Friday, December 19, 2008

Kikwete: How I helped pull Kenya back from the brink

Tanzania president Jakaya Kikwete (right) and VP Kalonzo Musyoka after receiving honorary degrees at Kenyatta University on Friday. Photo/WILLIAM OERI 

By CASPER WAITHAKA

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete on Friday told of how he helped Kenya’s leadership sign the National Accord that ended the post-election violence.

His intervention came when chief mediator Kofi Annan had suspended the Serena talks after a scenario in which negotiators “agreed in the morning only to disagree in the afternoon’’.

President Kikwete, the African Union chairman, said when he arrived at the JKIA, everybody looked gloomy.

“I felt that I was not wanted but during our journey to the town centre, Foreign minister (Moses) Wetang’ula told me that Kofi Annan had suspended the talks.

“He told me that if he (Annan) was seen at the airport leaving the country, there would be an explosion of even greater violence than the country had then experienced.”

President Kikwete was speaking at Kenyatta University where he was given a honorary degree.

He said he headed straight to Serena Hotel where he met his predecessor, Mr Benjamin Mkapa and the other Eminent Persons who briefed him on the talks.

“Later the same evening, I met Raila Odinga and he gave me his side of the story and the following morning I met the President and the Vice-President in what was to be a marathon meeting ending late in the evening.

Same evening

“They were both ready for peace only a few issues had not been ironed out,” added Mr Kikwete. Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga met and signed the accord the same evening. He described Kenya as East Africa’s economic powerhouse and advised Kenyans not to take peace for granted.

Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and educationist Eddah Gachukia also received honorary degrees. The university’s chancellor, Dr Harris Mule, described Mr Kikwete as a “focused, talented and dedicated leader. An icon of peace.”

More than 3,000 students graduated during the ceremony. Higher Education assistant minister Kilemi Mwiria described universities as symbols of national unity and asked Kenyans to uphold integrity and shun tribalism.

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