KENYA–Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo is reportedly in Kenya on a United Nations special mission to prevail upon opposition leader Raila Odinga not to go ahead with the swearing in planned for January 30 and quell political tension in the beleaquered country.
Sources within the diplomatic circles believe United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres sent the ex-Nigerian leader to the troubled country owing to the respect he draws from both President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga.
With efforts by the US ambassador Robert Godec appearing not to make any headway, Guterres is said to have decided to take up the matter.
Obasanjo arrived in the country on Wednesday night to broker a deal between Uhuru and Raila.
On Thursday, Obasanjo met Raila and other NASA principals and attempted to persuade them to drop the presidential swearing-in ceremony planned for January 30. Obasanjo and Raila have been close friends for two decades.
The UN is said to recognise the legitimacy of Uhuru’s government and is seeking to forestall any move that would result in a political crisis in Kenya.
The choice of Obasanjo was deliberate, according to insiders, because of his long-standing relationship with Raila.
The former Head of the Federal Military Government of Nigeria is also part of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation.
Guterres is said to have taken an approach that allows regionally recognised leaders to try broker mediation on their respective continents.
Other Africans on the board are President Michelle Bachelet (Chile), Leymah Gbowee (Liberia), Ramtane Lamamra (Algeria), GraÃ§a Machel (Mozambique) and Asha-Rose Migiro (Tanzania).
It is believed that among the six, Obasanjo was the best placed to deal with Kenya due to his previous interactions with Uhuru and Raila.
Obasanjo served as President of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007, and before that as the Head of the Federal Military Government of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces from 1976 to 1979.
Over his long career, Obasanjo has been involved in numerous international mediation efforts, including in Angola, Burundi, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa.
In 2008, he was appointed the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on the Great Lakes region. On September 13, last year, he was named as part of Guterres’ High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation.