Tuesday, February 12, 2008

More Headlines – Late Tues 2/12/2008

1 - Kenya crisis talks move to secret retreat
2 - Breakthrough in talks as both sides climb down
3 - Annan pleads for grand coalition government
4 - Parliament pledges to spearhead search for peace
5 - Freeze aid to army, says Kiai
6 - Kenyan Political Negotiations Move to Secret Location
7 - Security team alarmed by mob lynchings
8 - KENYA: Crisis highlights cluster complications

1 - Kenya crisis talks move to secret retreat

Posted at 11:24am on 13 Feb 2008

Negotiators from Kenya's feuding factions have moved to a secret retreat for crunch talks on a deal aimed at pulling the country out of a post-election crisis.

More than 1000 people have died since President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of a disputed election on 27 December. Opposition leader Raila Odinga said the election was rigged.

Chief mediator Kofi Annan has taken negotiators for President Mwai Kibaki and the opposition to an undisclosed location outside Nairobi.

He earlier addressed members of Kenya's divided parliament to secure support for an political deal that could pave the way to a "grand coalition government" between Mr Kibaki's party and the opposition led by Raila Odinga.

An announcement on a breakthrough is expected by Friday.

Copyright © 2008 Radio New Zealand

2 - Breakthrough in talks as both sides climb down


Former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan appears to be on the brink of clinching a peace deal for Kenya.

Getting President Mwai Kibaki to climb down from the position that the election dispute could only be resolved in a court of law was no easy task.

Neither was it going to be easy to persuade Raila Odinga to climb down from the position that the election was stolen and that the only option was for Kibaki to either step down or agree to a re-run of the presidential election.

It is noteworthy that even as a breakthrough was being announced, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka was in the United States lobbying Congress to press Raila to seek redress in court.

Indeed, throughout last week, temperatures remained high at the Serena Hotel where the negotiations are taking place, with Kibaki’s team making it clear that a power-sharing deal was out of the question.

The standard refrain of hawkish elements on their side of the divide, including Finance Minister Amos Kimunya, was that they were not prepared to share power with “losers.”

In the midst of it all, one other factor was causing positions to harden even further on Kibaki’s side: As international pressure mounted on him, with one diplomat after the other issuing threats to members of his administration, his key
players began taking exception to what they saw as bullying by foreigners.

Clearly, getting the parties to agree to discuss power-sharing was not going to be easy for Annan’s team.

Still, agreeing to discuss how to share power was the easy part. As long as the stakes for the hardliners on both side of the divide remain high, an agreement on a power-sharing deal may take much longer to achieve.

One on side, there is a group that fears that the mediation process may expose their culpability in the sins that may have been committed at the Electoral Commission of Kenya during the tallying of the presidential votes.

On the other are hardliners who fear revenge for the killings — especially in the Rift Valley. In the middle of the post-election violence, criminal elements have taken advantage, burnt people’s houses and displaced hundreds of thousands of members of President Mwai Kibaki’s community.

Their fear is that if Kibaki is allowed to entrench himself in power, they may face retribution.

Which is why one of the most important achievements by the Annan team was to get the negotiating parties to agree to a truth and reconciliation commission.

Implemented well, truth and reconciliation commissions have proved to be the best medicine for dealing with the fear of retribution for historical injustices.

What options will be on the table as the teams reassemble for negotiations?

First is an interim coalition government that will last for a few years to give space for national healing, agreed constitutional reforms and reconstitution of the Electoral Commission.

Second, a grand coalition of all the major parties in parliament.

Third, where Odinga and Kibaki share executive powers — a compromise between what was stipulated in the Bomas Draft constitution and the Kilifi Draft during the constitutional reform debate of 2005.

Success will, however, depend on whether the principals manage to dissuade their agents from engaging in strident rhetoric.

The decision by the government to lift the ban on public rallies, which was announced a day before the “breakthrough” was a good starting point — as it signalled that the government was keen to implement decisions agreed on and signed off on by both parties at the Annan mediation process.

