Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Headline update - 1/22/2008

Annan arrives in Kenya, urges rivals to talk

UPDATE 4 - Reuters

Tue Jan 22, 2008 1:11pm EST
(Recasts with Annan arrival, news conference)
By Nick Tattersall
NAIROBI, Jan 22 (Reuters) –

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in Kenya on Tuesday to try to end a political crisis that has killed at least 650 people, and called on the feuding parties to start talks and respect the rule of law.

The disputed re-election of President Mwai Kibaki in a Dec. 27 vote unleashed weeks of ethnic and political violence that have severely damaged one of Africa's most promising economies and left around 250,000 people homeless.

Despite pressure from Western powers -- and to the disgust of millions of ordinary Kenyans -- Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga have still not met to discuss a way out of the crisis.

Odinga says Kibaki stole his victory and has used the power of the state to consolidate his control of the government.

Shortly after his arrival in Nairobi, Annan told reporters the two sides must begin talks in good faith and respect the rule of law.

"We expect all parties to enter into dialogue in good faith ... Our
message to the parties is this: there can be no solution, no peace and stability
... without respect for the rule of law,"
Annan said.

Annan's mediation mission follows a similar attempt earlier this month by Ghanaian President John Kufuor, the head of the African Union, who was unable to get Kibaki and Odinga to meet.

He faces an uphill task resolving a bitter dispute between two men who deeply distrust each other and are entrenched in apparently irreconcilable positions.

"Short of getting them both in a choke-hold and banging their heads together, Mr Annan has very little leverage on either President Kibaki and Mr Odinga or their respective entourages of myopic warmongers and sycophants," columnist Macharia Gaitho wrote in the Daily Nation newspaper.

Diplomats hope Annan, a Nobel Peace laureate whose negotiating experience ranges from Israel to Darfur, can bring Kibaki and Odinga to the same table, and possibly persuade them to join some sort of power-sharing arrangement.

In the latest violence, a mob killed a member of Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe by setting him on fire inside his car in the volatile Rift Valley, police said on Tuesday.

Police, who have banned all demonstrations, fired teargas to disperse supporters of Kibaki in central Nairobi hours before Annan's arrival.

Riot police scattered about 100 government supporters who had been chanting "Lead on, Kibaki!", sending business people scurrying for cover.

Weeks of bloodletting in a nation long seen as one of east Africa's most stable has undermined its democratic credentials and laid bare deep tribal divisions underpinning politics.

In a new sign of economic damage, Kenya's shilling neared an 14-month low versus the dollar and Kenya Airways (KQNA.NR:
Quote, Profile, Research) said it has seen an 18 percent drop in passengers from Europe since the crisis began.

Scenes of police firing teargas and live ammunition in Nairobi slums, or of bloodied victims of machete and spear attacks in the picturesque Rift Valley, have sullied Kenya's image as a tourist haven and regional trade and aid hub.

An aid agency complained on Tuesday that the government was closing a Nairobi refugee camp, where victims of violence in the vast Kibera slum had fled.

"We can't tell people whose houses have burnt down in Kibera to go back
to their homes. These people have rights," said Gerald Rukunga of the health
charity AMREF.

Opposition Orange Democratic Movement chairman Anyang' Nyong'o said the party was filing a complaint with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, charging Kibaki, his cabinet and police commanders over killings of protesters.

"The charges are crimes against humanity," he said.

The government has taken out full-page adverts in newspapers accusing Western powers, the international media and rights groups of fanning unrest by questioning the election result.

U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger dismissed the adverts as "scurrilous propaganda".

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni also flew into Nairobi on Tuesday to try to mediate. (Additional reporting by Tim Cocks, Wangui Kanina, Bryson Hull and Andrew Cawthorne in Nairobi; Editing by Barry Moody)

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Full story at Reuters

Kenya sued over police 'crimes'

Kenya's opposition has filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court, accusing the government of crimes against humanity.

It says the police used excessive force during last week's protests, in which more than 30 people died.

In the latest violence, at least seven people have been killed in Rift Valley - four who were hacked to death.

Former UN chief Kofi Annan has arrived to help solve the crisis following last month's disputed presidential election.

More than 650 people have been killed in protests following the announcement of the official results, while 250,000 people have fled their homes.

A spokeswoman for the ICC, based in The Hague, said she could not comment on whether the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) had filed a complaint.

Full story at BBC

Kenya rivals will "cool down" and talk - mediator

Tue 22 Jan 2008, 6:45 GMT

By William Maclean
TUNIS (Reuters) -

Kenya's political rivals will eventually "cool down" and agree a roadmap for talks to end the country's crisis, an African mediator said on Monday.

Former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano told Reuters that once President Mwai Kibaki and his opposition rival Raila Odinga made a joint effort to identify the problems that divided them they would start to find common ground.

"They just need some time to cool down their nerves. I think they will
talk and find solutions to their problems,"
Chissano said in an interview on a visit to Tunisia. "As soon as they start talking they will be able to identify the common ground."

