Thursday, January 31, 2008

Today's Headlines - 1/31/2008

'Police' kill Kenya opposition MP

An[other] opposition MP has been killed in Kenya, as violence continues over last month's disputed election.

The man was shot dead in the western town of Eldoret, said a spokesman for his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

He is the second ODM MP to be killed this week. The shooting of Mugabe Were in Nairobi sparked violent clashes in slums seen as opposition strongholds.

More than 850 people have been killed and 250,000 have fled their homes since the disputed presidential poll.

Breaking news story from BBC at 5:30 a.m. EST - watch the site today for more info

Kenya mediation resumes, Kibaki at AU summit

Thu 31 Jan 2008, 9:20 GMT
By C. Bryson Hull and Duncan Miriri

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki flew to Ethiopia on Thursday for an African summit likely to be dominated by the violence gripping his country.

At home, Kenya's feuding politicians resumed talks on the political crisis caused by Kibaki's disputed re-election a month ago.

Kibaki landed in Addis Ababa for the 53-nation African Union meeting, a forum where his country is more used to playing the role of regional peacemaker than a cause of continental concern.

In Nairobi, teams from the government and the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) met for a second day of talks led by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, backed by an international community growing impatient at continued killing.

Political and ethnic violence has killed 850 people in Kenya since the Dec. 27 election. The instability has shocked its neighbours and Western donors, and battered Kenya's image as a stable trade and tourism hub.

Many Kenyans fear what will happen if Annan's mediation fails to strike a deal between Kibaki and his rival Raila Odinga, the ODM leader who says vote-rigging stole his victory.

There are growing calls for peace among Kenyans, while a handful of politicians have gone to their constituencies to urge calm.

The leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the European Union threw their weight behind the former U.N. Secretary-General's efforts at a meeting in London on Tuesday.

And watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged African leaders to endorse an independent probe into the vote and violence.

"The African Union should also insist that those responsible on all sides for inciting and organising the horrendous violence be investigated and held accountable," HRW's Africa Director Georgette Gagnon said in a statement.

The violence has taken the lid off decades-old divisions between communities over land, wealth and power dating from British colonial rule, which have been stoked by Kenyan politicians during 44 years of independence.

Jendayi Frazer, the top U.S. diplomat for Africa, said on Wednesday the violence had degenerated into ethnic cleansing in parts of the Rift Valley and that she wanted to see "some kind of power-sharing and some kind of coalition government".

Annan launched formal mediation between the government and ODM on Tuesday, each side represented by a team of three -- both a mix of moderates and hardliners.

Kibaki, 76, says he is the legally elected president, but is open to sharing power. Odinga, 63, says he was robbed by fraud during the vote count and wants Kibaki to stand down or allow a new election after a period of power-sharing.

Kenya's unrest may have been triggered by an election dispute but the tinder for ethnic conflict was there and has burned before at elections in 1992 and 1997.

Members of Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe were the first to be attacked, and are now seeking revenge on Luos, Luhyas and Kalenjins who largely back Odinga in what many fear will turn into tit-for-tat attacks.

After a month of bloodshed, the Kenyan government vowed to adopt a tougher approach to contain the conflicts.

The opposition-leaning Standard newspaper in an editorial urged police to act tough in spite of being "condemned for using excessive force".

"With the killings and blocking of roads going on, the police must stop looking on and sweet-talking criminals. This is no longer a tribal issue. This is barbarism at its worst and it must be stopped" the Standard wrote.

Kibaki said on Wednesday the security forces were under strict orders to take firm action against anyone inciting violence. Odinga accused him of ordering an "inhumane and barbaric" shoot-to-kill policy, which police deny.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

Full story from Reuters

Ethnic unrest creeps from Rift towards Kenya capital

Thu 31 Jan 2008, 6:53 GMT
By Jack Kimball

NDERI, Kenya (Reuters) - Just 20 minutes outside Kenya's capital Nairobi, wafts of smoke cloak the valley from fires lit by a mob looking for revenge.

Part of a wire fence lies on the ground where residents say the mob tried to break into the compound.

When they could not get in, residents said members of the crowd started the bush fires.

"These people come for revenge because we are not from their community," Benjamin Ekwaro said outside Nderi town, nestled in Central Province, an area mainly inhabited by ethnic Kikuyu -- the tribe of President Mwai Kibaki.

"We suspect they're trying to surround us. We're in a state of panic," said another man who gave his name simply as Evans.

Automatic rifle fire echoed over the valley.

Protests over Kibaki's disputed re-election a month ago have deteriorated into cycles of killing between ethnic groups. Residents fear the clashes are moving from the Rift Valley, where more than 100 were killed last week, towards the capital.

Just outside Nderi, dozens of youths burned branches and piled rocks to try to block the main road from Nairobi to the Rift Valley towns of Nakuru and Naivasha, which have seen the worst of the violence in recent days.

Police moved up and down the road breaking the barricades and dispersing angry youths, occasionally firing into the air.

Some 850 have been killed in clashes in Kenya since the Dec. 27 polls. Most of the deaths came in attacks that first targeted Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe, whose members are now taking revenge on the Luos, Luhyas and Kalenjins seen as opposition supporters.

