Kenya talks focus on easing violence
The country's two political rivals agreed to help ease distribution of humanitarian aid, but not to a power-sharing government.
By Scott Baldauf – Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
and Rob Crilly – Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa; AND NAIROBI, Kenya
Since his arrival in Kenya on Jan. 22, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has deftly given the impression of steady success in mediating between Kenya's two main rivals, President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga.
But in talks this week, President Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU) apparently rejected a transitional government that would share power with Mr. Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), according to an ODM source with knowledge of the ongoing discussions.
Few details of the talks have emerged. The emphasis still appears to be on preventing the violence and breaking the leaders away from their intransigence, rather than the makeup of any kind of power-sharing government. Kibaki still claims he won the disputed Dec. 27 vote, while Odinga maintains that Kibaki stole the election at the last minute.
ODM negotiators are insisting that the disputed elections be re-run and a transitional government be set up in the meantime. Kibaki's team says that is a nonstarter. The only agreement so far is that the discredited Electoral Commission of Kenya be disbanded.
Last Friday, however, the two sides also agreed to end the violence and work together to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid. But the agreement coincided with fresh clashes in the western Rift Valley following the murder of an opposition parliamentarian.
"Since then, in the past three or four days, things have calmed down," says Abbas Gullet, executive director of the Kenya Red Cross. "Whether that's down to the Annan talks or other factors it's difficult to say. What I can say is that there's huge, huge hope among Kenyan people that things are moving in the right direction and settling down."
But the western Rift Valley has seen a series of flare-ups since President Kibaki was sworn in for a controversial second term, and the toll continues to tick upwards; more than 1,000 have died and more than 300,000 were forced from their homes.
"Ever since Kofi Annan emerged with those two men for the handshake, everyone thought that a solution was possible," says Wafula Okumu, a Kenya expert at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, or Tshwane, as the South African capital city now calls itself. "Then I started hearing that because of the higher expectations, if these talks fail, the consequences will be more dire than" what we've seen before.
As if to focus the minds of the two rivals, the UN Security Council Wednesday condemned the "ethnically motivated attacks" in Kenya, and also expressed "strong concern at the continuing dire humanitarian situation in Kenya and [called] for the protection of refugees and internally displaced persons."
Applying further pressure, United States Ambassador Michael Rannenberger announced travel bans against 10 members of parliament, reportedly from both the president's party and the opposition, for their participation "in the instigation of violence, violation of human rights and breaking of democratic practices." The travel bans apply against the politicians as well as their families, including children attending school in the US.
The challenges facing Kenya's leaders have deep and personal roots. Rulers who awarded land to their cronies and favored their ethnic kin would be reluctant to give up that tangible lever of power, unless forced. Rulers would be even more loath to give up the absolute powers – of apportioning budgets, choosing members of the judiciary, and clamping down on opposition and press freedoms at will – that Kenya's liberation-era Constitution gives its office of presidency.
Yet analysts, both in Kenya and across Africa, say that Kenya's only hope for peace is if it addresses those very issues now.
"Kenya sits as an indication of a broader problem, the African problem of how to organize the political state," says Francis Kornegay, a senior analyst at the Center for Policy Studies in Johannesburg. With men like Kibaki and Odinga and their respective entourages, "We are dealing with a political class that has come from years of dictatorship. These habits die hard."
In a Kenyan context, political leaders typically have drawn their support primarily from members of their own tribes. Odinga's biggest supporters come from the Luo tribe who live in the western part of the country, and he has forged alliances with a "Pentagon" of opposition leaders representing other ethnic groups. Mwai Kibaki's supporters come from the Kikuyus of central Kenya.
This means that any political dispute can quickly transform into ethnic violence. Immediately following the announcement on Dec. 29 that Kibaki had won the polls, violence broke out against Kikuyus in areas where the opposition ODM vote was strongest. In recent days, members of Odinga's Luo party have been chased from their homes in villages in Central Province, the traditional Kikuyu homeland.
François Grignon, Africa program director of the International Crisis Group think tank, says the talks still have a long way to go if they are to help ordinary Kenyans. "Progress has been made because they are meeting, they are talking to one another, they are making commitments to the reconciliation process," he says. "But as far as the political issues go, they are still a long way apart."
from the February 08, 2008 edition - http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0208/p07s03-woaf.html
Country Under Pressure to Reach Agreement
The East African Standard (Nairobi)
NEWS8 February 2008 Posted to the web 7 February 2008 Nairobi
Strike a deal to end crippling crisis or else we intervene - that was the unambiguous message that the international community was sending to the PNU and ODM protagonists on Thursday.
The pressure came from the United States, the United Nations Security Council and the European Union, even as ODM leader Raila Odinga indicated that his side was willing to cede ground in mediation efforts spearheaded by former UN chief Kofi Annan for the sake of the country.
In Washington DC, members of a US Congressional Sub-Committee on Africa said Kenya was too important in the region and the world to be allowed to go the way of Rwanda and Somalia.
At the Wednesday meeting, the sub-committee warned that time was running out for "a Kenyan" solution to the political crisis.
"If the warring parties are not ready to compromise to stop the country from sliding into tribal anarchy, then the international community should move in to help," the team, under the chairmanship of Mr Donald Payne, said without specifying what kind of intervention would be recommended.
And back in New York, the United Nations Security Council urged Kenya's leaders to implement the February 1 agreement - which includes taking action to dismantle armed gangs, improve the humanitarian situation and restore human rights - without delay.
In the statement issued on Thursday, the Council reaffirmed its support for the Annan-led team of Eminent African
Personalities in their efforts to find a solution to the problem that emerged following the disputed elections, and stem the violence.
It requested its Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, to report on how the UN could further support the mediation efforts in Kenya and mitigate the impact of the crisis on the wider sub-region.
And the European Union was reading from the same script, warning that it would deal firmly with anybody who attempts to derail the mediation talks.
EU Commissioner for Development Louis Michel said any such person would face serious consequences, which he, however, did not specify.
"We will leave no room for failure," he said in Nairobi last night, adding that there must be a price to be paid by both parties if an agreement is to be reached.
"Both sides must be prepared to make concessions as they tackle the root cause of the problem," he said.
In Nairobi, the Government buckled to pressure and cancelled an East African Heads of State Summit that was scheduled to take place in Nairobi today, and which ODM had vehemently opposed as a hindrance to the Annan effort.
The East African Community (EAC) headquartered in Arusha said the parley had been postponed indefinitely.
Raila said his party was ready to yield some ground to arrest the situation in the country.
"Initially, our stand was that we won the elections and Kibaki did not, hence he should resign and we should be sworn in. But we have said we are not static on that point. We are willing to yield some ground so that an acceptable solution can be found between us and the other side," said Raila.
Back at the mediation table at the Nairobi Serena Hotel, talks reached a critical stage where the Government and ODM were expected to agree on tough choices.
Annan asked the parties to relax their positions that had the potential of stalling the talks, and pleaded with the two sides to pursue the compromise path.
"Talks on the political issues are crucial, at times divisive, but proceeding in good spirit, slowly," Annan said.
For the second day running, the teams discussed arguments for and against a re-run of the disputed presidential elections in a tense mood.
The Government team insists ODM should take their complaint to court in compliance with the Constitution and laws that govern elections.
The Government has not been keen on a fresh presidential election and has opposed the demand that Kibaki resigns.
There was a moment of anxiety when the Government negotiators retreated to their office for consultation within Serena Hotel, leaving the ODM side in the negotiation room.
They later re-emerged and clarified that they had not walked out of the talks.
"We were busy consulting. The matters are weighty and critical. We are talking to our counterparts and very good progress is being made," said Mbooni MP Mr Mutula Kilonzo, one of the negotiators on the Government side.
In Washington DC, Congressional Sub-Committee chairman Payne said that though the US felt that what was happening in Kenya could be dealt with internally, it appeared there was no goodwill on both sides.
Present to give updates on the situation were the chairman of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, Mr Maina Kiai, and former nominated MP Ms Njoki Ndung'u.
And in New York, the Permanent Representative of Panama, Mr Ricardo Alberto Arias, who holds the rotating Council Presidency of the United Nations Security Council for February, welcomed the announcement of progress in negotiations but expressed deep concern that "civilians continued to be killed, abused and displaced.
In Nairobi, EU's Michel separately met President Kibaki, Raila, House Speaker Mr Kenneth Marende and the business community.
Michel impressed upon President Kibaki on the need to move expeditiously to resolve the impasse and end the suffering of Kenyans in parts of the country.
Michel urged both sides of the political divide to be flexible, saying the EU expected that a consensus would be reached on all issues, including addressing the underlying causes of the post-election violence.
