Friday, March 21, 2008

Today's Headlines - Fri 3/21/2008

One Reuters story on concerns over how Kenya army is handling Mt Elgon violence, four news summaries with links from IRIN news service (United Nations), followed by many links from Google News:

Kenyans protest at army terror in mountain offensive - Reuters

Fri Mar 21, 2008 4:52am EDT
By Andrew Cawthorne

MOUNT ELGON, Kenya (Reuters) - Church leader Wycliffe Masibo describes seeing an elderly member of his flock whipped to death during a Kenyan army search for militiamen in his remote mountain village.

Having made all the men lie on the floor, soldiers kicked and hit them, demanding they tell them where guns were kept and suspects were hiding, he and others from Chongoywo village on the slopes of Mount Elgon told a visiting reporter.

"They wanted the brother of Isaac Chele, one of my church members, who is about 60, but the brother had fled," Masibo said. "They asked him questions, but didn't care about the answers. They kept hitting him. He died from the whip, I saw."

Authorities deny mistreating locals in a two-week-old military offensive to flush out members of the illegal Sabaot Defence Land Force (SDLF) militia from the caves, forests and villages around Mount Elgon in western Kenya.

But the Kenya Red Cross has treated 1,800 people for injuries -- mostly bruising and swelling -- since it started.

Asked what the cause of those injuries were, Red Cross head Abbas Gullet said he could not go into detail, then added: "It is obvious, my friend."

Refugees fleeing the area give identical accounts of bombardments from the air and truckloads of soldiers rolling into villages and beating them en masse.

The Mount Elgon conflict pre-dates the violence in Kenya after President Mwai Kibaki's disputed December re-election.

But it shares some of the root causes -- land disputes, ethnic tensions, marginalization of remote areas -- and is something of a microcosm of the deep historical problems bedeviling the east African nation.

Since the SDLF took up arms in mid-2006 to fight for land it says was illegally taken from the local Soy community, more than 500 people have been killed and 60,000 displaced.

Many locals are unsympathetic, saying the militia quickly turned into a criminal band, emerging from the forest to loot and kill. The SDLF demands protection money and, at one point, punished drunkenness by slicing ear-lobes, they say.

"They slashed and killed my father, I had to run away," farmer David Nyongeza, 52, said at a charity's food distribution point just outside the military operation zone.

"So I support the operation. It is a good thing."

Local leaders and rights activists, however, say the army has gone too far, inflicting yet more suffering on a traumatized and impoverished local population.

Hassan Omar Hassan, a commissioner with the government-funded Kenya National Human Rights Commission, said
everyone knew in advance when the army offensive was to begin.

"So the militia fled. And based on the frustration of failure, the soldiers just hit at everyone," he said. "They missed their original target then created a wave of terror."

Local member of parliament Fred Kapondi and Mount Elgon county council chairman Benson Chesikak accuse the army of using torture on many of the more than 1,000 suspects held in the first round of arrests.

They, and relatives of those taken into custody, spoke of techniques like making suspects lie face up in the sun all day, walk on their knees, and step on barbed wire.

They also say there have been "tens" of deaths.

Regional police boss Abdul Mwasserah denied that.

"We have not killed anybody. We have not tortured anybody. The security forces are there to help the community, to rid them of the criminals," he said. "Those who are complaining are not representative. Most appreciate what we are doing."

Mwasserah said the offensive had yielded 31 AK-47 rifles and 300 arrests, and would go on as long as necessary. "We are not in a hurry to pull out," he told Reuters.

A dusk-to-dawn curfew has been imposed, and roadblocks bar journalists from the zone of operations. But Red Cross vehicles go in and out on dusty, winding tracks across the slopes of the picturesque mountain in fertile land near the Ugandan border.

Among the refugees, women also allege harassment.

Ruth Chebed, 27, said scores of soldiers swarmed into her village, Chelebe, at the end of last week. Some demanded the women show where the men kept guns.

"I didn't know, so they beat me here," she said, touching her ribs. "They took my brother. I don't know where he is."
(Editing by Daniel Wallis and Tim Pearce)

(For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit:

© Reuters 2007. All rights reserved.


Four IRIN summaries with links:

1 - KENYA: State failed to protect citizens during unrest - UN report

Kenyan authorities failed in their responsibility to protect citizens when violence erupted after disputed presidential elections in December 2007, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

"The scale of the violence and destruction indicates the failure of the Kenyan State to protect its citizens' right to life, security and property during these events," a report by an OHCHR fact-finding mission stated.

[Full report at:]

2 - KENYA: Census plans on track despite displacement

The political crisis in Kenya caused major population movements that may require a repeat of cartographic mapping in some areas before the 2009 census, but plans for the official count are on track, a government official told IRIN.

"We are revising our work plan and looking at areas where we might have to repeat cartographic mapping but we expect to hold the census on 25 August 2009 as planned," said Chris Omolo, the census manager and principal economist at the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

[Full report at:]

3 - KENYA: Tension high as hundreds flee clash-torn Laikipia

Hundreds of civilians have fled Kenya's Rift Valley district of Laikipia, where fighting between two communities has resulted in deaths and at least 300 houses being burnt.

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said reinforcements and an investigating team of officers had been sent to the scene. According to him, the death toll was 14.

[Full report at:]

4 - KENYA: Human Rights Watch urges inquiry into post-election violence

Kenyan authorities should investigate and bring to justice people suspected of instigating violence following the country's disputed presidential elections in December, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on 17 March.

"In many cases the chief architects of post-election violence were prominent and well-known individuals," stated HRW in a report entitled Ballots to Bullets: Organized Political Violence and Kenya's Crisis of Governance.

[Full report at:]


From Google News:

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Police in Kenya fear that a recent wave of cattle rustling is fanning the tribal animosity that boiled over this year into ethnic killings. ...

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By Peter Clottey
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Who will tell head of Public Service Francis Muthaura that the problem in Kenya is not simply about certain individuals being hell-bent on advancing their ...

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In the meantime, Uhuru said, the three main bus companies - Citi Hoppa, Double M and Kenya Bus Service - had been asked to agree on one among them that ...

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Kenya: You're True Ally, VP Tells China, Washington - 14 hours ago
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