Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Today's headlines - Tues 3/4/2008


Kenya President, Opposition Leader Meet

By MALKHADIR M. MUHUMED – 2 hours ago

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya's president and the rival with whom he has agreed to share power after weeks of bitter negotiations held a two-hour meeting Tuesday about how to move the country past postelection violence that killed more than 1,000 people.

President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga both claim to have won Dec. 27 presidential elections. Their dispute unleashed weeks of bloodshed, exposing divisions over land and economic inequality.

International and local observers say the vote was rigged and it's unclear who won, and they accuse politicians of fomenting the violence.

"We agreed that we want to heal the wounds which were inflicted during these last two months," Odinga told reporters as he left the meeting, which he described as "very productive."

It was the first meeting between Kibaki and Odinga since they struck a political deal last week to share power, with Odinga serving as prime minister.

On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised his predecessor, Kofi Annan, for his role in mediating. Annan had shown "great leadership" in defusing two months of postelection conflict in the east African nation, Ban said.

Despite the deal, many fear the fighting — much of it pitting longtime neighbors against each other — will not wane easily.

On Monday, 13 people were burned alive or hacked to death in what police described as one in a series of clashes over land in the region at the foot of Mount Elgon in Kenya's fertile Rift Valley, some 300 miles northwest of Nairobi.

Bernard Muli, a police chief in the area, blamed the Sabaot Land Defense Force, a militia group fighting for the redistribution of land in western Kenya.

There was no claim of responsibility. A member of the SLDF, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said his group is simply trying to "correct historical injustices."

Some 800 people have been killed in land clashes in the region since 2006, said Ken Wafula, executive director of the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in the Rift Valley.

The tensions trace back to Kenya's colonial era, when white settlers seized land in the western Rift Valley. The Kikuyus who lived there were dispersed throughout the country, and the British ruled by keeping the groups divided.

At independence in 1963, Kenya's first president, Jomo Kenyatta, helped his Kikuyu kinsmen by appointing them to top government posts and easing the way for them to buy land from white settlers.

The Kikuyu quickly prospered, growing into the most powerful ethnic group in the country, running business and politics. The favoritism shown to Kikuyus fueled a simmering anger among the nation's 41 other tribes.

The old bitterness regularly erupts over land, particularly at election time.



Three stories today followed by more links:

1 - Kenyan rivals push ahead with crisis talks

7 hours ago

NAIROBI (AFP) — Kenyan rivals were Tuesday to push ahead with talks on a new deal to share power and tackle root causes of the strife, a day after more than a dozen people were killed in the volatile Rift Valley region.

The negotiations are focusing on reforms to address historical injustices that entail electoral, institutional, constitutional and judicial issues, as well as land reforms at the heart of tribal unrest.

Other issues include measures to address poverty, unemployment, inequity and corruption, and installing a more transparent government.

The negotiators, guided by Nigerian former foreign minister Oluyemi Adeniji who replaced former UN chief Kofi Annan, are expect to end the talks after laying a framework on the way forward.

"The major issues are really out of the way. We are confident that we will wind up the discussions ... tomorrow," government negotiator Mutula Kilonzo said on Monday.

No key agreement is expected from this phase of talks. President Mwai Kibaki and opposition chief Raila Odinga signed a power-sharing agreement last Thursday, signalling an end to two months of violence.

A separate panel is preparing a bill on the creation of the post of prime minister to be presented to parliament when it reconvenes on Thursday. The post is expected to be taken by Odinga.

The government lawmakers agreed Monday to support the bill and entrench it in the constitution while and the opposition is expected to meet later Tuesday to make a similar move.

Meanwhile, police vowed to take action after 15 people were killed in the the Rift Valley region on Monday, the first major violent act since Kibaki and Odinga signed a power-sharing accord.

"We are saddened by these unwarranted deaths of civilians who had just returned home from camps," police spokesman Eric Kiraithe told AFP.