Michel said the international community fully backed Annan's recommendations for short term, mid term and long-term solutions.
Michel ruled out the imposition of economic sanctions at this stage.
"It is too early to impose sanctions and this would affect poor people," he said.
He was accompanied by, among others, Ambassadors Mr Walter Lindner, (Germany) Ms Elisabeth Barbier (France) and United Kingdom High Commissioner, Mr Adam Wood.
Copyright © 2008 The East African Standard. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).
UN calls for Kenya 'compromise'
The UN Security Council has called on Kenya's political leaders to solve the crisis there through "dialogue, negotiation and compromise".
In its first official response to the unrest sparked by December's disputed election, the council expressed concern at the "dire humanitarian situation".
Nearly 1,000 Kenyans have been killed in the violence and 300,000 displaced.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga has accused President Mwai Kibaki of rigging the presidential election.
Foreign ministers from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and Somalia have arrived in Nairobi for a meeting of the East African regional group, Igad, on Thursday to discuss the crisis.
The Security Council statement gave strong backing to efforts by the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, to find a solution.
Recalling the need to avoid impunity, the council calls for those responsible for violence to be brought to justice UN Security Council
"The council emphasises that the only solution to the crisis lies through dialogue, negotiation and compromise and strongly urges Kenya's political leaders to foster reconciliation," it said.
The council called on Mr Odinga and Mr Kibaki to meet "their responsibility to engage fully in finding a sustainable political solution and taking action to immediately end violence".
Gangs must be disarmed, human rights restored and the humanitarian situation improved, it said.
"Recalling the need to avoid impunity, the council calls for those responsible for violence to be brought to justice," the statement added.
A UN fact-finding mission arrived in Kenya on Wednesday to collate information on suspected human rights abuses.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, said: "Truth and accountability are of critical importance in putting an end to the violence and preventing future human rights violations."
The meeting of the Igad group has sparked anger among Kenya's opposition, which has warned it will hold mass rallies if it goes ahead.
Mr Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) said it was not consulted about the gathering, which could undermine talks being chaired by Mr Annan.
ODM Secretary General Anyang Nyong'o said: "If the meeting goes ahead as planned we shall mobilise our supporters for a peaceful demonstration against President Kibaki's government."
But Mr Annan sought to ally the ODM's fears, saying Igad had nothing to do with his negotiations.
"All parties must avoid provocative statements touching on the matters in discussion," he said.
A framework for the negotiations was agreed last Friday, including what caused the political crisis and issues relating to land distribution and historical injustices.
Meanwhile, heads of the country's tourism industry have gathered in Nairobi to devise a strategy to minimise the damage to their businesses.
Revenue has been cut by an estimated $80m (£40m).
Published: 2008/02/07 04:27:05 GMT© BBC MMVIII
Rift over results widens as UN warns leaders
Story by NATION Reporter and Reuters
Publication Date: 2/8/2008
The UN Security Council Thursday told Kenyan leaders to immediately end the post-election violence as mediation talks in Nairobi turned stormy.
The council asked the leaders to end what it called “ethnically motivated attacks”, which have left over 1,000 people dead.
As the UN made the plea in New York, ODM and PNU parties to the talks refused to cede ground over how to resolve the disputed Presidential elections. In a second non-binding statement issued since the violence began over a month ago, the 15-nation council ordered Kenya to “immediately end violence, including ethnically motivated attacks, dismantle armed gangs, improve the humanitarian situation and restore human rights.”
At the talks mediated by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, the Government and ODM stuck to their positions over the disputed polls.
This prompted Mr Annan, whose mediation team includes former South African First Lady Graca Machel and former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, to ask both sides to compromise for a fast resolution.
The Security Council is one of the key UN decision-making bodies, grouping five permanent members — USA, France, Russia, China and United Kingdom — and 10 rotational posts distributed to every continent.
In its first official response to the unrest sparked by December’s disputed election, the council expressed concern at the “dire humanitarian situation”.
The council spoke even as the international community warned of stern measures against those who derail the Annan talks. European Union commissioner for development Louis Michel said the action would target both ODM and PNU leaders.
Addressing journalists after talks with President Kibaki, Mr Odinga and the Annan mediation team, Mr Michel said: “Those who will push Annan to fail will pay for the consequence.”
“There’s no room for parties who would not give Annan a chance to succeed,” Mr Michel said and expressed optimism that the mediation will succeed.
