Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Today's Headlines - Wed. 1/23/2008

Six killed as Annan arrives for crisis talks

Story by NATION Team
Publication Date: 1/23/2008

Six people were killed in a fresh flare-up of violence in Nandi South District just hours before a team of international mediators arrived in Nairobi for talks between the Government and the Opposition.

Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan who will chair the mediation talks, flew into the country Tuesday night. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni had arrived earlier and went straight to State House where he held talks with President Kibaki.

In Nandi, 70 houses were burnt on the border between Aldai and Hamisi constituencies.

[NB: This is near Kaimosi Mission and Cheptulu Market. FTC principals and staff report that they are safe and well.]

Speaking later during a news conference at Serena Hotel, Nairobi, Mr Annan said his team had not come with a solution.

“We are here to insist on a solution for the sake of Kenya and its people and for the sake of Africa.”

He expressed confidence that his team can count on the will, maturity, resourcefulness and judgment of Kenyan leaders.

“We are here to listen, to learn and to work with the concerned parties to find a just and sustainable solution to the current crisis. We bring to this process the support and solidarity of the African Union, the European Union, the United States and the US,” noted the former UN chief.

Meanwhile, the Government and ODM held separate last-minute strategy meetings as the mediators prepared for the talks aimed at solving the crisis sparked by Mr Kibaki’s declaration as President on December 30 amid disputed vote tallying.

Full story from Daily Nation

Kenya faces famine threat

Publication Date: 1/23/2008

Kenya faces famine in the next few months if the political crisis persists.

According to the Kenya Food Security Update report,

...political unrest coupled with poor rainfall in some parts of the country had compromised the country’s already weak food security status.

As a result, the report is warning that... prices will rise sharply as the impact of the shortages begin to be felt countrywide.

Although initial estimates indicated that about 3 million tonnes of maize would be harvested in the 2007/08 marketing year, it is feared that national output could decline by up to 15 per cent, resulting in a significant shortfall later in the year.

Compiled by USAid
The document, compiled by the United States Agency for International Aid, the Kenya Government and the World Food Programme, says...

...although there is sufficient maize to last through the next seven months, prices might soon begin to rise.

Maize is staple food in the country and its availability is used as the measuring rod for food security.

The experts who compiled the report say an increase in the price of maize would hurt consumers throughout the country.

“Already consumers in urban centres across the country are purchasing two-kilogramme of milled maize at a prohibitive Sh80 instead of the normal price of Sh50,” the report adds.

[NB: Most Kenyans subsist, if they are fortunate enough to be employed, on average about 70-80 sh or a dollar per day.]

Nearly 20 per cent (300,000 tonnes) of maize crop in the country’s long-rains dependent grain-basket had not been harvested at the onset of the crisis.

“Some of the maize is likely to be lost after people fled their farms, while those not directly affected by the crisis were unable to continue with normal harvesting process,” the report says.

The violence over disputed presidential results has seen more than 600 people killed and over 250,000 families displaced, mainly from Rift Valley where most of Kenya’s food originates.

Worst affected
Although Rift Valley is worst affected, the food security impact has reverberated across the country.

The poor rains experienced in several parts of the country, mainly in the lowlands, have not helped the situation either, the report says.

It is estimated that 70 per cent of the crop could be lost in the lowlands and the proportion is likely to increase if crops in farms fail to receive rains by the end of January.

Cumulative losses of the long rains crop, including those arising from crop failure in the southeastern lowlands could reach 480,000 tonnes under the worst scenario.

The violence has hampered the National Cereals and Produce Board from purchasing grains and crops harvested before the crisis may rot in storage facilities at the household level, as most stores that supply agricultural chemicals are not functioning to capacity.

Full story from Daily Nation

Kenya opposition, police clash at funeral

Wed 23 Jan 2008, 12:43 GMT

By Andrew Cawthorne and George Obulutsa

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan police fired teargas to disperse stone-throwing youths at a funeral on Wednesday held by the opposition for slum residents killed in a crackdown on protests against President Mwai Kibaki's disputed election.

Several teargas canisters landed in the large football field in Nairobi where coffins were laid out and opposition leader Raila Odinga was winding up his oration.

"This is a war between the people of Kenya and a small clique of very blood-thirsty people who want to cling on to power at all costs," Odinga told the crowd of mourners as violence was erupting on a road outside.

"Let us stand as one people to liberate our country."

