Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Latest Headlines - 1/30/2008

Pledge to reunite Kenya


Publication Date: 1/30/2008

President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga Tuesday evening pledged to reunite Kenyans as crucial talks to end the spiralling post-election violence started in Nairobi last evening.


Mediator Kofi Annan (left) with President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga during tea break at a function to launch mediation talks aimed at ending the political crisis facing Kenya.

Standing side-by-side at the lawns of County Hall at 6.15pm, they promised to ensure peace and stability are restored after a month of chaos sparked by the December presidential election.

The Government side and their ODM rivals had converged at County Hall to commit themselves to mediation under former UN boss Kofi Annan and to endorse the agenda aimed at curing “the political malaise that has brought the country to its knees”.

Mr Odinga was the first to commit ODM to the talks at 5.52pm, saying: “I will leave no stone un-turned, nor fail to travel that extra mile, to ensure that His Excellency Kofi Annan’s mediation mission between PNU and ODM succeeds. This is the least I can do for our country. But this mediation process must quickly show our people that peace, justice and security are around the corner.” President Kibaki’s turn came nine minutes later when he stated that the Government was committed to the talks that would result in national healing and reconciliation.

“I wish to pledge my support and that of my entire Government to this process. I am glad that this process seeks to discuss, not just the immediate actions that must be taken to restore peace in our country, but will also address the long-term solutions to the underlying issues that have caused the problems. I remain fully committed to national reconciliation,” Mr Kibaki said.

Mr Annan had earlier urged them to move fast and solve their political differences to end the suffering of innocent children, grandmothers and distraught women caught in the violence.

National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende opened the session at County Hall with similar words. He pledged the House’s support to peace saying: “Kenyans look up to you (President Kibaki and Mr Odinga); do not let them down at this hour of need.”

Mr Annan, who is leading the mediation team that is composed of former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and Mrs Graca Machel said the talks were entering a new phase.

“The teams that you have chosen will address themselves to short term and long term solutions, but you must bear in mind that they are linked... substantial work has been done on some of them,” he said.

Mr Annan said that with determination and political will, the short term issues on his agenda — ending the violence and solving the elections dispute — could be resolved within four weeks while the long-term issues, which go into the deeper questions of unequal distribution of resources, marginalisation and land ownership could be fixed within a year.

The coming together of Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga for the second time since last week officially launched the talks between the two teams within the parameters set by Mr Annan on Sunday.

After six days of collecting views from both sides and stakeholders, the mediators identified an end to the spiralling violence, solving the disputed Presidential election results and crafting long-term solutions to glaring inequality in the country as the cure to the present crisis.

He handed the documents containing his agenda to President Kibaki on Saturday and to Mr Odinga on Sunday evening and asked them to name teams of three negotiators each and one person who will serve as a liaison officer.

The papers bound the two sides to mediation and its outcome.

PNU named Cabinet ministers Martha Karua, Sam Ongeri and Mbooni MP Mutula Kilonzo on its team with Mr Gichira Kibara and Mr Ludeki Chweya as alternate liaison officers.

ODM appointed presidential running mate Musalia Mudavadi, Pentagon member William Ruto and Aldai MP Sally Kosgei as its negotiators, with Mr Karoli Omondi as its liaison person.

The team went into its first session shortly after the meeting. They are expected to form their own schedule under the mediators’ guidance.

The session to launch the talks was delayed for more than an hour as ODM protested at the sitting arrangement putting Mr Kibaki’s seat between Mr Odinga and Mr Annan. ODM Pentagon members Mudavadi, Ruto, Najib Balala, Joseph Nyaga and Charity Ngilu led their delegation out of the meeting room in protest saying it portrayed Mr Kibaki as session chairman.

It took 40 minutes for the seats to be shuffled to ensure Mr Annan chaired the meeting before the ODM group returned to the meeting room.

