Kufuor shelves plans to visit to Kenya to mediate

ACCRA (Reuters) - Ghana’s President John Kufuor, the chair of the African Union, has shelved plans to hold talks in Kenya with political leaders because authorities in the violence-torn East African state have not given him clearance.

Ghanaian Foreign Minister Akwasi Osei-Adjei said, however, that Kufuor had talked by telephone with Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga and President Mwai Kibaki, whose narrow re-election triggered the past week’s violence.

“We have not given up, rather we are very eager to restore peace in our sister country,” Osei-Adjei told Reuters, adding that Kufuor’s priority remained to secure a ceasefire to halt ethnic violence which has killed at least 300 people.

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.

But Osei-Adjei said plans for Kufuor to travel to Kenya to hold face-to-face discussions with the different parties had been suspended as Nairobi had not given the go-ahead.

“Before you travel to somebody’s country, the protocol demands that you are given clearance by your host,” said Osei-Adjei, who chairs the African council of foreign ministers of the Africa Union.

“If that doesn’t happen, you ... may not be able to meet your objective.”

Ghanaian authorities have consulted with former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan over how to handle the crisis, the minister said.

Odinga, from the Luo ethnic group, has demanded international mediation before he sits down with Kufuor, a Kikuyu, whom he has 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”.

Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; writing by Daniel Flynn; editing by Andrew Roche