Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Today's Headlines - Wed 2/13/2008

Dear Friends:


With the negotiators in a secret location outside Nairobi and the current "media blackout," most of the Google News today is about finance and economics. The links appear at the end of the post.

First there are 2 articles from BBC and Reuters covering an alleged gaffe by Kofi Annan--Martha Karua is upset and feels Annan overstepped his bounds ("undermined and embarrassed" the government PNU negotiating team) by saying that there may be a transitional government then fresh elections. She said this was never discussed.

[At a certain point, when the politicians like Ruto and Karua give quotes to the press during a "media blackout," one begins to wonder if it is for personal or party gain, to get some "airtime." One does indeed wonder if the concerns or statements are genuine or well-founded.]

One more article from BBC on the increase in sexual violence in Africa--this has been true of Kenya. cited as an example.

Stay tuned, and hopefully there will be good news of an agreement reached by Friday--one that all Kenyans, even the Justice Minister can agree to--that will pave the way for broader reforms, as Kofi Annan suggested in his address to Parliament.

--Mary Kay

UPDATE 4:15 p.m.: ANALYSIS-Seeds of class war sprout in Kenya's crisis - Reuters
UPDATE 10:30 a.m.: Annan defuses row in Kenya crisis talks - AFP
1 - Kenya government anger with Annan - BBC
2 - Kenyan minister criticises crisis mediator Annan - Reuters
3 - Africa war zones' 'rape epidemic' - BBC


ANALYSIS-Seeds of class war sprout in Kenya's crisis - Reuters

Wed Feb 13, 2008
7:43am EST
By Helen Nyambura-Mwaura

NAIROBI, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Kenya is a land of stark contrast: the rich drive gleaming luxury cars, can afford to enrol their children in top British schools and in the case of one local magnate, send suits to London for dry cleaning.

But most live a hand-to-mouth existence and some Kenyans believe the bloody post-election crisis that has exposed the east African country's tribal divisions could also inflame the gulf between classes and further exacerbate instability.

Although long seen as one of Africa's most promising economies, Kenya has a huge wealth gap, with 10 percent of people controlling 42 percent of the economy and the poorest 10 percent holding less than 1 percent, according to U.N. figures.

"If this issue is not resolved, the worst thing we would hear or see is a class war where these people, men and women, say they have nothing to lose," Abbas Gullet, secretary general of the Kenya Red Cross, told business leaders recently.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga used the argument that many Kenyans have not shared in economic growth under President Mwai Kibaki -- averaging 5 percent a year -- to win support in impoverished areas ahead of the election in December. [NB: Yet Odinga himself has done nothing to improve the situation of his constituencies in Kibera slum or in Nyanza Province.]

The dispute over Kibaki's re-election, in a vote that Odinga says was stolen, became the spark for bloodshed that has killed at least 1,000 people in ethnic clashes and battles between police and poor slum dwellers.

Chief mediator Kofi Annan, the former U.N. Secretary General, hopes for a political solution this week but nobody expects the wounds opened by the crisis to heal so soon.

While Kenya's most obvious divisions follow tribal lines, those
killed on both sides tend to have much more in common as peasant farmers or slum
dwellers than they do with the ultra wealthy Kibaki and Odinga.

Almost half of Kenya's 36 million people live on a dollar a day and most struggle to put their children through school or pay for decent health care. Cabinet ministers take home more than 1 million shillings ($13,820) a month.

"All these politicians are using us. We fight one another and die like animals but their children are not on the streets like other Kenyans," said Ouma, a security guard in a middle-class Nairobi suburb. "The people dying are young men who should be working not dying."

During the worst fighting, ethnic gangs erected roadblocks and beat up or killed those they caught from rival communities. But some of the thugs also harassed or robbed people from their own ethnic groups if they seemed wealthier.

Around 500,000 young Kenyans join the job market each year, but many fail to find work, swelling the number of disaffected youths ready to seize on any chance they can to profit.

"Some of them see us riding in our Mercedes or in our Hummers and they want that, just as we want the same thing for our children. This is the reality we are dealing with today," Steven Smith, chairman of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, told the meeting of business leaders.

Aid workers in Kenya's slums say they have to consult with so-called "emerging informal leadership" for their safety. Simply put, they have to deal with ethnically-based gangs that control slums where police and other normal government services rarely reach.

Poverty is a driving force behind high levels of crime that affect both rich and poor Kenyans.

In Nairobi's Mathare slum, the murderous Mungiki criminal gang has long ruled, carrying out extortion rackets and providing illegal water or electricity connections. Politicians have long used such groups as campaign muscle-for-hire, and did so during the election violence.