The session which begun with prayers, marked the killing of Embakasi MP Melitus Mugabe Were with a minute’s silence and observed a further minute’s silence for hundreds of Kenyans who have died in the violence that started after the elections were announced on December 30.

Click here for full story from Daily Nation

Kenya Nobel winner urges tribal elders to back peace

Wed 30 Jan 2008, 15:21 GMT
By Joseph Sudah

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai on Wednesday urged tribal elders to help stop a spiral of ethnic killing in the east African nation following last month's disputed presidential poll.

President Mwai Kibaki's re-election on Dec. 27 sparked an unprecedented wave of violence, marked by bloody clashes between members of his Kikuyu ethnic group and the Luos, Luhyas and Kalenjins seen as supporting his challenger Raila Odinga.

"I appeal to the elders of the various communities to reach out to others and appeal to the youth to stop the cycle of violence and vengeance," Maathai, a veteran of the civil rights movement in Kenya, told reporters.

Full story from Reuters Africa

US says Kenya hit by 'ethnic cleansing'

From Times Online
January 30, 2008
Philippe Naughton and agencies

The top US envoy in Africa gave warning today that Washington was reviewing all of its aid to Kenya because of Bosnian-style "ethnic cleansing".

Amid increasing international concern about the bloodshed in Kenya, Jendayi Frazer, the US Assistant Secretary of State responsible for Africa policy, also warned that those behind the violence might be adopting killing as their main objective.

Separately, President Kagame of Rwanda, which suffered a genocide in 1994, said that intervention by the military may be the only way to halt the Kenyan bloodshed.

More than 850 people have been killed and a quarter of a million displaced since a disputed election on December 27 that saw President Kibaki returned to power. Raila Odinga, the Kenyan opposition leader, insists that the election was rigged.

It emerged today that Kenyan police have been given shoot-to-kill orders in a bid to stem the violence after Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary-General, launched crisis talks between the feuding leaders in Nairobi yesterday..

“There are four categories of people who will face tough police action: Those looting property, burning houses, carrying offensive weapons, barricading roads,” a police commander told the AFP. “We have orders to shoot to kill these categories of people if they are caught in the act.”

Yesterday military helicopters fired warning shots to stop ethnic fighting in the lakeside town of Naivasha, the latest flashpoint.

Although the United States previously had said it would not threaten deep cuts to its projected $540 million in aid payments this year, Ms Frazer said that neither Mr Kibaki nor Mr Odinga had done enough to halt the violence.

Speaking to reporters before an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ms Frazer described the violence she saw during a visit earlier this month to Kenya’s western Rift Valley, where the fighting has pitted the Kalenjin [and Luo] people against Mr Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe.

Ms Frazer said she did not consider the violence genocide.

The aim originally was not to kill, it was to cleanse, it was to push them out of the region,” she said, explaining that people were told to leave their homes on the threat of death if they did not flee. It “was clear ethnic cleansing in the Rift Valley”.

Now, after weeks of deadly attacks and retaliation, she said “killing may be the object”.

The New York-based organisation Human Rights Watch has said it had evidence that opposition politicians helped direct and organize some attacks in the Rift Valley - which Mr Odinga has denied.

Kenyan human rights groups have said some of the worst violence has been perpetrated by paid militias directed by politicians, and cite a long history of orchestrated political violence in Kenya.

We’re calling for an investigation into the inciting of violence as well as an investigation into who is actually killing people,” Ms Frazer said. “We know there have been politicians on radio inciting violence before the election ended.”

Kikuyus, who make up Kenya’s largest tribe, have long been dominant in their country’s politics and economy - and resented for it. Anger at them exploded after Mr Kibaki claimed re-election.

Hundreds have been killed and Kikuyus account for more than half of the 255,000 chased from their homes, most in the Rift Valley.

Ms Frazer said most US funds to Kenya go directly to people, not the Government, but that the US was still reviewing all of its funding to the country.

