Wednesday, January 23, 2008

More headlines - Wed. 1/23/2008

Gang rape spirals in violent Kenya

By Stephanie Holmes BBC News

Rape is on the rise in Kenya, troubled by violence which followed December's disputed elections.

Every day women turn up at the doors of Nairobi's hospitals and clinics telling the same story.

"I could not run away. They gagged my mouth and pinned me down," one woman remembers.

"After raping me they blindfolded me and led me to a nearby forest. That's where they left me."

Her experience - doctors, officials and the UN say - is echoed by hundreds of other women who have survived a spiralling number of sexual attacks.

Many are gang rapes, carried out by groups of armed men.

Staff in the Nairobi Women's Hospital - one of Kenya's leading centres for the treatment of rape and sexual violence - say they have seen double the number of cases affecting women, teenagers and girls since January.

"Since the beginning of the month, we have had 140 cases of rape and defilement," said Rahab Ngugi, patient services manager at the hospital.

"We were used to seeing an average of about four cases a day, now there is an average of between eight and 10."

Full story at BBC

Deadly Dispute Over Kenya Election Goes On

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan. 23, 2008


Dozens of protesters set fire to a government office building Wednesday, forcing workers to crawl out windows as former U.N. chief Kofi Annan tried to resolve the deadly dispute over Kenya's presidential election.

The melee started after police fired tear gas at stone-throwing youths during a memorial service organized by the opposition to honor those killed in Kenya's post-election violence. Some 685 people have been killed in riots and ethnic fighting since the Dec. 27 vote.

"This is a war between the people of Kenya and a very small bloodthirsty clique clinging to power," opposition leader Raila Odinga told about 800 supporters gathered at a sports ground in the capital, Nairobi.

Just outside the grounds, young men were stopping cars, beating people and taunting police.

Police held fire but eventually responded with tear gas, some of which landed inside the sports ground and forced the mourners to flee.

About 50 of the young men then set upon the government-owned telecommunications building, smashing windows and starting fires.

"We don't know what happened," Mary Bwire, a secretary at the office, told The Associated Press. "Suddenly there were stones everywhere. We all hid under tables."

She and several other employees crawled out ground-floor windows to safety.

Later Wednesday, Kenya's opposition called off plans for a day of protests set for Thursday under pressure from Annan, a small victory on the former U.N. chief's first day of mediation. Police have banned all rallies, and at least 24 people died in three days of protests last week. Most deaths were blamed on police.

"On the request of the mediation team we have called off the activities we had planned for tomorrow," William Ruto, a leading opposition figure, told a news conference in the capital, Nairobi.

The election returned President Mwai Kibaki to power for another five-year term, but the opposition and international observers say the vote tally was rigged.

Also Wednesday, about 15 miles outside Nairobi in Limuru, police fired shots at men with machetes who had been blocking the road and demanding to know the ethnicity of people trying to pass, witness Nancy Chumba said by telephone.

Two people were fatally shot, according to a police source who asked that his name not be used because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

Another two people were found dead in the capital's slums, police said.

Full story from CBS News/AP report

Concern From U.S. on Kenya Standoff

Published: January 24, 2008

NAIROBI, Kenya — The American ambassador to Kenya said on Wednesday that his deepest worries about the post-election crisis here were not about Kenyans rampaging in the streets or killing each other based on ethnic identity, both of which have claimed hundreds of lives.

Possibly even more damaging, he said, has been the deep rift among the country’s opposing politicians, who seem “entrenched” and surrounded by “hardliners.”

“You can never underestimate the ability of
just a couple of people to
tear a place apart,”

said Michael E. Ranneberger, the ambassador, during an interview at his house in Nairobi, the capital.

He said that his chief concern was whether Mwai Kibaki, the president, and Raila Odinga, the top opposition leader, were “prepared to rise above themselves and put the interests of the nation ahead of their own personal or their group’s political interest.”

“That is still an unanswered question,” he said, adding “we’re in the middle of a very serious crisis.”

It has been four weeks since Kenyans went to the polls in record numbers, and the country is still reeling from the aftershocks of a disputed tally in which Mr. Kibaki was declared the winner over Mr. Odinga, despite widespread evidence of vote rigging. The Kenyan government has said that more than 650 people have been killed, though Western diplomats and aid workers put the death toll at several hundred higher.

Full story from NY Times

Kenya bourse investors pin hopes on Annan efforts

Wed Jan 23, 2008 9:52am EST
By Helen Nyambura-Mwaura

NAIROBI, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Kenya's stock exchange has proved surprisingly resilient through recent political turmoil but if mediation efforts by former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan fail, investors could take fright, market players say.

The Kenyan economy has been threatened by a string of riots, looting and ethnic killings that followed a disputed presidential election more than three weeks ago.

President Mwai Kibaki's challenger, Raila Odinga, has asked him to step down for allegedly rigging the Dec. 27 election and the ensuing chaos has killed more than 650 people.

"Our market has been fairly resilient despite what is happening within our own country," said Fred Mburu, head of portfolio management at Old Mutual Asset Managers.

"I have heard there are a few foreign investors liquidating their positions (but) it's not what you can call a significant flight of capital," he added.

The Nairobi Stock Exchange's (NSE) 20-share index had shed 9 percent to 4,942.30 points by Wednesday's close from 5,444.83 points on Dec. 24, the last trade day before the vote.

The bourse was one of the stars in Africa in 2006, growing 42 percent. But it suffered a correction last year as speculators took money out of the market and a rogue stock broker was found mismanaging customers' shares.

Kenya's currency has also suffered from the unrest, dropping to an 18-month low on Wednesday while the 91-day treasury bill has ticked up to 6.999 percent in last week's sale from 6.891 percent previously.

Traders say investors at the NSE built up positions over the last two quarters of 2007 in anticipation of fat returns in 2008.

Most have, however, decided to keep them despite the unrest and were waiting the outcome of mediation attempts.

Former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan jetted into Kenya on Tuesday night to mediate between Kibaki and Odinga.

"People are anticipating something good may come of it. If it fails, people may then take more drastic action," said Edward Gitahi, a senior investment manager at AIG Global Investments.

Full story from Reuters

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