"They have a huge say and sway on the ground in these major slums and they are establishing their own leadership," Gullet said. "I say to many politicians ... today it is quite clear that they do not have the proper control over these people."

A local daily columnist wrote recently that it was naive to expect that pro-Kibaki and pro-Odinga gangs would only fight against each other forever.

"If there's no political settlement soon, at some point, the gangs will unite ... together attacking, without discrimination, the homes of Kibaki and Raila's middle-class supporters," Charles Onyango-Obbo wrote in the Daily Nation.

He cited the example of rival gangs fighting for political godfathers in Congo Republic in the 1990s who sometimes called a temporary truce when their battles led them to a rich suburb. They would then loot it together, before going back to war.

(Editing by Bryson Hull and Matthew Tostevin)

© Reuters 2007. All rights reserved.


Annan defuses row in Kenya crisis talks
6 hours ago

NAIROBI (AFP) — Chief mediator Kofi Annan on Wednesday put Kenya's crisis talks back on course toward a deal after defusing a row over his plan for a "grand coalition" government to end post-election turmoil.

Annan had irked negotiators for President Mwai Kibaki when he told parliament on Tuesday that a power-sharing government could be a way out of the crisis sparked by the disputed December presidential election.

But in talks early Wednesday at a secret location, Annan clarified his statement, saying this "represents his perspective on the discussions and does not imply a formal agreement between the two parties."

"The parties continue to work constructively and are making good progress," said UN spokesman Nasser Ega-Musa in a statement.

Kibaki's lead negotiator Martha Karua had sent a protest letter to Annan after he told parliament that a "grand coalition" could oversee reforms in Kenya to pave the way for elections in two years.

"My team is alarmed at some serious inaccurate statement made by your excellency (Kofi Annan)," said Karua, the minister for justice and constitutional affairs.

Forming a transitional government to prepare elections "has not been discussed or agreed upon" in the mediation talks now in their third week, she said.

The statement [FROM KARUA] was in line with Kibaki's long-held view that he won the presidential vote fairly and should not have to share power with his rival Raila Odinga, who says he was robbed of the presidency.

Kenya descended into violence after Kibaki, 76, was officially declared the winner of the December 27 presidential election that the opposition said was rigged. International observers also found flaws in the tallying of ballots.

According to the Kenyan Red Cross, more than 1,000 people have died in rioting, tribal clashes and police raids since the vote and 300,000 people have been displaced, shattering Kenya's reputation as one of Africa's most stable countries.

Annan had addressed parliament to secure broad support for constitutional and statutory changes that a final settlement might require, but his "grand coalition" proposal angered a group of MPs from Kibaki's party.

"Unfortunately, it appears that one of the parties may have misunderstood (Annan's) remarks," said the statement from the mediation team.

Crisis talks continued on Wednesday at a secret location, away from the media glare, as Annan sought to clinch a deal by the end of the week.

Political analyst Onweri Angima downplayed the strong reaction from Kibaki's camp to Annan's mooted power-sharing plan, saying it was "posturing" ahead of the final round.

"I am sure that they are very, very reluctant," said Angima.

"But someone of Annan's calibre would not make such a statement, which is so weighty, without having some indication that it is plausible," said Angima, a program director at the Centre for Multiparty Democracy in Nairobi.

Speculation about the agreement centred on a possible power-sharing government in which Odinga, 62, could be named prime minister, a post that would have to be created by constitutional amendment.

Relative calm has taken hold across the country for the first time in weeks, with no incidents reported in western Kenya, which had been the worst hit by the violence.

"Things have come back to normal. The businesses are in full throttle, people are back to their farms. But we still have a heavy presence of our officers in the area," said police chief Anthony Kibuchi from western Nyanza province.

Kibuchi said community elders had recently organised meetings in villages, urging people to stop the violence.

Copyright © 2008 AFP. All rights reserved.

1 - Kenya government anger with Annan - BBC

The head of the Kenyan government team at crisis talks has expressed anger with mediator Kofi Annan over comments on resolving the election dispute.

Mr Annan hinted that both sides had agreed on a transitional government for two years, after which fresh presidential elections would be held.

But Justice Minister Martha Karua said this had never been discussed.

She said that Mr Annan, the former UN chief, had undermined the government's position at the negotiations.

Some 1,000 people are thought to have died in the violence that followed the disputed polls results.

More than 600,000 people have been forced to flee their homes amid clashes between rival ethnic groups, seen as pro-government or pro-opposition.

When talks between government and opposition teams were moved away from the capital, Nairobi, on Tuesday to a secret location to avoid the glare of publicity, Mr Annan asked both sides not to discuss the contents of the talks with anyone else, calling for a complete news blackout.