Most US funding goes to non-governmental organisations fighting AIDS and malaria, which the US does not want to interrupt.

In Rwanda, where at least 800,000 people were killed in the 1994 genocide, President Kagame said that he thought the army might have to take over in Kenya before things got worse.

“This is a case of emergency where certain things have to be done very quickly to stop the killings that are going on. There’s no time to go into niceties and debates when the killings are taking place,” Mr Kagame told Reuters in an interview.

“I know that it is not fashionable and right for the armies to get involved in such a political situation. But in situations where institutions have lost control, I wouldn’t mind such a solution. I tend to believe that the Kenyan army is professional and has been stable.”

Mr Kagame, a former rebel leader who marched on Kigali as the genocide was taking place, said he backed mediation efforts headed by Mr Annan and said that any military takeover should only be temporary.

“I tend to suggest that maybe whatever in terms of leadership that is there should be swept aside and space be created for people to go back on the drawing board and settle their grievances,” he said.

The depth of concern about the situation in Kenya was underline[d] by a rare public statement from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) appealing for its delegates and partners in Kenya to be allowed to do their work.

“The violence has entered a new phase,” said Pascal Cuttat, head of the ICRC's regional delegation in Nairobi. “It broke out in the wake of elections but is now being driven by ethnic divisions, and there is a great risk of further deterioration.”

“The violence is causing untold suffering in many communities and spiralling into a succession of attacks, reprisals and counter-reprisals,” Mr Cuttat said. “The longer this is allowed to continue, the more difficult it will be to return to stability and bring about some form of reconciliation.”

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Kenya crisis talks delayed

30/01/2008 18:19 - (SA)

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Nairobi - Negotiation teams representing Kenya's rival politicians will square off on Thursday in a bid to find a solution to the crisis sparked by disputed elections that has plunged the country into violence, officials said.

Former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan brought President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga together on Tuesday and each team was set to submit a response to Annan's proposed rules of engagement before the talks could officially begin.

Meetings were scheduled to proceed on Wednesday but the opposition said Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU) had not replied to Annan's proposal, which had delayed the meeting.

"We are waiting for the PNU to submit its formal reply to Annan's proposal. We have no idea what's taking so long," said Salim Lone, spokesperson for the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

A UN official said the delay was due to a scheduling problem.

Each side appointed three negotiators to push their respective agendas and the two teams met late Tuesday to assess Annan's proposal.

Annan on Tuesday called on both sides to urgently find a resolution to the stalemate, saying "short-term" issues would be resolved in four weeks, even as renewed violence sparked by the shooting death of an ODM legislator flared-up countrywide.

The BBC reported that at least nine people were killed in Tuesday's clashes in ethnic-based violence around the country that has seen Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe battle Odinga's Luo people as well as some of the country's 42 other tribes.

But most areas returned to calm on Wednesday.

"There is no fighting because we are waiting for the talks with Annan to end," said Gideon, a bus driver who lives in Kibera, East Africa's largest slum, who did not want to give his last name.

"If Annan leaves and there is no answer, then we can kill anyone," he said.

Meanwhile, the UN's special adviser for the prevention of genocide is set to send a representative to Kenya, the independent Daily Nation reported, to investigate the violence that some rights groups have said was planned.

Odinga charges Kibaki rigged the elections and has demanded he step down.

More than 800 people have been killed in the brutal violence that has seen houses torched, victims burned alive and at least 250 000 people displaced in what has marked a disturbing change in the otherwise peaceful and stable country.


Full story from

Kenyan town [Naivasha] deeply divided after days of violence

Wed 30 Jan 2008, 15:55 GMT
By David Lewis

NAIVASHA, Kenya (Reuters) - Like many in Kenya's Rift Valley town of Naivasha, Jane Njeri tried to return to business as usual on Wednesday, opening her shop doors to those needing anything from maize and vegetables to phone credit.