"But our officers are currently combing the ground, looking for the attackers. Let them be warned that these acts of brutality must come to an end and they should expect to be hit and be hit very hard," Kiraithe said.

Kenyan newspapers pressed the government to take action on the attackers, suspected to be Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF), a militia group demanding nullification of a government settlement scheme in which they were displaced from their ancestral land, claiming the land was redistributed unfairly.

"This must stop. The government cannot allow this to continue ... The political crisis created room for criminals to cause mayhem under the guise of settling electoral scores. This may get worse unless urgent action is taken to rein in the militias," the Daily Nation said in an editorial.

"This country has suffered; too much blood has been shed, families and property destroyed and the last thing we want to hear is about more killings," the Nation added.

The SLDF land complaints is among the issues to be discussed in the Kenyan crisis talks.

Odinga's claim that Kibaki stole the December 27 presidential elections touched off widespread violence that claimed at least 1,500 lives and displaced hundred of thousands of others.

The post-poll crisis, which has affected the economy, has tapped into simmering resentment over land, poverty and the dominance of the Kikuyu, Kibaki's tribe, in Kenyan politics and business since independence in 1963.

It has also affected the economy, mainly weakening the tourism and agriculture sectors, and tarnished the country's reputation as an island of stability in a region beset by conflicts.


2 - Kenya Rival Is Cautiously Optimistic

Published: March 4, 2008

NAIROBI, KenyaRaila Odinga is a happy man.

On Sunday, he went to the beach and was pictured on the front page of Kenya’s leading newspaper, The Daily Nation, lounging by the waves, wearing shorts and argyle socks.

On Monday, as he polished off a bowl of vegetable soup and sautéed fish at the Nairobi Club, he seemed relaxed, chatty and upbeat — for the first time in weeks.

“Better half a loaf than no bread,” Mr. Odinga said of a power-sharing agreement struck on Thursday that marries his political party to his rivals in the Kenyan government.

Mr. Odinga, 63, is Kenya’s top opposition leader, and his decision to drop his claim to Kenya’s presidency — which he says he rightly won — and to accept the newly created position of prime minister has helped pull this country back from the brink of chaos.

Last week, the governing party agreed to form a coalition government with Mr. Odinga’s party, a breakthrough in a dangerous political crisis that erupted in December with a flawed presidential election. The incumbent, Mwai Kibaki, was declared the winner, despite widespread evidence of vote rigging.

The election set off weeks of bloodshed, destruction and ethnic balkanization, which for a moment put Kenya’s future in doubt.

The political violence has mostly calmed down, though on Sunday night more than 10 people were killed in western Kenya in clashes over contested land. Mr. Odinga, in an interview on Monday, credited the unstinting pressure by the European Union and the United States government with forcing Mr. Kibaki to compromise.

“They knew the game was up,” Mr. Odinga said, referring to Mr. Kibaki’s side, which had insisted for weeks that it would not share power with the opposition, but finally conceded to just about all of Mr. Odinga’s demands except for the presidency.

Mr. Odinga said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had been especially influential — and tough. She visited Kenya last month, and by the accounts of Mr. Odinga and others with knowledge of her meetings, she spoke sternly to Kenya’s president, telling him that his plan to prevent Mr. Odinga’s team from getting any real power was “unacceptable.”

People close to Mr. Kibaki have conceded that the foreign pressure had played a role in Mr. Kibaki’s about-face, especially from donor nations like the United States, which has provided Kenya with more than half a billion dollars of aid each year. And, Mr. Odinga says, that pressure must continue.

“We’re still at a very critical stage,” he said.

The next step is for Parliament to ratify the political agreement signed by Mr. Odinga and Mr. Kibaki. There are many questions to sort through, like how the government will function with essentially two bosses and what will happen to the vice president, a position that now seems to be eclipsed by that of the prime minister. Parliament is to meet Thursday.