Nearly 350,000 Kenyans have been displaced in the five-week orgy of violence.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga has accused President Kibaki of rigging the presidential election. But Thursday he said ODM was no longer demanding to be given their alleged presidential victory.
“We won the elections, President Kibaki lost and therefore we wanted to be sworn in. That is not what we are saying now and have moved from that position to accept open-ended talks,” Mr Odinga added.
The UN statement gave strong backing to efforts by the Annan team to find a solution. “The council emphasises that the only solution to the crisis lies through dialogue, negotiation and compromise and strongly urges Kenya’s political leaders to foster reconciliation,” it said.
It asked President Kibaki and Mr Odinga to meet “their responsibility to engage fully in finding a sustainable political solution and taking action to immediately end violence”.
Gangs must be disarmed, human rights restored and the humanitarian situation improved, it said.
“Recalling the need to avoid impunity, the council calls for those responsible for violence to be brought to justice,” the statement added.
A UN fact-finding mission arrived in Kenya on Wednesday to collate information on suspected human rights abuses.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louis Arbour, said: “Truth and accountability are of critical importance in putting an end to the violence and preventing future human rights violations.”
The council statement, much more strongly worded than last week’s, also expressed “strong concern at the continuing dire humanitarian situation in Kenya and (called) for the protection of refugees and internally displaced persons.”
An earlier version of the statement drafted by France and Britain said the council “regrets the abuses in the presidential election noted by international and domestic observers.” But this was removed due to Russian objections, diplomats said.
The statement did not say what steps the council might take if the violence continues.
The Government and ODM were told to relax their tough positions for speedy conclusion and success of ongoing talks to end political turmoil in the country.
Mr Annan, who is heading the talks, read the notice after the talks seemed to be headed nowhere with the two warring sides sticking to their positions.
Sources at Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation, which is going on at Nairobi’s Serena Hotel, said the Government and ODM representatives had spent the better part of Thursday defending and justifying their positions.
The talks turned stormy with the Government and ODM sides declining to cede any grounds.
The heated exchanges reflecting deep divisions between the two sides threw into disarray the possibility of the committee meeting its target on time.
There were different versions as to the reason why the ODM delegation of Musalia Mudavadi, William Ruto, James Orengo and Sally Kosgei left the meeting at 4.45pm while the Government side remained behind for almost 30 minutes.
When they came out of the meeting room, the Government side made up of Cabinet ministers Martha Karua, Sam Ongeri, Moses Wetang’ula and Mbooni MP Mutula Kilonzo said that they were meeting in their office at the Serena after the adjournment of the afternoon session.
Said Mr Kilonzo: “We all have our offices here. The Government has its own and ODM have their own and we have been holding our own small meeting there. Do no listen to propaganda that this or that group has walked out. I have yet to meet a team from ODM that would make Mutula Kilonzo want to walk out.”
Ms Karua the talks were progressing well and assured the public that a solution to the political crisis was on the way.
But sources within ODM said they walked out after the Government side refused to cede any ground in their terms for a political solution. They said there was no need to go on with the afternoon session when it was clear their rivals were using legal reasons to block any possibility of reaching an agreement.
A statement that was issued later in the evening by chairman of the mediation team Mr Kofi Annan pointed to the differences that emerged in the meeting and the slow pace at which the talks were moving. It said: “The topic is a crucial one, and proved divisive at times, but the talks proceeded in a good spirit, moving more slowly than in previous sessions but moving steadily ahead.”
The former UN secretary-general’s statement was referring to the third item on his agenda of a political solution to the crisis, namely, how to overcome the disputed Presidential elections.
The two sides had started debating the issues that they raised in their presentations to the mediation team. The Government proposed a raft of Constitutional, legal and institutional reforms that would result in the establishment of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission as an end to the crisis.
On their part, ODM put on the table a re-run of the Presidential elections and formation of a transitional government made up of members of the two sides to prepare for fresh elections in six months.
During that period, they proposed, Constitutional, legal and electoral law reforms should be carried out to pave way for fair and free polls.
Thursday’s session became stormy when ODM negotiators declared that President Kibaki was in office illegally because he lost the elections to their candidate, Mr Odinga. The only way out, they argued, was for Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga to be exposed to a new round of elections to give legitimacy to the seat of power.
However, the Government side argued that President Kibaki’s tenure in the office could only be proved illegitimate through re-tallying or recounting of the Presidential votes that were cast in the December 27 elections. This, they said, would enable the public to know the truth and bring to an end the claim that Mr Odinga won the elections.
The proposal was bitterly opposed by the ODM side, which who argued that the results had been greatly tampered with, original Form 16As had been shredded and replaced with a new set and that the current members of the Electoral Commission could not be trusted to be fair.
They declared that they were not ready to go to the courts to find a solution to the political crisis, and rooted for a political settlement.
The only two options, they said, were a re-run of the Presidential elections, which would yield a clear winner and convince protesting Kenyans to stop violence. The quickest way to end violence was to address the irregularities that occurred during vote-counting.
The second option was a transitional government of PNU and ODM members according to their strength in Parliament, with the two parties equally sharing executive authority.
But the PNU side opposed both options stating they were not provided for in the Constitution that had to be adhered to even in political crisis.
They claimed ODM refused to file a petition as required by the Constitution and that the transitional government they were proposing was not in the Constitution.
It was at this moment, sources said, that Mr Annan stepped in and urged the negotiators to consider the interest of the country.
He was understood to have said that the international community and the public were looking up to the committee to find a solution to the political crisis and end human suffering.
He was reported to have said that the two sides have to cede some of their demands in order to reach an agreement.
Left for a meeting
The ODM negotiators then left for a meeting with their leader, Mr Odinga, at Pentagon House while the Government side continued meeting room at their Serena Hotel office.
The talks resume Thursday.
Mr Annan, who is chairing the talks started work on January 29 and gave 15 days for addressing short-term issues that could return to peace and stability to the country.
On Thursday, the Government side complained about the travel bans and warned the Kibaki administration will not be intimidated.
Mr Wetang’ula, the Foreign Affairs minister, vowed to defend all people who would be affected by the travel bans stating that the ambassadors were acting out of order.
“As a government, we have a duty to defend the right of every citizen and any of my colleagues who has received a letter,” he said.
Ms Karua urged UK and Canada to act within the Paris principles on diplomatic relations. “We are telling those countries that whereas you reserve the right to deny us visas, you cannot lord it over us,” she said.
Mr Kilonzo said that the travel bans were intimidating members of the committee. He claimed ODM was working with some foreign countries to frustrate government activities through the ban.
On Wednesday, the US said 10 MPs and businessmen faced imminent travel ban to the country for being behind the violence that has left more than 1000 people dead and 300,000 displaced. The ban issue is said to have taken centre stage at the talks.
Meanwhile, President Kibaki has directed the International Conference on Great Lakes region to form a committee of ministers to assist in ending Kenya’s political crisis.
The President, who chairs the 11-member country body made the directive when he met its executive secretary Liberata Mulamula.
Ms Mulamula, who was accompanied by Mr Wetang’ula, said at the Serena that the ministers are to meet ODM and PNU leaders and be part of the Annan-led talks. She said she also had met ODM leaders who rejected parallel mediation talks.
Reported by Lucas Barasa, Bernard Namunane, BBC online and Reuters
Raila: ODM flexible at talks
Story by NATION Team Publication Date: 2/8/2008
ODM leader Raila Odinga said Thursday that his party was willing to climb down on its demand that President Kibaki resigns.
Mr Odinga said after meeting EU commissioner for development and humanitarian aid Louis Michel, that his party would give as much as it took in the quest for a lasting solution.
“Initially, our stand was that we won the election and that President Kibaki should resign and we be sworn in. We’re not static and have accepted to seek a solution to our problem,” he added.
Mr Odinga also said it was important to deal “with issues that had been swept under the carpet for too long”, in reference to the historical land problems that might have played a role in the violence.
The EU was optimistic that the mediation brokered by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan would bring peace and stability. Mr Michel said: “Both parties have resolved to work together to find a peaceful resolution. There are signs of flexibility, which is good for the talks.
“There is a price to pay for any agreement, and both parties must ensure they come up with a solution for the sake of Kenyans,” said Mr Michel.
And he said there was need to overhaul the Electoral Commission of Kenya to reflect the principles of democracy.
The ECK has come under heavy criticism for mishandling the General Election, with some Kenyans calling for its disbandment. However, its chairman Samuel Kivuitu has insisted that he will not resign.
On Thursday, Mr Michel told journalists that the Constitution had also to be reviewed to be in line with the changing needs and aspirations of Kenyans.
“The Constitution needs to be changed to correct some of the causes of the problems, and to help solve the existing misunderstanding,” he added.