In Nderi, a group of around 100 Kikuyus gathered outside the Forestry Research Centre where more than 100 Luos had taken refuge. Police guarded the entrance as the crowd grew.

Kikuyu residents said they wanted their Luo neighbours to leave.

"They've done nothing to us," said one woman of the people taking shelter. "But their tribe is killing our people."

Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, who is leading mediation efforts in the east African nation, has said the unrest has gone beyond a simple election dispute.

Nderi residents say his efforts will fail unless the violence can also be checked.

"The only way it will work is if the war is stopped," said one man in the crowd, who refused to be named.

Police forces tried to calm the Kikuyu crowd, which cheered as a school bus took out Luo men, women and children.

Each time the police fired teargas to disperse the mob, stone barricades and burning branches quickly returned.

"We didn't want to become violent, but they're pushing us into a corner," said Peter Muchendo, from among the crowd.

© Reuters 2008. All Rights Reserved.

Full story from Reuters

Can Kenya Avert a Bloodbath?

Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008

Walking the paths of this slum north of Nairobi, John Kimani points to all the homes that now stand unoccupied, the trash on their floors and the doors swinging wide telling the tale of a hasty exit.

Almost all the ethnic Luos in Witeithie have fled in the week since local Kikuyus warned them to leave by January 31. "Failure to do That will Suffer the Consequences," warned fliers scattered in front of Luo homes. Few waited around to learn what those consequences might be.

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And that's how Kimani, who is Kikuyu, prefers it.

"The Luos started it in Kisumu, and now the Luos should not stay in our neighborhood," said Kimani, referring to the city in western Kenya that has seen repeated attacks against Kikuyus in recent weeks. "Yesterday, we were chasing them from here. We don't want to see them here. They will never stay in peace again."

Attitudes like Kimani's, which seem to be increasingly shared by many ordinary Kenyans toward their neighbors, are raising fears that the ethnic violence which began as a protest against an allegedly rigged election is spiraling out of control.

Kenya is no Rwanda, of course, where a 1994 ethnic genocide claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. For one thing, Kenya contains many ethnic groups — 42, as compared to two in Rwanda — and none constitutes more than about 20% of the population.

And the country's political leaders are currently talking, under the mediating hand of former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, with a view to heading off the slide into catastrophe.

Still, there are clear signs that the tribal conflict is now taking an increasingly organized form, which U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Jendayi Frazer characterized as "clear ethnic cleansing."

As in the conflicts in what was once Yugoslavia, the purpose of the increasingly organized mobs killing and threatening members of other tribes was to force all members of that tribe to leave an area. And it may take a lot more than agreement among rival political parties to bring such a conflict under control.

The violence, initially directed mostly at Kikuyus, followed the December 27 re-election of Mwai Kibaki, also a Kikuyu, in what even international observers agreed was a seriously flawed poll.

Within the last week, Kikuyu have been striking back at Luos, Luhyas, Kalenjin and other supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga. The opposition initially characterized the violence as a spontaneous upsurge of anger, but fliers scattered around Witeithie — and the findings of a Human Rights Watch investigation — indicate that activists on both sides of the political divide have fanned the flames of ethnic resentment and perhaps even planned the violence to drive their enemies away.

In Eldoret, for example, some locals accused William Ruto, a leader of Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement and a Kalenjin, of hate speech in the run-up to the vote. "He's the main inciter," said a man named Benjamin, who refused to give his last name for fear of punishment.

"He said that if we are not going to win as ODM, we will not accept to stay with the Kikuyus. They will have to go."

In an interview with TIME, however, Ruto denied claims that he had done anything wrong.

"Many people, I'm sure in the government, want to say, 'Ruto is responsible for all this,' because they think the Rift Valley voted in a way they did not want the Rift Valley to vote," Ruto said.

"But the people of Rift Valley removed anything to do with Mwai Kibaki. They want to look for excuses for violence. This is not about William Ruto, my friend."

But Ruto acknowledges that a sense of injustice among non-Kikuyu Kenyans was an important element of the election. "The most central issue that informed the debate in this election was about sharing of resources," said Ruto. "It's not about the Kalenjin community, it's about the people of Kenya."

The ethnic clashes have certainly exposed deep grievances over land and other resources. Much of the worst violence has occurred in the Rift Valley, where land ownership has always been politically sensitive. In the colonial era, the region's fertile farmland was reserved for British settlers. Britain sold it off to the newly independent government, which in turn parceled it out to members of the Kikuyu tribe, setting off a pattern of ethnic conflict in the Rift Valley that has persisted for much of Kenya's independent history.

Many Kalenjins and others who had once lived there believed — rightly or wrongly — that an Odinga victory would restore their control of the coveted Rift Valley.

Although Kenya analysts believe the country remains a long way from descending into the horrors of Rwanda, they warn that the ethnic violence that has already killed more than 850 people cannot be allowed to fester.

Regardless of what started the violence, or whether it was planned, there are worrying signs that the killings have created their own momentum and a cycle of vengeance that threatens to defy control by politicians.

