Monday, January 28, 2008

More Headlines - 1/28/2008

Rioters Tear Through [Kisumu]

Published: January 29, 2008

NAIROBI, KenyaKisumu, Kenya’s third largest city, burst into flames again on Monday as thousands of rioters tore through the streets, burned down stores, looted schools and vented their outrage over a spate of ethnically-driven killings over the weekend.

Opposition supporters protested on the streets in Kisumu, Kenya, on Monday.

It seems that what started out last month as a political crisis has increasingly turned into a violent ethnic one, fueled by longstanding tensions over land, economic opportunity and access to power, while Kenya’s security forces struggle to keep it from getting worse.

The trouble in Kisumu began at 8 a.m. on Monday when young men from the Luo ethnic group set fire to a bus believed to be owned by Kikuyus, another ethnic group. Witnesses said the passengers escaped and that the Luos were exacting revenge for what happened the day before when a mob of Kikuyus trapped 19 Luo people inside a house and burned them to death.

The burning happened in Naivasha, a town in Kenya’s scenic Rift Valley that is better known as a tourist destination but has suddenly become a battle zone.

By 2 p.m. thousands of rioters were sweeping across Kisumu, lighting enormous bonfires and looting shops and even schools.

Witnesses said a mob cleaned out one primary school, taking desks, chairs, books, doors and even windows.

The city is a stronghold of Kenya’s opposition movement and was gutted by furious mobs in late December, when deeply flawed elections set off widespread riots.

Things are really bad again,” said Jacob Otieno Obiero, a Kisumu resident, on Monday afternoon. “There are fires everywhere.”

Police officers fired tear gas at rioters, and residents said officers shot several people with assault rifles, killing four. Witnesses said that gangs of Luos, who make up the majority of Kisumu’s population, were prowling certain neighborhoods looking for Kikuyus to kill.

Many members of the Luo and Kikuyu communities have been at each other’s throats since Dec. 30, when Kenya’s election commission declared the incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, the winner over Raila Odinga, an opposition leader and a Luo. Western observers have said that there were so many problems with the vote counting process that it was impossible to tell who really won.

Since the election, more than 750 people have been killed and 300,000 displaced.

Much of Kenya is pulling apart along ethnic lines, and in many
areas the situation appears to be nothing short of ethnic cleansing. In them,
the ethnic group with the greatest numbers has driven out people who belong to
other ethnic groups, turning neighborhoods and towns that were once quite mixed
into ethnically homogeneous zones

On Monday morning, Luos and Kikuyus faced off again in Naivasha, with a thin line of police separating hundreds of angry young men shaking machetes, iron bars and splintery lengths of wood at each other. It seemed that the police, in this case, were eventually able to disperse the crowds before they killed anyone.

Local news reports, however, indicated that at least 15 people had been killed in ethnic fighting in the Rift Valley since Sunday night.

Hussein Ali, Kenya’s police commander, told reporters on Monday that his officers had arrested 159 people in Naivasha and Nakuru, another Rift Valley town, “for possession of crude weapons and for suspected involvement in the murders.” He also said 95 people were arrested in Nairobi, the capital, but provided no details.

The most vicious clashes have been in the Rift Valley province, home to several different ethnic groups, including the Luo, Kikuyu and the Kalenjin.

Nairobi has been relatively calm during the past week, but many Kenyans fear that any multi-ethnic area could explode at moment’s notice.

That almost happened on Monday in Gilgil, a small town between Naivasha and Nakuru.

Residents said that hundreds of young Kikuyus mobilized to drive out Gilgil’s small Luo community. Community elders persuaded them to back down but only after many of the Luos agreed to pack up their things and leave.

Full story from NY Times

Ethnic Clashes Spread in Kenya

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

Police battled rampaging youths in western Kenya as ethnic clashes that have left more than 100 people dead in the past four days spread across the country.

VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu in the Kenyan capital Nairobi has details about the latest flare-up of tribal violence that has killed nearly 900 people since elections last month.

Thousands of angry youths belonging to the Luo tribe poured out of slums in Kisumu in western Kenya and rampaged through the downtown area, setting shops on fire and barricading roads with burning tires.

They clashed with police, who threw tear gas and fired live rounds. Witnesses tell VOA that at least two people were shot and killed and dozens more wounded before the police regained control of the streets.

About 100-kilometers north of Kisumu, ethnic Luhyas in the town of Kakamega torched houses and several shops and businesses belonging to ethnic Kikuyus, who have been strong supporters of embattled President Mwai Kibaki.

The ethnic Luo and Luhya youths were said to be enraged over reports that police did little to stop recent violence that pitted members of Mr. Kibaki's ethnic Kikuyu tribe against ethnic Luos and other tribes living in the Rift Valley towns of Nakuru and Naivasha in central Kenya.

[Photo] A resident of the central Kenyan town of Naivasha sits at the local hospital while being tended to injuries suffered during ethnic clashes in the city, 28 Jan 2008

The violence, in which rival gangs fought with machetes, clubs, and bows and arrows, turned especially gruesome Sunday in Naivasha. The police say a mob of Kikuyus chased a group of Luos, including several children, into a house and set the building ablaze.

A businessman in Kisumu, Israel Agina, says that incident has triggered calls for revenge.

"After watching what happened in Naivasha and Nakuru, especially to their kids and kin who were being butchered in the presence of the police, they were very annoyed," he said.

"The atmosphere is very, very tense. The youth are now being stopped from entering town. Part of the town is now deserted and people are not moving. The road out of Kisumu is barricaded."

Kisumu is home to opposition leader Raila Odinga, an ethnic Luo who accuses Mr. Kibaki of rigging last month's presidential vote. The election, which local and international observers said was flawed, touched off days of rioting and mayhem in Kisumu, Nairobi, and in other towns across Kenya.

The disputed election has opened up deep tribal [ethnic] divisions and rivalries over land, political power, and business that date back to Kenya's independence from Britain in 1963.

Although Raila Odinga is an ethnic Luo, his opposition party has been embraced by other tribes, such as the Luhya and the Kalenjin, as an alternative to what they perceive as decades of Kikuyu domination in the country.

After President Mwai Kibaki declared election victory, hundreds of Kikuyus were killed in attacks and tens of thousands of others chased from their homes in Nairobi, western Kenya and parts of the Rift Valley. On January 1, more than 30 ethnic Kikuyu women and children seeking shelter in a church in the Rift Valley town of Eldoret, were burned to death by a mob of ethnic Kalenjins and Luos.

But Kenyans say members of the Kikuyu tribe have recently begun fighting back.

On Sunday, the opposition charged that Kikuyu criminal gangs, including the outlawed Mungiki, are on a killing spree and working under police protection.

The government says the opposition has been orchestrating the ethnic violence in the region. It is now threatening to arrest top opposition leaders.

Full story from Voice of America (VOA)

Violence exposes Kenya's deep ethnic fault lines

Mon 28 Jan 2008, 14:27 GMT
By Tim Cocks

NAIVASHA, Kenya (Reuters) - On a road in the lakeside town of Naivasha, against a backdrop of vast mountains flanking Africa's Great Rift Valley, two groups of men armed with machetes, hammers and clubs taunted each other.

On one side, thousands of members of President Mwai Kibaki's Kikuyus, the dominant ethnic group in this picturesque tourist town. On the other, a few hundred Luos, the tribe of opposition challenger Raila Odinga.

Barely 10 police officers separated the two and as the Kikuyu mobs got increasingly angry -- lobbing stones at their targets and telling them to "go home" -- officers fired shots into the air to disperse them. Then they came back.

The violence since Kenya's disputed Dec. 27 election, which has caused at least 800 deaths, has taken on a momentum of its own, Rift Valley residents say, exposing deep ethnic fault lines in a country previously regarded as one of the most stable in Africa.

A wave of looting, riots and ethnic clashes convulsed the country after an election Odinga says was rigged, making about 250,000 people homeless, many of them Kibaki's Kikuyus.

In the worst attack for weeks, a Kikuyu mob set fire to a house where Luos and Kalenjins were hiding on Sunday, burning at least 19 to death, police said, echoing a similar attack against Kikuyus in a church in the Rift two weeks ago that killed 30.

Rift Valley Kikuyus say they do not want revenge but are determined to defend themselves after their kinsmen were attacked in violence orchestrated by members of other tribes supporting Odinga.

"We're not saying it's them who are killing," said Steven Mungai, 21, gesturing to a retreating Luo crowd with his machete. He said he would not rest until all Luos were chased out of town.

"We have no quarrel with them but with their tribe. Their tribe is killing ours. Why should we let them enjoy life peacefully when their people are causing havoc?"

As the ethnic killing has gathered momentum, it has pitted former friends against each other, residents say.

"All these people fighting each other, we are neighbours," said Peter Juma, an employee of a logistics company as he wondered how he would get an armed escort out of town to escape the mobs baying for Luo blood.

"We lived side-by-side, but politics divided us. We're so polarised, I don't know if we'll live together again."

Full story from Reuters

Latest News and Features
KENYA: Violence paralyses western towns as political crisis deepens
NAIROBI, 28 January 2008 (IRIN) - Increasing violence and tension in several towns in western Kenya continue to hinder the provision of basic services such as health, education and transport, in addition to causing untold suffering to thousands of people displaced since the unrest began in late December. full report

KENYA: Campuses stay closed amid concern over student protests
NAIROBI, 28 January 2008 (IRIN) - Most of Kenya's public universities have yet to reopen amid fears of riots and ethnic bloodshed following December's disputed polls. full report

KENYA: Nakuru residents join displaced camp in their own town as violence erupts
NAKURU, 26 January 2008 (IRIN) - Nakuru residents made up most of the new arrivals at the town's showground camp set up for people fleeing post-election violence in neighbouring districts, according to a local aid official. The camp holds 5,900 people, according to coordinator Jesse Njoroge who said most of the 696 new arrivals were from Nakuru itself.full report

KENYA: Fears over rising IDP numbers in Mt Elgon
NAIROBI, 25 January 2008 (IRIN) - The number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the volatile district of Mt Elgon in western Kenya could increase due to the effects of post-election violence that has hit parts of the country, according to an official of the Kenya Red Cross Society.full report

KENYA: Mediation effort “fails to stem violence, tension”
NAIROBI, 25 January 2008 (IRIN) - Violence and tension are still rife in parts of Kenya's Rift Valley Province, despite ongoing mediation efforts to resolve the political crisis, the secretary-general of the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), Abbas Gullet, said on 25 January. full report

KENYA: David Chege-Waweru: “I couldn’t leave my room for five days”
NAIROBI, 24 January 2008 (IRIN) - David Chege-Waweru, 35, was working as a field officer for the agro-forestry NGO Wang Ndonya Eternity Organisation in Migori, Nyanza Province, when he was forced to leave by post-election violence. full report

KENYA: Massive displacement hurting education in the Rift Valley
NAROK, 24 January 2008 (IRIN) - Thousands of Kenyan students have still not started the new school year since the 27 December polls plunged parts of the country into chaos, raising concerns about the effect massive displacement and continued instability could have on education.full report

KENYA: Concern over Molo IDPs as camp closures continue
NAIROBI, 24 January 2008 (IRIN) - A government directive to close camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) across the country has raised concerns among aid workers, especially over the plight of IDPs in the volatile district of Molo in Rift Valley Province, where thousands live in at least 50 congested sites.full report

KENYA: John Mbugua: "I wouldn't work in Kibera again"
NAIROBI, 23 January 2008 (IRIN) - John Mbugua, 27, was a clothes dealer at Toy Market, a popular second-hand clothes open-air market in Kibera, one of the largest slums in sub-Saharan Africa, in the capital, Nairobi. Kibera was also one of the worst-affected areas in the post-election clashes that followed the disputed results in December 2007. Mbugua talked to IRIN about his experiences in volatile Kibera.full report

KENYA: IDPs face uncertain future as plan to close city camp gets under way
NAIROBI, 22 January 2008 (IRIN) - Thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) living on the site of an annual trade fair in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, have vowed to stay put, despite a government directive to close the camp. full report

Full reports from UN's IRIN news service

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