Saturday, January 19, 2008

Today's Headlines - 1/19/2008

Kenya’s Opposition Switches Its Tactics From Street Protests to Business Boycotts

Published: January 19, 2008

NAIROBI, Kenya — Protests cooled in Kenya on Friday as opposition leaders, still furious about last month’s presidential election, announced that they were switching tactics from street demonstrations to boycotts.

After three days of nationwide rallies that degenerated into battles with police officers, the country was mostly calm, save for a few flash points. Witnesses said police officers shot and killed at least two people in Kibera, a huge slum on the outskirts of Nairobi, the capital. Earlier in the day, vandals uprooted a length of train tracks running through Kibera, where a freight train was looted Thursday.

In Narok, a town near the Masai Mara game reserve, ethnic clashes erupted with men battling in the streets, using bows and arrows and machetes. Witnesses said at least five people were killed, and a Kenyan television network showed images of men dancing around a body in Narok’s downtown.

In Mombasa, Kenya’s second-largest city and a major port for East Africa, hundreds of protesters emerged from mosques to call for a new election. Police officers responded with tear gas and gunshots. Witnesses said at least one person was killed, bringing the deaths from the week’s disturbances to more than 20, including several children.

The zero-tolerance policy of the Kenyan police is drawing increasing criticism. Western diplomats in Nairobi have urged the government to allow peaceful rallies —currently banned — and to stop using lethal force against unarmed demonstrators.

Opposition leaders and their supporters have been protesting the elections in December in which Mwai Kibaki, Kenya’s president, was declared the winner by a narrow margin over Raila Odinga, the top opposition leader, amid widespread evidence that election officials had tampered with results.

On Friday, a consortium of Kenyan election monitors and human rights groups announced that there had been so many glaring irregularities in the balloting that it was impossible to tell who had really won, a position echoed by American diplomats who have done their own analysis. The consortium issued a report called “Countdown to Deception: 30 Hours That Destroyed Kenya.”

David Ndii, a researcher for the anticorruption group Transparency International, said that election officials had siphoned away votes for Mr. Odinga and increased the number of votes for Mr. Kibaki during the tallying process. “The suspicious votes are sufficient to alter the outcome of the presidential elections,” Mr. Ndii said.

It is unclear how much impact this will have because Mr. Kibaki and his tight circle of advisers have insisted that the president won the election fairly and that there will be no rerun.

Full story from NY Times

ODM calls off mass action as deaths rise
Story by NATION Team
Publication Date: 1/19/2008

The Orange Democratic Movement Friday ended its three days of mass action and announced a new strategy of economic boycott to protest against the outcome of the disputed presidential election.

The new strategy would involve a call on its supporters to boycott products of certain companies whose owners and leaders were said by ODM to be close to President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity.

The party’s spokesman, Mr Salim Lone, said they had officially ended the peaceful demonstrations countrywide to allow for international mediation which starts next week.

Street protests
The end of the street protests in several towns across the country coincided with renewed hope that the political conflict which has gripped the country since December 30 last year may be resolved across the negotiating table.

On Friday, reports indicated that former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the wife of former South African President Graca Machel are expected in the country on Tuesday as part of the international mediation effort.

There were also reports that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni will be in Nairobi next week as part of efforts to end the Kenyan conflict which has attracted worldwide attention.
Sources said that an advance team from Uganda was already in the country.

Mr Museveni is the chairman of the East Africa Community and also the Commonwealth.
It was not immediately clear whether President Museveni, Mr Annan, Mrs Machel and other eminent African leaders will meet President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga jointly or separately.

President Kibaki, meanwhile, named a 10-member team headed by Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, to spearhead efforts at national reconciliation.

The team will be free to bring in more people to the effort, the President said in the proclamation. Meanwhile, the death toll from the three days of protests rose to 21 when 12 more people were reported to have died in Narok, Nairobi and Mombasa.

Four of the dead were shot within the Kibera slums in the city as police conducted a house-to-house search to arrest those who destroyed a section of the Nairobi-Kisumu railway which passes through the area.

Reports said three more people had been slashed to death in Nairobi’s Kariobangi North area where TV footage showed men wielding machetes and declaring they had armed themselves for self-defence.

Four others were reported dead in Narok with arrow and spear wounds, while one was shot dead in Mombasa.

Mr Odinga announced the end of mass action when he visited some of the injured people who were being treated at the Masaba Hospital, Nairobi, saying a news conference giving further details will be called today.

Earlier, ODM spokesman Mr Lone said: “We have officially ended the three days of mass action for now. This is to allow for international mediation which starts next week.”

Full story from Nation

Kenya's streets tense after bloody protests

Sat Jan 19, 2008 4:19am EST
By C. Bryson Hull

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan riot police patrolled the capital on Saturday and rival tribes faced off in a southwest town, after 23 people were killed in three days of protests called by the opposition over a disputed election.

Tension stayed high despite opposition leader Raila Odinga's statement on Friday that his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) would take its fight off the streets and use other channels, including talks with African leaders and economic boycotts.

About 650 people have been killed since President Mwai Kibaki won a disputed December 27 election, mostly in police action against banned protests and attacks on tribes seen as backing him.

Odinga says Kibaki stole the closest-ever election in the east African nation from him. International observers say the count was so chaotic it was impossible to tell who won, and the government says the ODM also rigged votes.

In Narok town, paramilitaries guarded empty streets while hundreds of members of Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe armed with machetes faced pro-opposition Maasais with bows and arrows, a Reuters reporter said.

A total of six people died on Friday as the two sides fought, and homes were torched in the town, gateway to the Maasai Mara game park. Police had to retreat late on Friday when they ran out of tear gas.

Reinforcements arrived early on Saturday.

Kenya's paroxysm of violence, captured in TV images showing police shooting, teargassing and beating protesters, has seriously damaged its democratic reputation, prompted threats of aid cuts and harmed one of Africa's strongest economies.

Roughly 250,000 have been forced from their homes in ethnic attacks, the bulk of them in the pro-opposition Rift Valley. A policeman was killed there on Friday by an arrow, police said.

In Nairobi, paramilitaries in riot gear marched through the central business district, where for the past three days business closed early as police fired teargas and chased protesters through the streets.

Nairobi's Mathare and Kibera slums were quiet, and in Kisumu, scene of some of the worst police action and earlier rioting, was coming back to life.

"Shops are open, people have flocked into the streets but there is no money," vendor Silwa Opido, 42, said as she balanced a basket of bananas on her head. "People have nothing in their pockets because no one has worked since Kibaki stole the votes."

The opposition and human rights groups blame Kenyan police for most of the killing during the protests, including the deaths of schoolchildren in Nairobi and the western city of Kisumu, heart of the opposition.

In Kibera, scene of the worst violence on Friday, police killed a 15-year-old girl who looked out her door as they fired outside. Her father told Reuters the officer aimed at her.

Both of Kenya's main newspapers in editorials on Saturday blasted police conduct. "The full magnitude of their misdeeds will take long to come out, but it is simply horrific," the Saturday Nation wrote.

Police maintain they have followed Kenyan law, only shooting rioters and looters, and deny shooting indiscriminately.

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe told reporters 510 people had been killed since violence erupted around election day, and of those 87 died at police hands. He said 70 percent of deaths were in the Rift Valley.

The government, in a statement on Friday, said it planned to form a truth and reconciliation commission and ask the government's human rights commission to carry out independent investigations into the violence.

Several African leaders are shuttling between Kibaki and Odinga's camps, and former U.N. head Kofi Annan is due to arrive on Tuesday to begin talks.

(Additional reporting by Guled Mohamed in Kisumu; editing by Andrew Roche)

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Full story from Reuters

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