certain papers that we will discuss before going to Serena.”

Orengo who spoke from his Ardhi House office said the drafting of important documents of deliberation were ongoing.

Among key documents in the offing are the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission Bill and the Ethnic Relations Bill, which are awaiting publication by the Attorney General.

Orengo added that a legal document on the road map to a new constitution is also been drafted.

At his Orange Democratic Movement- Kenya (ODM-K) party offices Kilonzo disputed media reports that the team had abdicated their role and said they have been meeting regularly to discuss various issues on Agenda Item Four.

“There are people who think we are not doing what we are supposed to be doing. The reality of it is we meet immediately after question time in Parliament,” he said.

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Kilonzo who was tasked with the responsibility of drafting a legally binding coalition agreement also announced the document is ready for discussion by the panel.

A meeting to fine tune these documents slated for Wednesday was however postponed since Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Martha Karua was said to be out of the country.

Elsewhere in an interesting comment from Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula, he said Chairman Adeniji Oluyemi work had ended. The remaining issues he said could be handled by the negotiators themselves.

The team slowed activity after the signing of the coalition agreement by President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga in February and the subsequent naming of the Cabinet.

Agenda Item Four, which is currently under debate, seeks to address historical injustices that have been the recipe for heightened political and tribal tensions.

Public pressure has been mounting over the last few weeks for the team to resume sittings even as debate on the question of amnesty rages on.

The issue had been discussed under Item One and Two where it was agreed that the perpetrators of post election violence must face the law.

But the issue has resurfaced with ODM legislators calling for the release of their supporters held in police cells while Party of National Unity legislators have ruled out the matter.

There was speculation that issue would be discussed in the first Cabinet meeting held last week but a dispatch from the Presidential Press Service informed that it was not in the agenda.

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During the violence at least 1,200 lost their lives while more than 350,000 were uprooted from their homes. Though the displaced have started going back home tensions in the worst hit areas of the Rift Valley are threatening to scuttle the process.


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