The post-election violence has killed nearly 1,000 people and left more than 350,000 homeless after Mr Kivuitu declared President Kibaki the victor.
And Thursday, foreign ministers from Igad countries and Kenya’s lobby groups backed the ongoing mediation talks.
The ministers, whose visit had been subject of a threatened mass protest by ODM clarified that they were in the country for “a consultative meeting” and not to interfere with the mediation talks.
Foreign minister Moses Wetang’ula, who is hosting his colleagues from Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti, said Igad policy recognised states and not who the Head of State is.
Asked whether the Igad team had raised the issue of the disputed presidential elections at the meeting, Mr Wetang’ula said: “Igad’s position is to recognise countries and not presidents.” President Kibaki, whose re-election during the December 27 General Election has been disputed by the ODM leader, is the chairman of Igad.
Meanwhile, a meeting by East Africa Community Heads of State that was to take place Friday in Nairobi has been postponed. A one sentence statement from the EAC secretariat in Arusha announcing the postponement did not give any reasons.
Reports by Jeff Otieno, Odhiambo Orlale and Julius Bosire
Kibaki Accepts Inquiry Into Poll Fraud
The Monitor (Kampala)
NEWS8 February 2008 Posted to the web 7 February 2008
By Tabu Butagira, Mercy Nalugo & Agnes NandutuKampala
THE Kenyan government has invited international bodies to independently investigate the ongoing bloodletting in the country and ensure the perpetrators are prosecuted for "crimes against humanity".
In a pre-recorded interview that was due to be aired on 93.3 KFM Hot Seat programme last evening, Dr Alfred Mutua, the Spokesman of the Kenyan government, accused leaders of the Opposition Orange Democratic Movement of "planning, financing and executing systematic post-election ethnic cleansing", mainly in the Rift Valley area.
Mr Mutua cited the January 24 Human Rights Watch report which indicated that ODM officials planned several community attacks against other tribes, especially local Kikuyu populations, in and around Eldoret town.
"We would like an international inquiry so that any atrocities committed are accounted for...the blood of the innocent citizens that has been spilled cannot be in vain and the perpetrators need to be taken to the International Criminal Court," he said.
Mr Mutua repeatedly accused the Raila Odinga-led ODM party officials of fomenting trouble in the country that has been considered in its post-independence era as relatively more peaceful and prosperous than its fragile neighbours like Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi and the DR Congo.
"Democracy is about disagreeing to agree but not using violence. This (post-election tribal aggression) was clearly premeditated by groups of ODM officials to unleash ethnic violence and get to power through the backdoor," Mr Mutua charged.
He added: "Nothing justifies violence of burning shops, raping women and killing people or blocking (trans-boundary) highways".
He said the Kenyan government had obtained incriminating evidence against top ODM officials he did not name, many of who allegedly mobilised and sent out killer youth squads with colour paints to delineate homesteads owned by Kikuyu and Kisii ethnic groups before returning to butcher them at night.
As Mr Mutua struggled to demonise ODM leaders and spruce up the sullied image of President Mwai Kibaki's government, Ugandan Opposition lawmakers yesterday demanded an express withdrawal of President Yoweri Museveni's hasty congratulatory message to President Kibaki.
But Mr Adolf Mwesige, the minister of general duties in the Prime Minister's Office, said on behalf of his Foreign Affairs counterpart Sam Kuteesa that Uganda would "stand by the people of Kenya in their hour of need".
As chair of the East African Community, Mr Museveni was scheduled to fly to Nairobi this morning for the extra-ordinary summit of EAC member states that is widely expected to discuss the bloody meltdown in Kenya besides other regional concerns.
Alongside the ongoing mediation efforts of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, the meeting of the regional leaders is expected to generate concrete proposals on how to end the mayhem in Kenya that is already hurting economies of inland neighbours.
In a statement to Parliament yesterday, minister Mwesige reiterated government's denial that no Ugandan troops had been deployed to prop up Mr Kibaki's messy victory as alleged by ODM leaders early last month.
"All such speculations are absolute falsehoods (and) let the press and political leaders desist from making inflammatory and reckless statements likely to worsen the situation in Kenya, negatively affect our (bilateral) relations and put our nationals (in Kenya) in harm's way," Mr Mwesige said.
There have been media reports in the past fortnight that wayward Kenyan demonstrators from the Indian Ocean coast to Malaba on the country's western flank were targeting Ugandans and their vehicles for destruction in the violence that has so far claimed more than 1,000 lives and displaced another 304, 000 Kenyans.
Minister Mwesige, however, said Uganda enjoys "excellent bilateral and regional relations" with the government and peoples of Kenya and will do all it can to ensure peace in the region.
Copyright © 2008 The Monitor. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).
UN Reports Improved Security, Steps Up Aid to Displaced
UN News Service (New York)
NEWS7 February 2008 Posted to the web 7 February 2008
The United Nations said today that security has improved slightly in Kenya, where the unrest sparked by December's disputed elections has uprooted over 300,000 people from their homes and agencies are increasing efforts to aid those affected.
At the same time, the UN Country Team reported sporadic violence in Kericho, Eldoret, Kisumu and the capital, Nairobi, and called the humanitarian situation "precarious."
According to the Kenya Red Cross Society, there are now some 325,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that UN teams will step up the delivery of aid to more than 39,000 IDPs spread out in 15 camps in the North Rift Valley. Medicine, food and water are the most pressing needs for the IDPs.
On Tuesday, the World Food Programme (WFP) handed out some 80 tons of food at 11 IDP camps. Around 2,000 displaced children under the age of 5 also received supplementary food items to prevent malnutrition. The agency also noted that enrolment in UN-assisted schools in Nairobi slums is some 28 per cent lower than before the outbreak of violence.
Meanwhile, the Government of Uganda now estimates there are 12,000 Kenyan refugees on its soil, based on a joint tally with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
On the political front, the mediation team led by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recently reported progress in negotiations between the Government and the opposition.
While welcoming that development, the Security Council yesterday expressed its strong concern at the continuing dire humanitarian situation in the country. In a presidential statement, the 15-member body also requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report on how the UN can further support the mediation efforts in Kenya, as well as on the impact of the crisis on the wider sub-region and UN operations in that area.
Mr. Ban has dispatched UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes to Kenya, and he is scheduled to arrive in Nairobi tomorrow for a three-day mission to assess the humanitarian situation in the country.
U.S. may bar Kenyans who aided post-election bloodshed
Targeted are politicians, businessmen who played role in weeks of violence
At least 1,000 killed since December 27 election protests started
Some of 10 people who may be barred are suspected of financing violence
Envoy: "People are paying 4,000 shillings [$60 U.S.] to burn down a house."
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- Washington is threatening to bar Kenyan politicians and businessmen alleged to have played a role in weeks of post-election bloodshed from visiting the United States, a move that has "hit a nerve," the U.S. ambassador said Thursday.
Among the 10 people from either side of Kenya's political divide being targeted are those suspected of financing the violence.
"There is money changing hands," Ambassador Michael Ranneberger said in an interview with foreign journalists.
"People are paying 4,000 shillings [$60 U.S.] to burn down a house."
Long considered one of Africa's success stories, Kenya has been devastated by strife since a December 27 election that most observers say was rigged. The winner, President Mwai Kibaki, is accused of stealing the election.
Ranneberger said the American move was made mainly to end the strife, but could help "achieve a political solution."
After elections, protests quickly degenerated into clashes that killed more than 1,000 people.
Much of the violence has pitted other ethnic groups against Kibaki's Kikuyu people, long resented for their dominance of business and politics. E-mail to a friend
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
All set for civic leadership battle
Story by NATION Reporter
Publication Date: 2/8/2008
The next electoral battle between ODM and PNU moves to the councils as local authorities prepare to elect mayors and chairmen on February 25.
Local Government minister Uhuru Kenyatta named the date Thursday, setting the stage for a bruising contest for control of the country’s next tier of the administrative structure.
Campaigning that will culminate in wearing of mayoral chains is expected to intensify in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu and Eldoret, where councillors who captured seats on Mr Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement and President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity party tickets are positioning themselves to vote in one of their own.
ODM won the highest number of seats for any single political party with 998 out of the 2,402 councillors elected in the 175 civic authorities.
PNU won 322 and the rest were shared by other parties, most of them PNU affiliates. But 15 wards remain vacant after elections were cancelled due to either deaths or missing names of candidates.
Political parties will nominate 759 councillors, proportional to their strength in individual councils, bringing the total number to 3,161.
