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Kufuor mediates in Kenya crisis

world Updated: Jan 09, 2008 20:52 IST
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African Union chief John Kufuor met Kenya's president and opposition leader on Wednesday to try to break a political impasse behind post-election turmoil that has killed about 500 people.

Kufuor, the president of Ghana, first met President Mwai Kibaki at his State House office and residence, then went straight to a hotel for talks with Raila Odinga.

He says he was cheated of winning the Dec. 27 vote by fraud.

The crisis has dented Kenya's reputation for stability in a turbulent corner of Africa, hurt key economic sectors like tourism and tea, and tainted Kibaki's previous reputation as a gentlemanly leader with a penchant for PG Wodehouse novels.

Long used to receiving refugees from neighbouring hot-spots like Sudan and Somalia, Kenya now has more than a quarter of a million of its own internally displaced people, many the victims of fighting between different ethnic groups.

In a statement after their meeting, Kibaki's office said the president assured Kufuor he was initiating dialogue.

"Now that peace was returning to these parts, his partially formed government would continue to reach out to Kenyan leaders who would also be encouraged to play their role in preaching peace among their followers," the statement said.

Kibaki has implied he could bring opposition figures into government and invited Odinga to a face-to-face meeting on Friday. But the opposition leader has declined, saying such a meeting would be a "sideshow" without an international mediator.

"On his part President Kufuor encouraged all Kenyan leaders to seek peaceful solution through dialogue and the relevant institutions to guarantee peace and stability for the country," the statement from Kibaki's office added.

Kibaki named 17 ministers late on Tuesday, sparking more violence around east Africa's largest economy.

Within minutes of the cabinet announcement by Kibaki, hundreds of rioters built burning barricades and stoned cars in Kisumu, a western stronghold of the opposition.