In Kenya, two protagonists and the conciliators
In January, one of Africa's most stable democracies was violently ripping itself apart. How was it saved? In Part 3 of a four-part special report, the key players tell what happened.
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"The intensity of the violence was so forceful in my opinion, and so unexpected, that it made people think twice, it made people want to stop it," says Wangari Maathai, the Nobel Prize-winning Kenyan environmental activist.Skip to next paragraph
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At the negotiating table at the Serena Hotel, Ruto and Karua fulfill their roles as champions of their respective parties: Ruto the emotional shouter, Karua the poker-faced attorney. But another personality type emerges as well: the conciliators.
On the president's side, Mutula Kilonzo is the team's problem solver.
While other members dig in their heels for the maximum gain, Mr. Kilonzo is scribbling notes, treating the negotiations as a puzzle to be solved. A sign in his downtown legal office describes his approach: "If you can't go over it, around it, or through it, you'll have to negotiate with it."
The two men's willingness to discuss compromises causes some tension among their fellow teammates. More than once, team leader Karua reins in Kilonzo on a possible power-sharing deal with her tart refrain, "President Kibaki is the duly elected president. If the opposition wants to join his government, they must first accept that he is the duly elected president."
Kilonzo recalls that "there were times when the anger was clear on the table, there was hostility, name-calling. During situations when you find almost hostility between the two groups, I ended up intervening, because I don't take things personally."
The conciliators kept the talks from derailing completely, but progress remained slow. And in between sessions, Kilonzo's teammates would accost him: "Mutula, you are selling us [out]."
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For Kofi Annan, the chief mediator, these talks are never leisurely. Like his first foray into international mediation – in 1998, he flew to Baghdad as UN secretary-general in a failed attempt to get Saddam Hussein to comply with UN weapons inspections – his mediations in Kenya are a "race against time."
At the Kenya talks, Mr. Annan allows both sides to debate a point, but not endlessly. By Week 2, his habit of cutting off debate and moving on to the next subject is starting to get on Karua's nerves. She complains that the pace is leaving her "breathless."
"At times, they felt I was pushing them too hard," Annan admits. "But the issues are ... extremely important and we need to find a solution as quickly as we can."
But in contrast to Karua, the ODM team wants the talks to go faster. "For us, it was going too slow," Mr. Orengo says. "You walked out on the street ... and you could feel the anxiety and the tension.... The country was saying, 'Without the Annan process, there is no solution.'"
But after two weeks, both sides are still fighting over key issues. And Annan makes a public disclosure that threatens to derail the talks.
This is the third installment of the four-part series "How peace came to Kenya."