Both the president of Kenya and the leader of the country’s main opposition party are willing to meet with the African Union to find a solution to their political stalemate — one that stemmed from a disputed election and led to the deaths of hundreds in a week-long ethnic cleansing spree, a senior U.S. official told CNN. Ghanaian President John Kufuor, who chairs the African Union, is expected to arrive in Kenya in the next several days to mediate between the two leaders, the official said.
The official said the United States sees a power sharing arrangement in the country as “an option” but said Kenyans would have to decide what shape such an an arrangement takes. Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki had said Saturday he was ready to consider a government of national unity. Opposition leader Raila Odinga indicated he was willing to negotiate. He has not, however, backed down from his demands that Kibaki — who was hastily sworn-in in the aftermath of the vote — resign as president and hold fresh elections.
The official appeared to pour cold water on the calls for new elections, telling CNN the three-to-six months timeline that Odinga is proposing is “impractical.” The official did not directly respond to whether the United States applied strong pressure on both sides, saying only that “both sides value our relationship and see the U.S. as a neutral player.”
America is also pushing to get the ban on live broadcasts lifted, the official said. The country plunged into a news blackout after the government suspended all broadcasts as violence engulfed the capital following the re-election of incumbent president Kibaki in the controversial election on December 27.
Rioters went on a rampage following Kibaki’s narrow victory, which was disputed by Odinga’s party. The Orange Democratic Movement accused the president of election fraud. According to the United Nations, some 250,000 Kenyans are now estimated to have been displaced by rioting and looting. Around 300 people are reported to have died in the unrest. A convoy of food trucks left the eastern port of Mombasa Sunday in an effort to address the humanitarian crisis.