If parliament is recalled, and as long as the mood of hope is maintained, the country may be on the path of reconciliation.

Africa’s most decorated diplomat, Annan has handled more serious conflicts, where the stakes were even higher than in Kenya.

Before becoming secretary-general of the UN, in 1990, it was Annan who facilitated the repatriation of international staff and citizens of Western countries from Iraq after it invaded Kuwait. Subsequently, he led initial negotiations with Baghdad on the sale of oil to fund humanitarian relief.

As secretary-general, Annan used his good offices in several delicate political situations, including an attempt in 1998 to gain Iraq’s compliance with Security Council resolutions, as well as a mission that year to promote the transition to civilian rule in Nigeria.

In 1999, he helped to resolve the stalemate between Libya and the Security Council, and to forge an international response to violence in East Timor.

He has worked to encourage Israelis and Palestinians to resolve their differences through negotiations based on Security Council resolutions and the principle of “land for peace.”

It is Annan’s stature as former secretary general of the United Nations that has made it possible for the man to mobilise international opinion and resolve to return Kenya to normalcy.

Signs that the Kenyan dispute was likely to assume international dimension because of the country’s strategic importance in Africa came early in the dispute when the European Union made it clear that it was not satisfied with the way the poll tallying was done.

The EU was the first to threaten to impose sanctions on Kenya in case nothing was done to rectify the situation. Now Britain, the US and Canada are talking the same language, threatening to ban any individual who might have participated in rigging or violence from travelling to their countries.

Last week, the US issued banning letters to 10 politicians and business personalities whom it considers to have participated in either promoting violence or subverting the democratic process. The focus now is on individuals taking part in the mediation who may be deemed to have derailed the talks.

It is now apparent that the international community is reading from the same script and fears that the Kenyan crisis could overshadow or divert attention from complex cases like Darfur and Chad.

And, with the Kenyan crisis now being discussed at the UN Security Council, the matter has quickly taken on a global dimension.

In a statement, the Council said the only solution to the crisis was dialogue, negotiation and compromise, and strongly urged Kenya’s political leaders to foster reconciliation.

It reaffirmed its support for the African Union and the Panel of Eminent African Personalities led by Mr Annan in their efforts to stem the violence and requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report on how the United Nations could further support the mediation efforts in Kenya and mitigate the impact of the crisis on the wider region.

Meanwhile, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes arrived in Kenya on Friday. A fact-finding mission deployed by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour arrived in in the country last week.

The team will conduct research for an initial period of three weeks, as it works to assess allegations of recent grave human-rights violations in the country.


3 - Annan pleads for grand coalition government

Publication Date: 2/13/2008

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan Tuesday hinted at a grand coalition government to end Kenya’s post election crisis, but the move was immediately challenged by the Government.

Mr Annan said the tradition all over the world was to join the two sides in the conflict in one government to enact reforms that will pave the way for free and fair polls.

“A coalition government is an open option when a country is in a crisis and right now we are faced with a serious political crisis. The two sides come together and commit to sort out issues such as constitutional reforms and then organise an election,” he told MPs during an informal sitting at Old Parliament Chambers.

But the statement was immediately challenged by the Government, with Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua, who is the team leader, saying a coalition government had neither been discussed nor agreed on at the talks.

Inaccurate statement
“My team is alarmed at some serious inaccurate statement made by Your Excellency at the briefing of parliamentarians today. Namely you stated that ‘the dialogue team had agreed to have a transitional government for two years after which we shall hold Presidential elections’ which position has not been discussed or agreed upon,” Ms Karua told Mr Annan.

The Government summoned its MPs to a Parliamentary Group Meeting, chaired by Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka to discuss Mr Annan’s remarks.

Mr Musyoka later said the Government side had only proposed establishment of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, committee to investigate the truth behind the 2007 General Election, among others as a way to unlock the crisis.

More than 1,000 people have died as a result of the disputed Presidential election and more than 350,000 displaced in six weeks of violence.