After days of attacks by Kikuyu mobs against Naivasha's Luo, Luhya and Kalenjin communities, the army sent in helicopters on Tuesday which fired rubber bullets to disperse armed crowds.

Since then, the looting of houses and burning of property appear to have subsided. More buses are plying the main road through the lakeside town, which lies at the heart of Kenya's multi-million dollar horticultural industry.

"We thank God. Since the helicopters yesterday, things have begun to get back to normal," Njeri said from behind her counter as customers dropped into her tiny shop. "Because people were stuck at home, they are coming in and buying lots."

Clashes since President Mwai Kibaki's disputed re-election on Dec. 27 have killed over 850 people and displaced at least 250,000. His challenger, Raila Odinga, says the vote was rigged.
More than 100 people have died in clashes in Naivasha and Nakuru, another Rift Valley town, over the last week alone. The top U.S. diplomat for Africa, Jendayi Frazer, described what has happened in the Rift Valley as ethnic cleansing.

During the violence, mobs in Naivasha stopped buses and checked identity cards of those on board, dragging off, beating and, in some cases, killing those from rival ethnic groups.

Though calmer, the town remains deeply divided.

Hounded from their homes, which have since been looted and in some cases torched, Naivasha's 8,000 displaced have gathered under armed guard in the town's police station and prison.

Eyewitnesses said several who tried to return home to retrieve belongings on Wednesday were caught by Kikuyu crowds and beaten until police intervened, firing into the air.

Officers also had to fire into the air to prevent a crowd of displaced people from lynching several Kikuyus walking past the police station, an aid worker said.

Land and ethnic issues have played a long and complicated role in Kenya's politics and history. But clashes have never degenerated into the level of violence that the country, long seen as a haven of stability in the region, is experiencing now.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is leading mediation efforts, has said the unrest had gone beyond an election dispute, denouncing systematic rights abuses.

Kibaki and Odinga's representatives began formal talks on Tuesday, offering Kenyans some hope of a peaceful solution.

Many of Naivasha's flower farms are opening up again, trying to make up for lost time harvesting and packing roses before Valentine's Day, which makes up some 40 percent of earnings.

Farms are still short of labour, running at just 30 percent in one case, and are having to recruit casual workers to make up for those who are unable or too afraid to go to work.

Other residents are anxiously watching the negotiations, saying peace here depends on their leaders' priorities.

"It depends on how they go about it," said Edward Njoroge Chege, a science and maths teacher at Naivasha Highway School.

"They must listen to what the people want not just what they want. They should find a compromise and not take a hardline stance. There must be some give and take. People have suffered too much."

© Reuters 2008. All Rights Reserved.

Full story from Reuters

Health experts fear HIV crisis for uprooted Kenyans

Wed 30 Jan 2008, 11:02 GMT
By Laura MacInnis

GENEVA (Reuters) - Thousands of uprooted Kenyans are not getting the HIV medicines they need to survive, and rising sexual attacks in camps stand to further spread the disease, public health experts say.

About 15,000 of the more than 250,000 people who have fled political, ethnic and revenge attacks in the month since Kenya's disputed presidential election are HIV-positive, according to Kenyan Health Ministry figures cited by UNAIDS.

Of that group, 2,550 were taking anti-retroviral therapy to suppress the virus that causes AIDS before escalating violence forced them out of their homes and cut off their access to the drugs that must be taken continuously to work.

An unknown additional number of HIV patients are marooned in their homes, missing treatments because local health clinics are closed, or because they are too afraid to risk the journey.

"We don't know where our patients are," Florence Muli-Musiime, deputy director-general of the Kenya-based African Medical and Research Foundation, said in a statement.

"We had a very good tracking system using our contacts in the community, but this has now broken down," she said.

Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva, said Kenya's HIV crisis could become much more acute unless tensions calm soon.

"Without adequate nutrition, water and sanitation, and vital AIDS services, people living with HIV are at risk of succumbing to opportunistic infections and more rapid disease progression," she said.