Asked if Kibaki and Odinga could find common ground, Chissano replied:

"Yes. They have to identify the problem, because at the time I left
(Sunday), they didn't have common views on what the problems
are.... So they have to find a way of starting a dialogue to that end, and map out the road to follow in solving each one of the problems that they will pinpoint in common."
Chissano was speaking on the eve of a visit to Nairobi by former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan who was due to start talks with both sides on Tuesday.

Diplomats hope [Annan] can bring Kibaki and Odinga into some sort of power-sharing arrangement, possibly before a fresh vote in the east African nation.

About 650 people have been killed in violence since Kibaki's re-election last month and 250,000 displaced in a country that is more used to taking refugees from war-torn Sudan and Somalia.

Chissano, who flies back to Kenya on Tuesday to help Annan's effort as part of a supporting mediation attempt by a group of former African heads of state, said he expected progress on creating a roadmap since both leaders had expressed support for outside help in resolving their differences.

"They each wrote a letter to us as the forum of former African heads of state and government to ask us to stay on to support the eminent persons group led by Kofi Annan," he said.

Chissano added without elaborating the rival camps had each agreed to form a delegation to advance efforts for a dialogue.

Full story at Reuters South Africa

Kenyan Tourism in Turmoil After Disputed Election

By Nick Wadhams Nairobi22 January 2008
Wadhams report - download MP3 (550K) Listen to Wadhams report

The chief of Kenya's leading tourism body says post-election chaos has sparked the worst crisis the country's travel industry has ever seen, and that hotels and suppliers are at risk of collapse unless the political impasse ends soon. Nick Wadhams reports from Nairobi.

A lone tourist looks at a necklaces in a nearly deserted tourist craft market, 08 Jan 2008 in Nairobi

The violence that followed Kenya's December 27 election led to a mass exodus of vacationers during the peak of the country's tourist season. Hotels around the country have been all but empty and thousands of reservations have been canceled.

The director of the Kenya Tourist Board, Achieng Ogonga, says the industry has never experienced such a sharp downturn before, even after the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi and a terrorist attack on a Mombasa hotel in 2002 that killed 13 people.

Ogonga says that the refusal by President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to negotiate is only making the matter worse because it has prevented the tourism industry from being able to offer deals to lure vacationers back to the country.

Full story at Voice of America

Kenya violence augurs ethnic split

By ELIZABETH A. KENNEDY, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 36 minutes ago

For nearly 40 years, Josphat Mwangi lived on his farm in western Kenya, a six-acre plot of earth with a sparkling river in the distance.

Now, he lives in a white tent on an old fairground, surrounded by thousands of others who fled an explosion of violence after Kenya's flawed presidential election on Dec. 27.

"I could never have imagined this,"

said Mwangi, 64, whose
house was set ablaze the night

the election results were announced.

"Those people who burned my home,

they were my neighbors.

Families I helped have now
turned against me."

In many regions, the violence following President Mwai Kibaki's re-election has brought a bloody end to decades of coexistence among Kenya's ethnic groups, transforming villages, cities and towns where Kenyans had lived together — however uneasily at times — since independence from Britain in 1963.

Some worry the change may be permanent, boding ill for democracy in this once-stable African country.

Much of the fighting has pitted other tribes against Kibaki's Kikuyu, long dominant in Kenyan politics and the economy. The vote tapped into a well of resentment that resurfaces regularly at election time in Kenya, but this year's bloodshed has been the most brutal and sustained by far.

"Polarization of the communities here is
growing day by day,"

said Ben Rawlence, a researcher at Human Rights Watch.

"The longer the political stalemate continues,

the more likely the ethnic map of
Kenya will be permanently altered."

Nowhere is the split more pronounced than in western Kenya, the heart of opposition territory, where tens of thousands of Kikuyus like Mwangi are fleeing communities that turned on them.

They have crowded into vast displacement camps — a sight more common in neighboring countries such as Somalia and Sudan than in Kenya, which is renowned for its game parks and white-sand beaches....

Full story at Yahoo News AP story

Kenyan women urged to wear sacks

Two Kenyan women explain why they have taken to wearing sacks as their own personal protest and why they want others to join them in doing so.

I have felt the need to get to the bare minimum in order to pass a message.

The sack in itself has a biblical message.

I think we Kenyans need to repent for certain things, especially our leaders.

First, the biggest sin we are committing is that we are unable to face each other and speak when little children are dying, other people are dying and there is a lot of violence - 600 people, even one person is not a mean figure. I feel that as women, and as leaders, we need to mourn for our nation.
We also need to ask for justice. …

I think it is more powerful [than marching through the streets of Nairobi protesting].

It is humbling ourselves in front of the eyes of God and the people.

We have lived a pretentious life in this country, we have overlooked very serious issues of tribalism over a long period of time, hypocrisy, prejudices and pride - we have overlooked the issue of unemployment; we have overlooked the issue of poverty.

A lot of people are young and so the battles going on today are in very, many dimensions and yet the nation is suffering; we are all suffering alike.

I am looking at this nation as one nation - by wearing what I am wearing, I have humbled myself, and am humbling myself in front of God.

I want God to forgive us.

I want people to sit down and talk
together, for leaders to sit down, to make dialogue and put matters

Full story at BBC

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