Meanwhile, President George W. Bush and UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon will discuss Kenya’s post-election crisis in Washington on Friday.

In Nairobi, Mr Annan asked leaders to cast aside their partisan interests to reach an acceptable decision.

Tradition the world over, he told MPs at special Kamukunji called to brief them on the status of the mediation process, was to join the two sides in the conflict in one government to enact reforms that will pave the way for free and fair polls.

He went on: “The country is deeply divided because of the contested election results and our duty is to bring the parties together to work closely to heal the underlying problems.’’

However, Government MPs said that they had been informed by their representatives at the talks that they were yet to agree on a coalition of PNU and ODM as the political cure to the crisis.

Government team
A member of the Government team at the talks, Mbooni MP Mutula Kilonzo, told reporters that some of the issues which Mr Annan had referred to had not been agreed by the mediation team.

“Some of the things the chairman has announced have not been agreed upon but we are on top of things and we will continue negotiating. But we cannot negotiate under pressure because all negotiations are based on principles. The dialogue process is not about creating jobs for people and I am genuinely interested in peace,” he said.

Government MPs immediately went into a parliamentary group meeting at County Hall to discuss the matter while the mediation team retreated to a secret location to finalise the deal. They rejected the proposals of a coalition government and elections after two years.

Guiding the mediation
Mr Annan, former South Africa First Lady Graca Machel and former Tanzania President Benjamin Mkapa are guiding the mediation talks to which Government and ODM appointed four representatives each.

The Government is represented by Cabinet ministers Martha Karua, Sam Ongeri, Moses Wetang’ula and Mr Kilonzo while the ODM delegation is made up of MPs Musalia Mudavadi, William Ruto, Sally Kosgei and James Orengo.

During the meeting Tuesday, Mr Annan took the MPs through the steps they have covered in the mediation process among them meeting President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga, visits to affected areas in Molo and Cherangany and the status of the talks.

He said they had explored the options of Presidential vote re-tallying, re-counting, a re-run of the elections and immediate polls and come to a conclusion that the only viable solution to the crisis was a political settlement.

“All the options could only give us a quick fix to the problem but could not address the truth that we were looking for and we therefore agreed on a political solution which could involve bringing the parties together,” he said.

Mr Annan made it clear that the solution to the political crisis would not hold until the underlying problems had been resolved. He said that an independent review committee to investigate the flaws in the Presidential elections had been agreed upon and would be established. “We cannot afford to sweep matters under the carpet and that is why we have agreed to establish an independent review committee whose findings would improve the electoral process,” he said.

That was why they had suggested a truth, justice and reconciliation committee, agreed on the safe resettlement of internally displaced people and a team from the UN Human Rights Commission to investigate those behind the violence and make public its report, Mr Annan said.

“The measures that the report recommends should be acted upon,” he said.

Mr Annan said a raft of Constitutional, legal and institutional reforms would be required to be enacted by Parliament after the deal had been struck and urged MPs to work together to ensure the new laws come into effect. “You will need to work together on these reforms as a Parliament. We appealed to President Kibaki and Mr Odinga on Friday to work together to heal the country and you share in that responsibility. You cannot afford to fail,” he said.

He said that the mediation team was expected to conclude a deal on the political solution by the end of the week and asked MPs to pacify their constituents.

“Some of the resolutions will need a legislative agenda and we will expect you to expedite your work and also engage your constituents so that they can stop the violence and accept the resolutions,” he said.

Earlier, Mrs Machel said the crisis facing Kenya was political and not ethnic as some people were trying to portray it.

“This is a political crisis that requires a political solution and we are here with the mandate of the African Union to show concern, care, feel the pain, and insist on a peaceful resolution,” she said.

Speaking as a mother, she said that she felt for the children who were no longer going to school and were now desolate in camps, the mothers who could not take care of their children and urged MPs to ensure that the violence ends.