We cannot afford to fail
Chief mediator Kofi Annan

His comments about a possible grand coalition were made during a special closed-door session with Kenyan MPs.

But details of his briefing have angered President Mwai Kibaki's negotiating team.

Ms Karua said his statement about a transitional government had caused distress and great embarrassment to them as it had misrepresented their position.

"We feel these inaccuracies have greatly undermined our position as members of the dialogue team and we demand the issue be revisited as the first item when we meet next," she said.

A power-sharing deal had been thought to be imminent, but correspondents say this development implies the government is against fresh elections.

In a statement on Wednesday, mediators sought to downplay the rift, saying the grand coalition was Mr Annan's perspective on the discussions.

"[It] does not imply a formal agreement between the two parties," the statement says.

Both the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and President Mwai Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU) have tabled proposals for a power-sharing agreement at the talks.

Mr Annan had hinted the deal would include comprehensive constitutional, judicial and electoral reforms.

He told parliament both President Kibaki and Mr Odinga are committed to the talks aimed at reconciling the nation and urged the MPs to equally support the process.

"Your active involvement, across party lines, is necessary. Without this, the government may be paralysed. We cannot afford to fail," he said.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/02/13 11:42:40 GMT© BBC MMVIII

2 - Kenyan minister criticises crisis mediator Annan - Reuters

Tue 12 Feb 2008, 18:11 GMT
By Katie Nguyen and C. Bryson Hull

NAIROBI (Reuters) - The head of the government team at Kenya's crisis talks criticised chief mediator Kofi Annan on Tuesday, complicating his efforts to bring a swift end to the country's post-election turmoil.

Annan told parliament Kenya should have a political solution this week to its dispute over a December 27 election that triggered clashes that killed 1,000 people and uprooted 300,000 more. He later answered questions in a closed door session.

Justice Minister Martha Karua condemned comments she attributed to Annan -- that negotiators had agreed on a transitional government for two years before a new presidential vote.

"As chair of the panel, you are expected to be impartial and to take every care not to misrepresent or compromise the position of either party," Karua said in a letter addressed to Annan and sent to media organisations.

"To this end, we feel that these inaccuracies have greatly undermined our position and embarrassed us as members of the dialogue team. We demand that the issue be revisited as the first item when we next meet."

Annan's spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Kenya's closest-ever vote thrust the country into one of its darkest moments since independence in 1963, denting its image as one of Africa's most stable democracies and a peaceful trade and tourism hub.

The crisis laid bare grievances between tribes about wealth, land and power that have existed since British colonial rule -- which most Kenyans believe have been aggravated by politicians over the years.

Former U.N. head Annan said Kenya's divided parliament must swiftly endorse wider reforms, adding that both sides had agreed that an independent investigation into the polls would make recommendations to guide electoral reforms.

Expecting a deal within days to end the immediate conflict over President Mwai Kibaki's re-election, Annan was due to take the government and opposition negotiating teams to a secret location outside Nairobi.

"I expect that we shall conclude our deliberations ... resolving the political conflict this week," he said.

Sources on both sides have said the deal would entail some kind of power sharing, and Annan said they were discussing what form it would take -- hinting at a cross-party "grand coalition".

"Grand coalitions have served other nations well ... when you have the sort of urgent political grievances we seem to have here," he said. "They come together to try and work out ... the divisive issues, to make the constitutional and other changes required, and then eventually organise an election."

Annan has said the negotiating teams will tackle those issues in the talks, with the aim of producing concrete reforms over the constitution, land, and election laws within a year.

Both sides, he said, had agreed there was "no immediate, viable way forward either through retallying, recount or an audit" of the election.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga initially demanded that Kibaki step down and the vote be re-run, and refused any kind of power-sharing.

Kibaki urged Odinga to go to court to challenge the vote as Kenya's laws prescribe, and has said he is open to having some opposition members in his cabinet, which is only half-filled.

A senior government official with direct knowledge of the talks said the government will only share power "in the form of cabinet posts to be decided by the president himself".

(For special coverage from Reuters on Kenya's crisis see:

(Additional reporting by Duncan Miriri and Jack Kimball; editing by Keith Weir)

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.
Learn more about Reuters

3 - Africa war zones' 'rape epidemic' - BBC

Sexual violence is spreading in African conflict zones like an epidemic, the United Nations has warned.

The UN's children's fund, Unicef, says rape is no longer just perpetrated by combatants but also by civilians.

The organisation said rape was most common in countries affected by wars and natural disasters.

"When societies collapse there seems to be a licence to rape. This is a major concern to us," Unicef Deputy Executive Director Hilde Frafjord Johnson said.

Sexual violence appeared to accompany a significant uprooting of society when some of the social norms crumble, she said.

Things happen that are unheard of in other African communities
Unicef's Hilde Frafjord Johnson

Ms Johnson said that in Kenya reported cases of sexual violence had doubled within days of the recent post-election conflict erupting.

"Things happen that are unheard of in other African communities suddenly happen in these situations, and that is why we call it epidemic proportions, because it takes a life of its own," she said.

She added that rape was also prevalent in trouble spots in Sudan, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where victims range from a few months old to octogenarians.

The warning comes as Unicef launches an appeal for $856m to help women and children who are victims of conflicts and other emergencies across the continent.

Sudan tops the list of countries in need of aid with Unicef calling for $150m.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/02/13 11:35:06 GMT© BBC MMVIII

Google News Alert for: Kenya (overnight)

Smooth way for accord, Annan tells Kenya
Financial Times - London,England,UK
By William Wallis in Nairobi
Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary-general mediating between Kenya's bitterly divided politicians, called on the ...
See all stories on this topic

Kenya works to maintain Valentine’s Day flower exports despite ...
Kansas City Star - MO,USA
Kenya’s flower industry, which accounts for a quarter of Europe’s cut flower imports, benefits from a yearlong growing season and a cheap ...
See all stories on this topic

Kenya: Honouring this Country Through Sacrifices - Washington,USA
Mr Annan is here, in the company of other world notables, to help Kenya find her feet again after she slipped immediately after the December elections. ...
See all stories on this topic

Kenya: Economy Needs a Tougher Tax System - Washington,USA
When Kenya's government spokesman Dr. Alfred Mutua asserted that Kenya's budget is 95 per cent financed by domestic revenue and hence will not be bullied by ...
See all stories on this topic

Kenya: Machel Calls for Lasting Political Solution - Washington,USA
Only a political solution can haul Kenya out of the current crisis, a member of the Kenya National Dialogue For Reconciliation committee, Mrs Graca Machel, ...
See all stories on this topic

Kenya: NSE Confirms Sale of Transcentury Shares - Washington,USA
TransCentury is one of Kenya's most prestigious private investment firms and has already sent out requests for proposals for advisory services from ...
See all stories on this topic

Kenya: We Must Devise Formula to Save Our Sugar Industry - Washington,USA
Kenya is a major beneficiary of the intra Comesa trade exporting a large percentage of its agricultural products to Comesa member states. ...
See all stories on this topic

Kenya: Multichoice Launches Cheaper Package - Washington,USA
Mr Stephen Isaboke, the general manager of MultiChoice Kenya, which markets the DStv products described the package as the company's answer to growing ...
See all stories on this topic

Google News Alert for: Kenya (mid-morning)

Annan defuses row in Kenya crisis talks
AFP - NAIROBI (AFP) — Chief mediator Kofi Annan on Wednesday put Kenya's crisis talks back on course toward a deal after defusing a row over his plan for a "grand ...
See all stories on this topic

Uganda accuses opposition of inciting Kenya-like violence
AFP - KAMPALA (AFP) — The Ugandan presidency accused opposition leaders on Wednesday of inciting violence similar to clashes that took place in Kenya after ...
See all stories on this topic

Seeds of class war sprout in Kenya's crisis
Reuters - USABy Helen Nyambura-Mwaura - Analysis NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya is a land of stark contrast: the rich drive gleaming luxury cars, can afford to enroll their ...
See all stories on this topic

Kenya: Annan Teams Off to Secret Location - Washington,USA
On Tuesday, Annan and the teams attended a Speaker's Kamukunji at Old Parliament chambers and left from Wilson Airport at about 4pm in two Kenya Air Force ...
See all stories on this topic

Quest to save Kenya animals
Scotsman - United Kingdom
LOTHIANS-BASED charity Vetaid is helping people and animals who have been forced to flee their homes in Kenya. The team is assessing the number of animals ...
See all stories on this topic

Kenya: Many Displaced are on the Move Again, Says UN - Washington,USAWith the security situation easing after a wave of violence tore through Kenya following last December's contested elections, the United Nations reported ...
See all stories on this topic

Kenya Supermarkets Lose $20 Million in Sales After Poll Clashes
Bloomberg - USA13 (Bloomberg) -- Kenya's biggest supermarkets have lost $20 million in sales during the past month as post-election violence led some stores to shut and ...
See all stories on this topic

Uganda: Bourse Rallies Amidst Kenya Crisis - Washington,USA
UGANDA's bourse has shrugged off Kenya's political impasse that has caused distortions in the economy and continued to post a share price rally, ...
See all stories on this topic

This as-it-happens Google Alert is brought to you by Google

No comments: