The AU’s Panel of Eminent Persons which brokered the Kenyan coalition government in 2008 started its 4-day mission to Kenya this week and its Chairman, Kofi Annan, and member former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa have been meeting key officials among them Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Speaker Kenneth Marende. Mrs. Graca Machel is not accompanying the two during this visit.
According to the press release prior to their arrival, the objective of the visit by Mr. Annan and Mr. Mkapa is to give support and encouragement to the Kenyan people and the country’s institutions as Kenya prepares for an important transition in 2013. Their programme will include meetings with Government, independent and constitutional commissions and other major stakeholder groups, including business leaders, civil society, religious leaders, media and the international community.
Meanwhile, earlier today, the Panel expressly rejected a suggestion by TNA aligned MPs who this morning demanded a meeting between their party leader Uhuru Kenyatta, and the Chairman of the African Union Panel of Eminent Persons Mr Kofi Annan. The MPs had said that Mr Annan had so far met the Prime Minister, Mr Raila Odinga, who is one of the favourites to clinch the presidency coming elections yet other frontrunners in the race, such as Mr Kenyatta had not given their input to Mr Annan and his team.
The Panel notes that a group of Parliamentarians have addressed a press conference in Parliament suggesting that the Panel organises additional meetings during its visit to Kenya.
The Panel would like to reiterate that the purpose of its visit on this occasion is to review progress on the implementation of the Constitution and electoral preparedness. This is why the Panel began its visit with requests to meet the two Principals, the Chief Justice and the Speaker of the National Assembly. The Panel is also meeting the Dialogue Team and the agencies central to the full implementation of the Constitution and Kenya’s preparations for elections.
Mr Annan and Mr Mkapa expect to meet the President tomorrow.
In requesting for the meeting, the MPs were implying that Mr. Annan was giving their chief rival undue advantage in the 2013 polls.
The Panel of Eminent Persons is scheduled to meet President Kibaki tomorrow as he has been away attending Uganda’s 50th independence celebrations. It is not known if they will meet the two principals jointly, but the agenda with the president is ‘packed’.
Their final stop is to address an ‘invite only’ international press conference on Thursday morning where they are expected to release a final scorecard on Kenya’s preparedness for a peaceful election next year as well as comment on key pending reform benchmarks among them police reforms. Mr. Odinga is believed to have expressed reservations about unfulfilled reforms and also his concerns about sporadic violence that has erupted in key ODM strongholds in the recent past.
So far the Panel of Eminent Persons has praised the on-going reforms in the judiciary and it remains to be seen how they intend to tackle the rest.