Ghana seeks African consensus on Kenya mediation

ACCRA (Reuters) - African Union chair Ghana worked the phones on Thursday, casting round for a consensus among key African nations on a basis for mediation in Kenya.

Ghana delayed a decision on sending a mediation mission to the East African country to try to end violence that has shocked Africa and the international community, which sees Kenya as an important ally in a volatile region.

“We are consulting a couple more others to see how best we can end the violence,” Ghana’s Foreign Minister Akwasi Osei-Adjei told Reuters.

“I’ve also spoken to the Kenyan foreign minister at least twice already today. The idea is to have a broader consensus in order to make some progress,” said Osei-Adjei, who chairs the council of foreign ministers of the African Union.

Political violence after a closely contested presidential election last week has spilled over into ethnic bloodletting that has killed more than 300 people in Kenya, long a bulwark of stability and an economic linchpin in East Africa.

Both sides have accused the other of ethnic attacks, both using the word “genocide” -- an emotive word in Africa after Rwanda’s 1994 genocide in which 800,000 people were killed.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Kenya’s former colonial ruler Britain said on Wednesday he had spoken to Kufuor by telephone and said the Ghanaian president would be traveling to Kenya in person on Thursday to lead mediation efforts.

Brown called on the international community to throw its weight behind Kufuor’s efforts, and suggested a power-sharing government could be set up in Kenya to end the crisis.

But Osei-Adjei said no decision had yet been taken on whether Kufuor would go to Kenya.

“He will take the final decision on which way we should proceed,” Osei-Adjei said. Kufuor had spoken twice on Wednesday to Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, whose narrow re-election triggered the past week’s violence.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga accuses Kibaki of rigging the election result and has called on his supporters to reject it.

Osei-Adjei said Kufuor’s primary concern was to secure an immediate ceasefire between supporters of Kibaki, an ethnic Kikuyu, and Odinga, a Luo.

Brokering a compromise between the two is likely to be difficult.

Odinga has demanded international mediation before he sits down with Kibaki, whom he branded a “thief” for staging “a civilian coup”.

Kibaki’s supporters in parliament called for Odinga and others to be charged by the International Criminal Court for “ethnic cleansing and genocide”.

Editing by Alistair Thomson and Giles Elgood