ODM is fronting the nomination of Adopt-A-Light proprietor, Ms Esther Passaris, and pushing for her election as the mayor. But elected councillors are opposed to the plan and want one of their own to become mayor. In Mombasa, ODM has 30 of the 32 councillors, PNU has none with the two other seats taken by Kadu Asili councillors.
In Kisumu, Mr Odinga’s younger brother Omondi Odinga is competing with insurance broker Robert Oruko Otuge.
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Kenya Govt 'arming militias to spread violence'
By Africa correspondent Andrew Geoghegan
Posted 2 hours 49 minutes ago Updated 2 hours 50 minutes ago
The Opposition in Kenya has accused the Government of arming militias to spread violence in the country.
The claim comes amid crisis talks aimed at ending weeks of bloodshed. Ethnic-related violence continues to claim lives in Kenya.
This week, up to 50 people have been killed in the north-west of the country as armed gangs roam the streets.
The Opposition Orange Democratic Movement claims the Government has been raiding official armouries to equip militias, who are killing innocent Kenyans.
The Government says the accusation is preposterous and in turn accuses the opposition of undermining crisis talks.
Those talks, led by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan, have resumed in Nairobi, but negotiators from both the Government and the Opposition are struggling to find common ground.
Kenyan crisis talks 'divisive': mediators
1 day ago
NAIROBI (AFP) — Kenya's political rivals spoke of slow progress on Thursday in negotiations on ending weeks of bloodshed, saying talks had been divisive at times but were moving steadily ahead.
Negotiators for President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga held another full day of talks led by former UN chief Kofi Annan as violence claimed 15 more lives in western Kenya.
Over the past three days, they have been tackling the core issue of overcoming the political crisis, a topic which "proved divisive at times", said a joint statement from the mediation team.
"But the talks proceeded in good spirit, moving more slowly than in previous sessions, but moving steadily ahead."
"In a relatively short period, the dialogue and reconciliation team has made considerable progress," it said.
Annan has set a deadline of seven to 15 days to resolve the crisis sparked by the December 27 vote, which the opposition claims was rigged. International observers have also cited serious flaws during vote-counting.
Opposition leader Odinga pledged to "cooperate fully" with Annan's mediation that began on January 29, nearly a month after the country descended into violence over the election results.
"This is an opportunity to deal with issues that have been under the carpet for too long," he told journalists.
Negotiations have zeroed in on political issues --the most difficult part of the agenda -- after tackling security and the humanitarian crisis.
Kenyan press reports said the sides were considering a possible deal that would entail setting up a bipartisan interim government, with a mandate to enact electoral reforms and pave the way for new polls.
The Red Cross has put the death toll from the post-election violence at over 1,000 and says 300,000 people have fled their homes.
Fifteen people were killed in tribal clashes in the northwestern region of Trans Nzoia on Wednesday and overnight, a police commander told AFP.
They were hacked to death and police said more forces were being deployed to the area, which was already prone to ethnic tensions and deadly cattle rustling before the electoral dispute broke out.
Another 34 people have died in violence in the area since the start of the week, including at least nine who were shot by police cracking down on gangs who have torched houses and other property, police sources said.
After meetings with the rival leaders and Annan, EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel said "there are strong signals of flexibility and open-minded attitude" and declared he was "a little bit more optimistic" about Kenya's future.
"All sides have to make efforts, there is a price for agreement," said Michel.
He warned against any attempt to derail the talks but ruled out sanctions by the European bloc.
"Those who think it's possible to escape sanctions or isolation, they have to forget that and I'm speaking to all the parties," Michel told reporters.
Kibaki's tribe, the Kikuyu, suffered heavily in the first wave of post-election violence at the hands of Odinga's Luo tribe and other ethnic groups, but there have since been numerous revenge attacks.
Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) accused the government of arming militias, saying it had ordered firearms from a Chinese company for gangs "who are then unleashed to kill innocent Kenyans protesting the flawed presidential elections".
The government dismissed the accusations as "preposterous", with spokesman Alfred Mutua saying "these accusations are not helping the talks, they are undermining dialogue."
The UN Security Council late Wednesday expressed strong backing for Annan's mediation and urged the leaders to find a settlement, in its first formal statement on the crisis since the elections.
The turmoil has delivered a crippling blow to Kenya's tourism industry, the top foreign currency earner, while tea production and agriculture have also been hard hit.
Safari resorts across Kenya and popular beach hotels in Mombasa have lost more than half of their business and the economy, which had been steaming ahead with seven percent growth, is seen as headed for a slowdown.