Common ground
“Parliament has the role to redefine a common place; a common ground where every Kenyan has room regardless of tribe or party affiliation,” she said.

As the mediation team announced a news blackout for the next 48 to 72 hours, it was clear the two sides were deeply divided on the political solution. While ODM were pushing for a joint government with an executive prime minister, the Government was adamant that their rivals should retain the opposition slot until the next elections.


4 - Parliament pledges to spearhead search for peace

Publication Date: 2/13/2008

Parliament will push the enactment of any constitutional or statutory changes aimed at bringing about lasting peace, reconciliation and national unity.

Speaker Kenneth Marende asked MPs to “roll up their sleeves” and spare no efforts to return Kenya to its former glory following post-elections violence that has left over 1,000 people dead and upwards 350,000 displaced.

But the Speaker, who was addressing an informal meeting of MPs at Old Parliament Buildings, cautioned them not to “seek easy and superficial solutions”, saying, they must be prepared to make the hard choices that would endure the test of time and ensure that neighbours never rise against each other in Kenya.

Ask difficult questions
Mr Marende reminded the MPs at the meeting, attended by Kofi Annan’s mediation team, that the experiences of last month should lead to some reflection on their part as the National Assembly.

The Speaker told more than 200 MPs at the meeting: “We must ask ourselves difficult questions. How well prepared are we to deal with situations of conflict? What role should the National Assembly play in this kind of situation? We need to commence immediately to build our own capacity in conflict management and resolution and disaster preparedness.”

He quoted the chairman of the United States House of Representatives committee on foreign affairs sub-committee on Africa and Global Health, Mr Donald M. Payne, saying: “What is happening in Kenya is not, and I repeat, is not an ethnic conflict. It is a political conflict with ethnic overtones.”

Mr Marende noted that if political leaders in Kenya do not make a serious effort to stop the violence now and address the systemic problems that exist in their political structures, the violence could reach a point of no return.

The Speaker said most MPs were elected because they told their constituents that they would do better than their predecessors and that they would make a difference.

The meeting was only open to the public at the introductory stage.

Mr Marende expressed his appreciation for the efforts of the eight PNU and ODM negotiators in seeking solutions to the post-election crisis that has engulfed the country since the presidential result was announced on December 30.

He reassured the Annan-led team that the National Assembly associated itself with its efforts and with other efforts — local and international — to ensure that Kenya reclaims her rightful place in the community of nations.

“The National Assembly is able, willing and ready to play its rightful role in finding sustainable and lasting peace for our country, anchored on truth, justice and reconciliation,” the Speaker said.

The National Assembly, under the auspices of the Amani Forum, he added, had also established a reconciliation and peace-building initiative.

The Speaker said that under that initiative, MPs across party lines had been visiting parts of the country that were hard-hit by violence and displacement and had been preaching forgiveness, peace and reconciliation. Mr Marende said he was glad to inform the meeting of MPs that all the areas visited had since witnessed a significant decline in violence.

Finance minister Amos Kimunya welcomed the informal talks, saying they had given MPs an opportunity to hear what Annan’s team had come up with in its roadmap to peace.

Promote co-existence
The minister said the MPs had all agreed to give peace a chance to support efforts to promote co-existence of people from different communities.
Kisumu Town West MP Olago Aluoch, said he was happy with Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka for reassuring the meeting that the Government would fully support the mediation talks.

Bomet MP Kipkalya Kones, said the issue of a grand coalition government was not discussed at the meeting. He said because it was “very sensitive” it was left for the next meeting.

Naivasha MP John Mututho said he was happy with the meeting because it discussed the plight of the thousands of people who were displaced in his constituency.


5 - Freeze aid to army, says Kiai

Publication Date: 2/13/2008
NATION Correspondent, NEW YORK

US military assistance to Kenya should be suspended, pending a resolution of the post-election crisis, two Kenyan human rights leaders write in Tuesday’s edition of The New York Times.

“Some of the security forces benefiting from this aid and equipment have been killing Kenyan civilians with impunity,” Maina Kiai and L Muthoni Wanyeki charge.