Byrs also warned that HIV transmission risks were extremely high in camps where sexual attacks on women and children are on the rise. Many have been raped while going to the latrine at night, and few are seeking immediate medical care.

A preliminary report by the U.N. population fund and UNICEF have further found that desperate girls and women in Kenya have also been trading sex for food, protection and transportation, further increasing their exposure to the deadly virus.

Of the estimated 934,000 Kenyans living with HIV, 165,000 were getting government-supported anti-retroviral treatment as of December 2007, said UNAIDS spokeswoman Jacqueline Makokha.

Full story from Reuters

Radio Broadcasts Incite Kenya's Ethnic Violence

By Alisha Ryu Nairobi30 January 2008
Ryu report - Download (MP3) Ryu report - Listen (MP3)

Media monitors in Kenya say inflammatory statements and songs broadcast on local [indigenous] language [or 'mother tongue'] radio stations have contributed significantly to the surge in post-election ethnic violence that has killed nearly 900 people and displaced 255,000 others during the past month. As VOA correspondent Alisha Ryu reports from Nairobi, the broadcasts bear a striking similarity to 1994 broadcasts in Rwanda that helped whip ethnic Hutus into a killing frenzy that resulted in the genocide of 800,000 ethnic Tutsis.

Residents of Kibera listening to the radio in their new shelter at the Jamhuri grounds in Nairobi, 02 Jan 2008

The broadcasts that incited Rwandan ethnic Hutus to commit genocide used dehumanizing language against ethnic Tutsis.

According to the state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, which monitored hate speech before the December 27 national elections, local radio stations in Kenya also aired opinions that used dehumanizing language and obscure references to make negative, sometimes genocidal, comments about other ethnic groups.

On one Kalenjin-language station, some callers said there was a need to for people of the milk to cut grass, which the Kenyan rights group says was a call for ethnic Kalenjins, who are cattle herders, to remove ethnic Kikuyus from traditional Kalenjin homelands in the Rift Valley province.

Other Kalenjin callers referred to ethnic Kikuyus living in the Rift Valley as settlers and as a mongoose that came to steal Kalenjin chicken.

Meanwhile, a Luo-language station, which supports ethnic Luo opposition leader Raila Odinga, aired a song that called Kenya's ethnic Kikuyu President Mwai Kibaki and his Kikuyu-dominated Cabinet a leadership of baboons.

On January 1, two days after Kenya's electoral commission declared Mr. Kibaki the winner of an election the opposition says was rigged, a mob of ethnic Kalenjins and Luos burned to death more than 30 ethnic Kikuyu women and children seeking shelter in a church. Since then, hundreds more have been killed and more than 100,000 ethnic Kikuyus have been forced to leave the Rift Valley.

Jendayi Frazer (file photo)Wednesday, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer said the violence in Kenya has not reached the level of genocide, but she described the situation in the Rift Valley as ethnic cleansing.

Caesar Handa, the head of Strategic Research, a company hired by the United Nations to monitor Kenya's election coverage, says the ferocity of the violence is linked to the anti-Kikuyu broadcasts.

"When you say, 'We want to reclaim our property. We do not want settlers in our midst,' then what you are saying is that you are evicting these people from the place they have called home over the years, and that, of course, comes with a level of violence and leads to death," said Handa.

The Kikuyu tribe, the largest in Kenya, is the tribe of Kenya's first president, Jomo Kenyatta, who resettled hundreds of thousands of ethnic Kikuyus on fertile Rift Valley farms after independence from Britain in 1963.

Two of three post-independence presidents have been ethnic Kikuyus. Kalenjin, Luo and other tribes say they resent decades of Kikuyu dominance in government, business, and land ownership.

They complain about Kikuyu arrogance, noting that two Kikuyu-language stations Kenyan Commission on Human Rights says it is deeply concerned about reports that the song was sponsored by President Kibaki's political party.

Full story from Voice of America

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