But the biggest question seems to be how Mr. Odinga and Mr. Kibaki will get along. The two teamed up in 2002, when Mr. Kibaki won his first term as president. But they soon had a bitter falling-out.

Mr. Odinga said he had no problem working with Mr. Kibaki. He said his only potential problem was “the clique around him.” He said the clique could persuade some Parliament members to skip the vote on the power-sharing agreement.

The agreement needs a two-thirds majority to be put into Kenya’s Constitution through an amendment. So far, Mr. Kibaki’s political allies have said that they will support the agreement, though some have continued to grumble about its ramifications.

Mr. Odinga seems cautiously optimistic. He spoke Monday of the ministries his party wanted to take over, including finance and internal security, and how he planned to provide better housing to improve conditions in Kenya’s slums, which had been incubators of violence during the election crisis.

He also said that he was excited about the American presidential race, and that he was rooting for Barack Obama, who is half Kenyan and whose father was Luo, Mr. Odinga’s ethnic group.

Luos have felt marginalized for years. There is an old joke in Kenya that has caused a lot of chuckles lately, that a Luo will be president of the United States before being president of Kenya.

“We beat them to it,” Mr. Odinga said, laughing so hard that his eyes watered. “I just wasn’t sworn in.”


3 - Kenya in crisis - Telegraph (UK)

Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 04/03/2008

More than 1,000 people have been killed and 300,000 made homeless since violence erupted across Kenya following a rigged general election nearly 10 weeks ago.

In today's newspaper, we learn that it is not just people who are at risk. The collapse of tourism has left insufficient funds for the security patrols necessary to protect big game from poachers in the Masai Mara reserve.

This latest piece of bad news joins a catalogue of woes. Yesterday, 12 people were killed and six badly burnt in clashes over land ownership near the border with Uganda, a reminder that shortage of good terrain is the greatest threat to stability.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers has estimated that the unrest will cost $3.8 billion in the first half of the year.

Although tourism is the hardest-hit, transport and agriculture, from cereal production to flower farming and tea growing, have also been affected.

And Kenya's crisis has washed into the economies of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo and southern Sudan. Ethnic militias, whether Kikuyu or Kalenjin, have usurped state control in parts of the country. And the reputation of politicians, who fiddled while Kenya burned, has been further blackened.

The best solution would have been a rerun of the December 27 election under international supervision. But, as the death toll has risen, that ideal has had to cede to a solution promising the speediest end to the killing.

That has turned out to be an agreement mediated by Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General, whereby President Mwai Kibaki and his challenger, Raila Odinga, will share power.

The devil of any such deal is in the detail, but, as a matter of justice, it should devolve considerable authority from the president to Mr Odinga's newly created post of prime minister. The most urgent task for the duumvirate will be to tackle the vast disparities in wealth by curbing the illegal allocation of public land, as suggested by the Ndungu Report in 2005.

The past nine weeks or so have exposed the frightening fragility of Kenyan society. The political elite, above all Mr Kibaki, are morally obliged to undo the dreadful damage their dishonesty and protracted squabbling have caused.



More links:

A Look Behind the Violence in KenyaBay Area Indymedia - 16 hours ago

Google News Alert for: Kenya
13 Killed in Attack in Western KenyaThe Associated Press - NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Thirteen people were burned alive or hacked to death Monday in an attack blamed on a land dispute, the first major eruption of ...See all stories on this topic

Kenya Rival Is Cautiously OptimisticNew York Times - United StatesBy JEFFREY GETTLEMAN On Sunday, he went to the beach and was pictured on the front page of Kenya’s leading newspaper, the Daily Nation, lounging by the ...See all stories on this topic

After violence, Kenya tourism strugglesChristian Science Monitor - Boston,MA,USAReporter Rob Crilly discusses how Kenya's recent post-election violence has devastated the country's tourism industry. Watamu, Kenya - Hotels are empty up ...See all stories on this topic

Kenya: Inflation Hits New High As Experts Warn of ShocksAllAfrica.com - Washington,USAFigures from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics show that inflation increased to 19.1 per cent, from 18.2 per cent in January, as effects of high food ...See all stories on this topic

Kirsten to become new Kenya cricket coachIndependent Online - Cape Town,South AfricaNairobi - South African Andy Kirsten has accepted terms to coach Kenya until the 2009 World Cup qualifying competition, Cricket Kenya officials said on ...See all stories on this topic

Kenya: Time to Rebuild Bleeding EconomyAllAfrica.com - Washington,USAThe other government departments, the private sector and the wider public, must move fast to restore Kenya's lost glory, business opportunities and the many ...See all stories on this topic

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

Mar 3 (13 hours ago)
Google News Alert for: Kenya
Tourists Still Scarce on Kenya's CoastVoice of America - USABy Derek Kilner The wave of political violence that followed Kenya's disputed presidential election in December has had devastating consequences for the ...See all stories on this topic

Kenya: Chief Adeniji to Release Talks Road MapAllAfrica.com - Washington,USAWelcoming the power-sharing agreement, the World Bank expressed optimism that it would revive Kenya's stalled reform agenda to spur economic growth and ...See all stories on this topic

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

10:35 pm (9 hours ago)
Google News Alert for: Kenya
Kenya in crisis
Telegraph.co.uk - United KingdomMore than 1000 people have been killed and 300000 made homeless since violence erupted across Kenya following a rigged general election nearly 10 weeks ago. ...See all stories on this topic
This as-it-happens Google Alert is brought to you by Google.

1:06 am (7 hours ago)
Google News Alert for: Kenya
Aid Group Alerts Kenya Herdsmen of Impending Water CrisisVoice of America - USABy Howard Lesser The onset of a water crisis in Kenya at the time of political instability and ethnic unrest has threatened pastoralists in the far northern ...See all stories on this topic

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

4:26 am (3½ hours ago)
Google News Alert for: Kenya
Canadian guitarist Jeff Healey diesSeattle Times - United StatesMr. Di Stefano died at home in Santa Maria Hoe, north of Milan, from injuries sustained in an attack at his family's villa in Kenya in November 2004, ...See all stories on this topic
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7:30 am (56 minutes ago)
Google News Alert for: Kenya
Kenya's crisis talks continueRadio Netherlands - NetherlandsNairobi - The two sides in Kenya's political crisis are continuing negotiations today. Mediator Kofi Annan has handed over the supervision of the daily ...See all stories on this topic

Kenya cuts prices to lure touristsTimes Online - UKBeach and safari holidays in Kenya are being offered at prices reduced by up to 50 per cent in a bid to restore confidence in the east African country. ...See all stories on this topic

Kenya shilling hits 1-1/2 month high vs dollarReuters South Africa - Johannesburg,South AfricaBy Jack Kimball NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya's shilling firmed against the dollar on Tuesday, hitting a 1-1/2-month high on the back of more positive political ...See all stories on this topic

Diamond Trust of Kenya Full-Year Profit Rises 52% (Update1)Bloomberg - USABy Eric Ombok March 4 (Bloomberg) -- Diamond Trust of Kenya Ltd., a Nairobi-based lender with operations in Uganda and Tanzania, said full-year profit ...See all stories on this topic

Kenya Fault CAF Over Exclusion From New TournamentGoal.com - SwitzerlandIn a report monitored in East African Business Week newspaper, KFF president Sammy Obingo expressed shock and bitterness that the Harambee Stars of Kenya ...See all stories on this topic

Kenya Data Networks sells 51% stake to AltechTelecom Paper (subscription) - Houten,NetherlandsKenya Data Networks has completed a deal to sell part of the company to South Africa-based Altech. The deal includes Altech buying from Sameer Investment ...See all stories on this topic

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