Terror attacks
US military aid to Kenya has risen 800 per cent since the 2001 terror attacks, totalling about $50 million (Sh 3.5 billion) for the years 2002 to 2006, according to a Washington-based monitoring group.

Mr Kiai and Ms Wanyeki also urge Washington to trace and freeze the personal assets of “the hard-liners and the leaders of the violence.”

Mr Kiai, chairman of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, and Ms Wanyeki, director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, add in their published commentary that the recent threat to bar hardliners from the US may have been “a decisive factor in prompting the parties to finally sit at the table.”

The two also indirectly criticise Jendayi Frazer, the State Department’s top Africa official, for suggesting that some of the violence amounted to “ethnic cleansing.”

The Kenyans further urge the US Congress to pressure the International Republican Institute (IRI) to release results of an exit poll conducted during the elections.

Fuelled mistrust
“Suspicions that the institute has suppressed its results not because they were flawed but because they showed that Mr Odinga won have fuelled mistrust,” Mr Kiai and Ms Wanyeki write.

The IRI, which sent a team to monitor the voting, said last week it will not publish the exit poll’s findings because of what it describes as major technical flaws in conducting and processing the survey.

Regional issues
Meanwhile, US President George W Bush and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will discuss Kenya’s post-election crisis in talks scheduled to take place in Washington on Friday.

The two leaders are expected to consider “important regional issues such as Darfur, Kenya, the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan,” UN spokeswoman Michele Montas said in New York on Monday.

Other issues affecting Kenya, which include human rights, counter-terrorism and the UN’s millennium development goals are also on the agenda for the White House meeting.


6 - Kenyan Political Negotiations Move to Secret Location

By VOA News 12 February 2008

Talks to end Kenya's political crisis have moved to a secret location outside Nairobi for what appears to be the final push toward an agreement.

The negotiators for Kenya's government and opposition changed venues Tuesday at the request of the mediator, former U.N. chief Kofi Annan. Mr. Annan asked for a news blackout around the talks.

In an earlier speech to the Kenyan parliament, Mr. Annan indicated the sides are discussing a "grand coalition" government that includes the party of President Mwai Kibaki and the opposition led by Raila Odinga.

He said the sides have also agreed to set up an independent panel to investigate December's disputed presidential vote, although he said neither side will pursue a recount.

Mr. Annan said once an agreement is reached, parliament will have to enact constitutional reforms to allow the deal to be implemented.

On Monday, the opposition Orange Democratic Movement proposed that it share power with Mr. Kibaki's party for two years, and that the country then hold new elections.

The opposition accuses the president of rigging the December 27 vote to ensure his re-election.

The dispute triggered riots and ethnic violence that has left more than 1,000 people dead. The U.N. estimates the violence has displaced 600,000 people.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

7 - Security team alarmed by mob lynchings

Publication Date: 2/13/2008

The Imenti North District security committee is alarmed by increased cases of lynching of theft suspects in the Meru municipality.

So far, seven suspects have been set ablaze in Makutano, Kooje, Mjini and Mwendantu areas, which are within a distance of one kilometre.

The residents round up the suspects, who they accuse of being part of a 10-man gang taking part in house break-ins and street muggings, and frog march them to set-up points for the lynching.

They accuse the police of laxity in apprehending them, thus prompting the residents to resort to extra-judicial killings.
“We keep on complaining but no action is taken, and if they are arrested, we see them in the streets before a week ends,” said one of the Makutano residents.

The most ruthless
Makutano is perhaps the most ruthless of them, having witnessed the setting on fire of four of the suspects.

The residents claim to have prepared a ‘list’ of 10 suspects who they insist, must go up in flames.

But local district commissioner Chege Mwangi is cautioning area residents against lynching robbery suspects, saying the trend was hampering investigations.

He says the truth may never be known if killings continue.

The administrator said if the suspects were arrested, they would probably reveal where they were selling the goods they had stolen.

“We need to know; who are these people who are stealing? Who are their accomplices and where they store and sell the stolen items? Unless the suspects are apprehended by law enforcers, we might not get to the root of the problem,” said Mr Mwangi.

He said only through police interrogation can the crime series be busted.

The call comes after seven suspected thieves were lynched in three weeks within the municipality while three are still on the run.

Two weeks ago, Mr Mwangi convened a security meeting where he emphasised the need for the killings to stop.

He admitted that the crime levels within the municipality had risen during the December holidays, but blamed the situation on overstretching of the security personnel, many of who had been deployed to cover the last General Election.

“This should not excuse anyone to take the law into his hands,” he said.

The DC has resorted to holding public meetings in various settlements, especially around the municipality, to streamline the community policing strategy.

An inspector of police has been specifically stationed to train people on community policing in the district.

“We are now at 80 per cent of implementation”

“The concept is to encourage them to undertake their social activities together so that they can develop a close-knit community,” said Mr Mwangi.

The administrator acknowledges that one of the main impediments to curbing the trend lies on many of the residents’ unwillingness to testify in court.

“We hold suspects for a long time but we eventually have to set them free due to lack of evidence”, says Mr Mwangi in frustration.

Last Sunday, officer in-charge of Meru police station Mark Liamo had to plead with an angry group of Mjini residents, who wanted to lynch a suspected thief from Kooje area.

He has twice rescued suspects who had just been doused in petrol in readiness to be lynched.

And even as the suspect was arrested, doubts still abound on whether those who wanted to lynch him will be willing to record statements with the police.

“They told us to our face that they will wait for him to be released and then lynch him,” said a policeman, who could not be named.

The officer told the Nation that the residents had extracted ‘testimony’ from the suspect incriminating four other alleged accomplices.

Other alleged accomplices
Many of the residents, disillusioned by the high rates of acquittals, have now resorted in the extra-judicial approach.

“We have a list of all of them…no matter how long it takes; we will have our ‘justice’. We don’t think it will come from the courts,” said a resident of Kooje estate.

But Mr Mwangi promises to ensure that police patrols are beefed up in the affected areas and is hopeful that the concept of community policing will fully be embraced.

He has also ordered the crackdown on spiralling chang’aa dens in the municipality’s slums and bars to close at the recommended time.

His efforts received a boost last week following the arrival of a new area officer commanding the police division, Mr Paul Ruto, reputed for tackling organised gangs may well help crack the troublemakers.

But the security team has to proceed with haste to forestall the intended lynching by instilling confidence in the residents that the suspects will be subjected to a professional investigation and thorough trial.

As things stand now, no end in sight to the lynching.


8 - KENYA: Crisis highlights cluster complications

NAIROBI, 12 February 2008 (IRIN) - The post-election crisis in Kenya has highlighted some of the shortcomings of the cluster approach, introduced two years ago to improve emergency responses involving many actors. Some NGOs perceived it as a threat to their positions and a tool with which to criticise their failings, aid workers told IRIN. Others feared becoming too closely associated with the UN would jeopardise their independence. Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Committee of the Red Cross are not part of the cluster approach but they do share information about their activities.

There are 11 clusters, each with a lead agency, covering for example, education, shelter, telecommunications, food aid, health and sanitation. Two sub-clusters have also been set up in Kenya to address gender-based violence and child protection. Visiting camps in Nakuru and Molo in Rift Valley Province, the region worst affected by the violence, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes highlighted the education cluster as one that had been slow to get off the ground.

“I think emergency education is absolutely crucial because that gives the children at least some semblance of normality. It’s never the first thing you focus on but it needs to come in fast behind and I think that’s what’s now beginning to happen,” he said.

Introduced by the key humanitarian decision-making body, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, the cluster approach illustrates how the UN is shifting from direct implementation towards a standard-setting and facilitation role in terms of planning and organising humanitarian responses.

“Some people are suspicious of it. Some of the NGOs think this is a way for the UN to make sure that they control [relief operations]. Others feel that it’s a way for the UN to cover up the gaps,” said Wael Haj-Ibrahim, senior humanitarian affairs officer for the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), working in Eldoret.

“It’s meant to be the other way round. It’s meant to highlight where the gaps are and help people think together, in the response, who will be doing what, where. Conceptually, people haven’t yet figured it out.”

While staff in Nairobi complained of too many meetings – there are about 11 meetings each week, sometimes lasting up to three hours – those in the field felt that decisions made in the capital did not translate into action on the ground.

“There is such a disconnect between Nairobi and the field sometimes. Half of those meetings should happen here in the field because the information flow isn’t good enough,” said Line Pedersen, field monitoring coordinator in the south Rift Valley for the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR. “A lot of policies are decided at Nairobi level but what does that translate to in the field? I am sitting in meetings here. What am I going to tell people here?” she asked.

Cluster problems
Early recovery – which involves meeting the needs and opportunities of the immediate post-crisis period - has been another problematic cluster.

“It’s not a cluster in the same way as others. Food and shelter and water are relatively straightforward. You’re providing physical goods. Early recovery cuts across everything so its needs are more complicated, how it’s organised is more complicated and how it’s funded is more complicated. So that’s why it’s a difficult issue,” Holmes told IRIN.

The other difficult cluster has been protection, largely because of the complexities of the issues involved.

Al-Haj said people were still focused on activities such as contacting the police to provide security, rather than thinking about the problem conceptually, in terms of drawing up strategies to influence and work with those responsible for protection. “What we need to do is help people shift to conceptual thinking. What’s needed is the bigger picture,” he said.

However, smaller NGOs that attended a protection meeting in Nairobi praised the cluster approach for providing a forum in which to learn about humanitarian principles, as well as getting practical support.

HelpAge’s emergency coordinator Everlyne Situma found the UN’s robust criticism of Kenyan government plans to close one of the largest displaced camps in Nairobi, Jamhuri Park, eye-opening. “It enlightened us to the rights of the displaced,” she said. The government later agreed to delay the closure of the camp.

Education necessary
One commonly voiced problem was the lack of fit between clusters such as protection and camp coordination/management and the government.

“The clusters are effective where there are long-standing relationships. The problem is when there’s not a natural government counterpart. When you don’t have that, how does it fit in? A parallel situation can be set up but this causes some confusion. You have duplication because the government is also trying to respond. Really, all the clusters should interface with them,” said one NGO representative who wished to remain anonymous.

“The government has its own coordination mechanisms and they don’t always fit naturally with the cluster approach. Sometimes the danger is the UN marches in and thinks there’s nothing there and there is a mechanism,” agreed Simon Russell, UNHCR protection cluster lead.

Most concurred that the main way to improve the cluster approach was by educating people about it. “We need to explain it better. People get frightened by the term as if it’s something really strange whereas actually it’s straightforward,” said Holmes. “It just means that in each of the main sectors, like food and water and shelter, there’s someone who’s clearly in the lead, clearly coordinating the other organisations involved in it. It should be clearer but of course there’s a huge amount of explanation to be done,” he said.

One reform that might help get more actors on board would be giving non-UN agencies a greater leadership role. The only non-UN agency leading a cluster is Save the Children, which co-leads the education cluster alongside the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF. “There’s some scepticism and resentment that NGOs are not more actively involved. There are NGOs that would be happy to take on this responsibility,” said Carl Triplehorn of Save the Children.

However, said Holmes: “We are trying to make sure that as many NGOs are as heavily involved as possible. Where possible, we’d like to see co-leads on the ground and we’re suggesting that here too. Education is one of those where that’s already happened at the global level. It takes time to achieve that culture change but that’s very much the way we’re pushing it,” he said.


Themes: (IRIN)
Aid Policy, (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Education, (IRIN) Gender Issues, (IRIN) Health & Nutrition


Report can be found online at:

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