"The Kikuyu are going to find themselves as a single ethnic group very isolated if Kibaki refuses to go for a recount or some sort of power-sharing arrangement," said Binaifer Nowrojee, director of the Open Society Initiative for East Africa. "As long as there is international attention, there will be restraint. The day the international community is taken by other crises on the globe, Kenya will be left to stew in its own juices and it will get worse. This is the kind of situation if it's not resolved now it will blow up later, and that's where we parallel into Rwanda."

Back in Witeithie, some Luos are still packing up with less than 24 hours before the deadline set by the fliers. Others were still debating whether to leave. One woman, Eunice Owour, said her husband was recovering in the hospital from machete wounds suffered in an attack by Kikuyus. She did not want to go.

Walking away from the scene, Kimani, the Kikuyu, smiled and shook his head.

"We will be coming back here at night," he said. "The best option for her is to leave."

Full story from CNN/Time,8599,1708362,00.html

Donors suspend key funding

Publication Date: 1/31/2008

Donors have suspended funding worth millions of dollars to one of the most important government programmes.

The affected programme is the Governance, Justice, Law and Order Sector Reform Programme.

State agencies benefiting from the programme dating back to 2005 will lose funds to the tune of Sh2.9 billion.

The decision follows the post-election crisis sparked by the disputed vote tallying of the December 27 General Election, in which the Electoral Commission is perceived to have favoured Mr Mwai Kibaki for President against Mr Raila Odinga.

Post-poll violence: US threatens to intervene

Story by NATION Team and Agencies
Publication Date: 1/31/2008

US African diplomat Jendayi Frazer and US ambassador to Kenya Michael Rannerberger during her recent visit in Kenya. Photo/FILE

Foreign countries may impose a solution on Kenya to end the post-election crisis if its leaders fail to reach a workable settlement, the United States warned Wednesday.

Its tough message came as international pressure mounted on the rival factions led by President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga to reach settlement to the poll dispute, which has left more than 850 dead and over 350,000 displaced in one month.

Dr Jendayi Frazer, the US top diplomat for Africa, said she planned to consult African leaders meeting in Addis Ababa this week on the way forward, and warned that a solution from outside the country could be imposed on Kenya if it does not solve its own problems.

“We’ll find an international mechanism if they can’t find it internally,” she said.

Her comments were echoed by the Secretary of State, Dr Condoleezza Rice, who stressed the urgency for Kenyan leaders to find a solution.

It was the clearest signal yet of the world’s growing impatience with the wave of killings which have rocked different parts of the country since Mr Kibaki was declared winner of the presidential elections on December 30

On Wednesday, Australia’s Foreign minister Stephen Smith announced that his government officials in Kenya would limit their contact with Cabinet ministers over the disputed election result.

Mr Smith said Australia did not want to perceived as supporting any of the parties in the conflict.
“I’ve indicated today that we will start now to limit ministerial contact in Kenya as part of our responses to seeking to encourage all the political leaders in Kenya to commence sensibly the mediation processes which Kofi Annan is trying to affect,” he said. Speaking in Washington on Tuesday, Dr Rice appealed for Kenya’s political leaders to broker an end to the violence.

“There needs to be a political resolution of this conflict. The election was not one that inspired confidence in the Kenyan people,” she said.

The leaders of the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and the President of the EU Commission welcomed the face-to-face encounter between President Kibaki and Mr Odinga through the Kofi Annan mediation and called for an end to the violence.

British prime minister Gordon Brown, French president Nicolas Sarkozy, German chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian prime minister Romano Prodi and EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso asked both sides to pursue urgent dialogue for the sake of the country.

Insecurity affecting humanitarian efforts

Publication Date: 1/31/2008

Relief efforts by United Nations agencies and their partners have been hampered by recent cases of heightened insecurity in parts of the country, the organisation has said.

The UN, which is the world’s largest humanitarian organisation, expressed concern Wednesday over what it described as a sharp deterioration in security and humanitarian situations in the country.

The agency said the post-election crisis had taken a turn for the worse in recent days with violence claiming many more lives and hampering relief efforts.

The UN noted in a statement that the events of the past few days were further making worse an already dire situation.

On Wednesday, the organisation’s secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said he was deeply concerned about the situation in Kenya.

Responding to questions in a joint Press conference with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Mr Ban Ki-moon said he discussed the situation Wednesday morning on phone with his predecessor, Mr Kofi Annan, who is leading the mediation effort as part of the African Union (AU) Panel of Eminent Personalities.

Hindered access
The UN chief added that he was going to meet with African leaders gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the African Union summit Thursday and Friday to discuss the recent developments in Kenya.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees reports that the worsening security situation in various parts of Rift Valley Province has hindered access to internally displaced persons (IDPs).

On Tuesday, UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration called off a planned evacuation of up to 400 people from Timboroa, 60 kilometres from Eldoret Town, where 11,000 fresh IDPs had fled following weekend attacks on their homes. A similar evacuation of IDPs from Naivasha was also shelved.

Three stories from Nationmedia at:

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