The latest trouble came as former U.N. chief Kofi Annan was to begin talks with Kibaki and Odinga to resolve a bloody stalemate that threatens to wreck the east African nation's image as a stable democracy and flourishing economy.

Adding to a death-toll of about 650 since the Dec. 27 election, at least two more people were killed in a Nairobi slum during the morning in the latest ethnic clashes since the vote.

Odinga says Kibaki stole the narrow victory, which has split the country of 36 million down the middle.

Police had eased a ban on public demonstrations, in place since Kibaki's Dec. 30 swearing-in prompted rioting and looting, to permit a memorial led by the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) for what it called 28 "freedom fighters."

The day began peacefully as hundreds of supporters marched from near the Kibera slum, a stronghold of Odinga's Luo tribe, carrying coffins of people they say were shot by police there.

But the event turned violent when about a dozen youths on a major highway outside stopped some cars, smashed windows and beat occupants who did not belong to their Luo tribe.

Police moved in but held fire,

witnesses said, as a growing crowd of youths threw rocks at them. They eventually responded with charges and fusillades of teargas, some of which landed in the field, terrifying mourners and scattering ODM leaders.

As police pulled back, firing more teargas from the back of trucks, the youths set upon a nearby post office, smashing windows, starting a fire and tearing a wall down.

They also smashed a row of phone booths.

Earlier, opposition sources said ODM would call off protests planned for Thursday.

"Annan has told us he will request no more street protests while he is here, and I can tell you we will not be objecting to that," a senior Odinga aide told Reuters.

[NB: This seems to be contradicted by story below, saying ODM has called for more protests; not sure which report is latest and most accurate.]

Annan, due to meet Kibaki and Odinga on Wednesday, met newly elected parliament Speaker Kenneth Marende, who said face-to-face discussion between the two Kenyan leaders "is going to be on the table."

World powers have called on Kibaki and Odinga to hold urgent talks after more than three weeks of unrest.

Underscoring the urgency of Annan's mission, two men were found dead -- one stoned and one decapitated -- in Nairobi's Kariobangi slum. Area police commander Paul Ruto said the fighting was between Luos and Kibaki's Kikuyu ethnic group.

"We carried out an operation and have arrested five people. We have found a panga (machete) with blood stains," Ruto said, next to a truck holding the body with its head nearly off.

At least eight others were reported killed in the city and the Rift Valley, local media said.

Odinga has demanded Kibaki stand down or face an election repeat, which some diplomats have cautioned against as having too much potential for further bloodshed.

But Odinga hinted he may accept the creation of a prime minister post for him. "We are ready to share power with him. He remains president and we take the position of prime minister," Odinga told Germany's ARD television.

[NB: Odinga studied in Germany. This is a stunning concession by him, the first report of his willingness to compromise that I've seen anywhere in the media!]

© Reuters 2008. All Rights Reserved.

Full story from Reuters Africa

Kofi Annan to Begin Kenya Mediation Wednesday

By James Butty Washington, D.C.
23 January 2008

Butty interview with Nyongo
Listen to Butty interview with Nyongo

Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan begins his mediation role Wednesday in Nairobi between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga in an effort to find a lasting solution to the post-election crisis that has gripped Kenya since December 27. Annan, who arrived in the Kenyan capital Tuesday night, appealed to both Kibaki and Odinga for cooperation during the talks.

It was not clear whether President Kibaki and Odinga would meet face to face. But the opposition had long insisted on international mediation. There was also uncertainty whether Wednesday’s talks are about negotiations or dialogue.

Peter Anyang Nyong’o is ODM Secretary-General. He told VOA the direction of the talks would be determined once the ODM meets the former U.N. Secretary-General.

“I think we really have to wait until negotiations start. The rules of engagement will define the parameters of the discussions and what would follow after that. Our interest is to ensure that we can resolve the crisis of the stolen presidential election. And we cannot do justice to the issues unless and until we establish the extent to which the votes were stolen and Kenyans know that the President in power is the one they voted for on the 27th of December,” he said.

Opposition leader Raila Odinda told his supporters Monday that he was ready to talk to Kibaki, but only in the presence of an international mediator. Nyong’o said the ODM wants to know the truth of what happened in the December 27 election.

Full story from Voice of America

Clashes end Kenya prayer meeting

Skirmishes between police and youths have broken up an opposition prayer meeting for victims of the post-poll violence in Kenya's capital, Nairobi.

Tear gas was fired at Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) supporters who stoned police vehicles and torched a nearby government building.

Meanwhile, former UN chief Kofi Annan is beginning a fresh attempt to end the chaos arising from the disputed poll.

The ODM says it will consider calling off protests if Mr Annan asks them to.

Opposition protest rallies were due to resume on Thursday.

"Our official position is that we shall meet Mr Annan this afternoon, and if he asks us to call them off, that is a request that will be seriously considered by the ODM leadership, but as of now the rallies are still on," spokesman Salim Lone told the BBC.

[NB: This may clarfiy Reuters report above. Protests are on unless Annan requests that ODM calls protests off.]

We can count on the will,
maturity, resourcefulness
and judgment of the leaders
--Ex UN boss Kofi Annan

Mr Annan says he will insist on a solution for the "sake of Kenya and its people and for the sake of Africa".

His main goal is to establish a dialogue between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga ...

...who says his election victory was stolen.

Mr Annan is accompanied in his mission by Graca Machel, the wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, and former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa.

Full story from BBC

Midday GMT
Violence breaks out during Kenyan memorial service

Matthew Weaver and agencies
Wednesday January 23, 2008
Guardian Unlimited

A memorial service to honour more than 600 people killed in Kenya since the disputed re-election of president Mwai Kibaki has descended into violence.

Police fired teargas at stone throwing protesters, while some demonstrators set fire to offices during the opposition led service at a football field in the capital Nairobi.

The skirmishes came as the former UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, was due to hold talks to persuade Kenya's leaders to negotiate a political settlement to the post-election crisis.

The main opposition party, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), has called for another protest rally tomorrow in defiance of a government ban and despite the deaths of at least 24 people in three days of unrest last week.

But ODM spokesman Salim Lone said the party would reconsider whether to hold the rally if asked to cancel it by Annan.

The opposition leader, Raila Odinga, claims victory in the presidential election was stolen from him by Kibaki, and international observers say the December 27 poll was "flawed".

Annan arrived in Nairobi last night to lead a panel that will attempt to persuade Odinga and Kibaki to compromise.

Full story from The Guardian

Minister Summons UK Envoy

The Citizen (Dar es Salaam)
NEWS23 January 2008
Posted to the web 23 January 2008
By Odhiambo Orlale

Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang'ula has summoned British high commissioner Adam Wood over his country's stand on the disputed presidential election results.

The minister held a two-hour closed-door meeting with Mr Wood in his office following a statement in the House of Commons...

attributed to a deputy minister for State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Ms Meg Munn, saying the British Government did not recognise President Kibaki as the winner of the December 27 presidential race.

Full story from The Citizen on AllAfrica

Museveni Meets Kibaki

New Vision (Kampala)
NEWS22 January 2008
Posted to the web 23 January 2008

President Yoweri Museveni yesterday held talks with his Kenyan counterpart Mwai Kibaki in a bid to defuse a political stalemate between the government and the opposition following the disputed presidential elections.

He was also scheduled to meet opposition leader Raila Odinga, who claims Kibaki stole the December 27 vote.

Museveni, who was received at Kenyatta International Airport by Kibaki and his Vice-President, had a two-hour meeting at State House Nairobi immediately after his arrival, said the presidential Press Secretary, Tamale Mirundi.

Full story from New Vision on AllAfrica

Kenya's 'mafia' feel the heat

By Noel Mwakugu
BBC News, Nairobi

The plan by Kenya's opposition to boycott companies run by allies of President Mwai Kibaki in protest at the outcome of last month's presidential election may turn out to be an astute political move.

For since President Kibaki joined the ranks of opposition politics in 1992,

...he has surrounded himself with a group of close confidants and friends - many going back to his days in college. And it is they who are being blamed by some for influencing his hardline stance during the ongoing crisis that followed Mr Kibaki's controversial win.

They ["Mount Kenya Mafia"] have realised good profits during his rule and letting go to an individual they do not trust sends a chill down their spine Haroun Ndubi Kenyan political analyst

The wealthy old men, most in their late 70s, consider themselves to be the council of elders but ordinary Kenyans know them as the "Mount Kenya Mafia".

The circle of influential Kibaki friends include ex-Defence Minister Njenga Karume, Nairobi university chancellor Joe Wanjui, and big time investors Nat Kangethe, Joseph Kanyago and Nick Wanjohi.

The multi-millionaires had vast business interests in commercial agriculture, real estate, tourism industry and transport industry.

Full story from BBC

No comments: