Thursday, January 24, 2008

Today's Headlines - 1/24/2008

Kenya's Kibaki to meet rival Odinga for first time

Thu 24 Jan 2008, 12:34 GMT
By Nick Tattersall and C. Bryson Hull

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki will meet his rival Raila Odinga on Thursday for the first time since a disputed election fuelled weeks of riots and ethnic violence, the United Nations said.

The meeting would be a major breakthrough in the bloody crisis. Despite strong international pressure and to the frustration of millions of Kenyans, the two leaders have failed to talk since the Dec. 27 vote.

News of the meeting came after former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan met Kibaki at State House in the latest bid to end unrest that has killed nearly 700 people.

"At 4.30 p.m (1330 GMT) today there will be a meeting between Kofi Annan and President Kibaki and Honourable Odinga at (the) office of (the) president, Harambee House," a U.N. spokesman said in a statement to media.

Word of the meeting came as a human rights watchdog accused opposition party officials of organising tribal violence in the country's Rift Valley, echoing government allegations.

Odinga and other officials from his opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) met Annan late on Wednesday, and at his request agreed to call off protests planned for Thursday over a victory it says Kibaki stole.

The opposition demanded an outside mediator to solve a crisis that has split Kenya down tribal and political lines, after Kibaki narrowly won the closest election in the east African nation's history in a vote rife with rigging.

Full story from Reuters

1.30pm GMT
Kenya rivals to meet for first time in bid to end violence

Matthew Weaver and agencies
Thursday January 24, 2008
Guardian Unlimited

The bitter rivals in Kenya's disputed presidential election are due to meet for the first time since the vote, the UN announced today, following the intervention of its former head Kofi Annan, in a bid to end the violence that has blighted Kenya since the poll.

Previously, President Mwai Kibaki had insisted on direct talks with opposition leader Raila Odinga, while Odinga had refused to meet without a mediator present. In the immediate aftermath of the December 27 election, Odinga said he would only negotiate with Kibaki if the president admitted he had lost the poll.

But, after separate talks between Annan and both leaders, a UN spokesman said: "At 4.30pm (1.30pm GMT) today there will be a meeting between Kofi Annan and President Kibaki and Honourable Odinga at the office of the president, Harambee House."

The government says 685 people have been killed and some 255,000 people forced from their homes by the post-election violence.

Today's breakthrough comes just a week after one of Kibaki's key ministerial allies said that Annan had not been invited to Kenya. After those remarks Annan postponed his visit, citing a "severe illness".

Annan agreed to head a panel bidding to solve the crisis after the Ghanaian and African Union president John Kufuor failed to persuade the two leaders to negotiate.

Earlier today, human rights campaigners accused officials from Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement of leading ethnic violence in the western Rift Valley in the wake of the poll.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said it had evidence that party officials "actively fomented" attacks around the city of Eldoret, a scene of many of the bloodiest incidents.

It also warned that more attacks were being planned against Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe. The ODM has denied the charges. Human Rights Watch, citing interviews with members of the Kalenjin people native to the area, said: "Opposition party officials and local elders planned and organized ethnic-based violence in the Rift Valley.

"[They] arranged frequent meetings following the election to organise, direct and facilitate the violence unleashed by gangs of local youth."

Georgette Gagnon, Human Rights Watch's acting Africa director, said: "Opposition leaders are right to challenge Kenya's rigged presidential poll, but they can't use it as an excuse for targeting ethnic groups." William Ruto, a senior figure who represents a constituency in the Rift Valley, vigorously denied the charge. He said: "For my constituency, nothing, absolutely nothing could be further from the truth.

"There was, to the best of my knowledge, no organisation that could put together the kind of logistics that could enable the kind of violence that we saw in that part of the world."

Both sides in the dispute have traded accusations of who is behind the violence.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008

Full story from Guardian (UK)

Kenya rivals at mediation meeting

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and the opposition leader, Raila Odinga, are meeting for the first time since last month's disputed presidential election.

The face-to-face talks at State House are being mediated by former UN chief Kofi Annan, who has been holding separate meetings with the two men.

Weeks of violence followed the election results, rejected by Mr Kibaki and described as flawed by observers.

Earlier, a rights group accused Mr Odinga's party of attacks on Kikuyus.

"We have evidence that Orange Democratic Movement politicians and local leaders actively fomented some post-election violence," said the group's acting Africa director for Human Rights Watch.

The ODM has denied previous charges of "ethnic cleansing" of Mr Kibaki's ethnic group during the unrest which has left more than 650 people dead and driven 250,000 from their homes.

In a statement, the United Nations said its former secretary general would attend a talks with President Kibaki and Mr Odinga at the office of the president at 1630 (1330 GMT) in Nairobi.
The BBC's Adam Mynott in the capital says the meeting is a breakthrough, although details of the agenda have not been released.

Several earlier attempts to get the two leaders to hold face-to-face talks have failed.
On Wednesday, Mr Odinga called off a mass protest planned for Thursday in Nairobi in response to a request by Mr Annan.

The former UN secretary-general is being accompanied on his mission by Graca Machel, the wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, and former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa.

Full story from BBC

Mass Action Called Off After Annan-ODM Talks

The Nation (Nairobi)
NEWS24 January 2008
Posted to the web 24 January 2008
By Bernard Namunane and Kenneth Ogosia

A ray of hope over an end of political crisis facing the country appeared Wednesday when ODM emerged from a meeting with the Kofi Annan-headed team and called off mass action rallies planned for Thursday.

An upbeat Mr Raila Odinga and Mr William Ruto accompanied by other ODM Pentagon members and officials came out of the meeting at Nairobi's Serena Hotel Wednesday night to announce the cancellation of the rallies "to give mediation a chance."

The party's press secretary, Mr Salim Lone, had earlier told journalists that mass action would continue.

It was one of the meetings in a day of extensive diplomacy and mediation when Mr Annan, the wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, Mrs Graca Machel and former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, had a hectic day setting in motion moves to reconcile the rival political camps.

Mr Annan, a former UN secretary-general, and his team of international mediators had a busy day setting the groundwork for their efforts to end the post-election crisis gripping Kenya.

Full story from Daily Nation at AllAfrica

Women Stood Up to Be Elected

Inter Press Service (Johannesburg)
NEWS24 January 2008
Posted to the web 24 January 2008
By Kwamboka Oyaro

Women boldly stood up to be elected during December's general elections. They turned out in their highest number ever -- 269 -- to contest Kenya's 210 parliamentary seats.

This record number ignited so much hope, especially among women, that some estimated that at least 50 could make it to parliament. Out of 2,548 parliamentary contenders 10.6 percent were women.

During the 2002 elections there were only 44 women out of a total 1,015 vying for parliamentary seats. Nine of them were elected while various parties nominated nine more to make the total number of women in the last parliament 18.

Generally, the performance of women during the parliamentary elections this time around was slightly higher than the last elections, 15 being elected. However, taking into account the number of women candidates last year as compared to 2002, women did not perform as well as expected.
Last year 5.6 percent of the candidates made it to parliament, 20.4 percent succeeded in 2002.

The good news is that the number of elected women parliamentarians has increased from 4.2 per cent in the last parliament to 7.1 per cent now.

Full story from Inter Press Service (S Africa) at AllAfrica

Conditions Worsen in Country With More Than 1 Dozen Killed in Past Day - UN

UN News Service (New York)
NEWS23 January 2008
Posted to the web 24 January 2008

Security conditions in Kenya are deteriorating rapidly, according to United Nations officials who report that more than a dozen civilians have been killed in political violence, and 70 houses burned, in the past 24 hours.

The Government estimates that 685 people have been killed in the violence, which first erupted in the East African nation a few weeks ago after Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner over opposition leader Raila Odinga in December elections. The crisis has also forced some 255,000 to flee their homes.

According to UN security officials, seven people were killed in Kipkelion and 70 houses burned in the Aldai area of Rift Valley province. In addition, five people were shot dead and 30 shops burned in Trans Nzioa, while four people were killed in Korogocho, Huruma and Mathare slums.

Meanwhile, UN agencies have completed an assessment tour of internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in the town of Molo, where they found an urgent need for shelter, blankets, water and sanitation.

The UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) sent teams out to several towns, including Nairobi and Eldoret, to assess damaged homes, and verify the number of persons and conditions in IDP camps, as well as review water and sanitation needs.

There is reportedly a scarcity of cooking fuel in several IDP camps, according to the UN Country Team, which noted that IDPs in Eldoret have begun burning construction material for cooking.

Meanwhile, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has continued its immunization campaign against measles and polio in all the IDP camps. And, working with Kenyan authorities, the World Food Programme (WFP) has finalized a new distribution plan to assist some 67,000 people affected and displaced by the crisis in the Rift Valley.

Copyright © 2008 UN News Service. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (

Full story from UN at AllAfrica

Catholic Church Backs Mediation

The Nation (Nairobi)
24 January 2008
Posted to the web 24 January 2008
By Jeff Otieno

The Catholic Church Wednesday asked President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga to fully cooperate with the eminent persons in mediation efforts to find a solution to the current political crisis.

[NB: President Kibaki is a Roman Catholic.]

In a statement, the church said it fully supported the Kofi Annan-led initiative to help the country resolve the crisis occasioned by the December 27 disputed presidential elections.

"We ask President Mwai Kibaki and Honourable Raila Odinga to open their minds and hearts and immediately enter into dialogue," said the faxed statement signed by John Cardinal Njue and 23 bishops.

Unlock deadlock
The statement came as the former UN secretary-general and his team were scheduled to meet President Kibaki and Mr Odinga to try and unlock the deadlock.

Mr Annan has made it clear that he will deal directly with President Kibaki and Mr Odinga, saying the two hold the key in reaching an agreement that will restore peace and security.

The Catholic bishops asked the two leaders to come up with a viable political solution guided by the law. "This will be the beginning of a process of healing and reconciliation. We beg you in the name of God, present and future generations, to stop this destruction of our beloved country," the statement said.

The religious leaders called for the cessation of violence. "This includes the organisation of demonstrations that lead to violence in this volatile situation and also the excessive use of force by disciplined forces," the bishops said.

Full story from Nation at AllAfrica

Kenyan ethnic attacks 'planned'

Officials from Kenya's opposition party were behind attacks on members of the president's ethnic group and are planning more, Human Rights watch says.

"We have evidence that ODM politicians and local leaders actively fomented some post-election violence," said the lobby group's acting Africa director.

The opposition has denied previous charges of "ethnic cleansing".

President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga will meet later, United Nations officials say.

This would be the first time they have met face-to-face since last month's disputed election.

Former UN chief Kofi Annan will also take part in the talks, aimed at finding a solution to the crisis, which has left more than 650 people dead and driven 250,000 from their homes.

Opposition leaders are right to challenge Kenya's rigged presidential poll, but they can't use it as an excuse for targeting ethnic groups
Georgette Gagnon
Human Rights Watch

The BBC's Adam Mynott in Nairobi says the meeting at a neutral venue in the capital is a breakthrough, although details of the agenda have not been released.

AFP news agency reports that at least 12 people have died in the latest violence - some in the Rift Valley.

The opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) says it has not yet agreed to an official investigation into their claims of electoral fraud.

Full story from BBC

Kenya's poor at each other's throats

By Fergal Keane
BBC News, Kibera, Nairobi

No phrase so commonly used about Africa can conceal quite so much.

I am talking about those two very familiar words "tribal violence".

They conjure up memories of the Congo and Biafra in the 1960s, Uganda and Burundi in the decade after that, all the way to the miseries of Central Africa in the 1990s.

Sadly the Western mind has been conditioned to accept a simplistic notion of what "tribal violence"' really means: people driven to kill each other by irrational atavistic hatreds.

Now the expression is being used again to describe the crisis here in Kenya.

Those who have nothing are looting those who have a little bit more.

I wouldn't for a second try to deny that what happened in all the places described above involved some degree of ethnic motivation.

After witnessing at first hand the hatred of Hutu militiamen for Tutsi civilians in Rwanda I understand only too well how real or imagined ethnic difference can be whipped up by unscrupulous leaders.

Full story from BBC

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