Friday, March 28, 2008

Today's Headlines - Fri 3/28/2008

Former UN Chief Intervenes Again in Kenyan Political Crisis

By VOA News 28 March 2008

Kofi Annan (file photo)Former United Nations chief Kofi Annan is appealing to Kenya's president and prime minister-designate to resolve their differences over the country's new Cabinet.

U.N. officials and Kenyan politicians say Mr. Annan called from New York this week to urge President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to end their stalemate.

The two men have failed to agree on the size of the Cabinet or who should head key ministries.

Mr. Annan helped broker a deal between the rivals last month to end deadly violence that followed Kenya's disputed presidential election.

The violence erupted after Mr. Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement accused Mr. Kibaki of rigging the December 27 vote.

The rivals have since agreed to form a power-sharing government with Mr. Odinga as prime minister. They also agreed to split the Cabinet evenly between their parties.

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

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Today's headlines - Wed 3/26/2008

BBC News
Kenyan president, would-be PM to visit conflict refugees
AFP - 4 hours ago
NAIROBI (AFP) — Kenya's president and his main opposition rival will this week visit displaced people in the Rift Valley region in a show of unity after the ...

Kenyan president, would-be PM to visit conflict refugees

7 hours ago

NAIROBI (AFP) — Kenya's president and his main opposition rival will this week visit displaced people in the Rift Valley region in a show of unity after the post-election violence, officials said Wednesday.

The visit to the internally displaced people (IDPs) will the the first joint tour by President Mwai Kibaki and opposition rival Raila Odinga, who is bidding for the prime minister's post.

"The tour will be relevant to the IDPs because the entire government machinery will also move there to assess their needs," Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka told parliament late Tuesday.

The visit aimed to assure the people that calm had returned, that they could go home, and that they would receive receive government help to do so, he added.

The trip is seen as cementing the two leaders' signing of a power-sharing accord in February that halted the tribal fighting and revenge killings that had claimed at least 1,500 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

It was not clear when and what part of the Rift Valley the two leaders would tour.

Agriculturalists have warned that the country faces a grain shortage in the coming months because food reserves were destroyed and insecurity has blocked farming in the breadbasket area. This has resulted to increased food shortage.

Standard newspaper said resettling the displaced is urgent.

"Apart from the squalor in IDP camps, increasing the risk of disease outbreaks, many are concerned that planting season activities such as tilling of land have not begun in many areas," the Standard's editorial said.

Odinga accused Kibaki of rigging the December 27 presidential elections, touching off a wave of violence, prompting former UN chief Kofi Annan to step in and mediate a power-sharing accord that was reached on February 28.

Kenya is still recovering from what was one of its worst crises since independence from Britain in 1963, which affected the key tourism and agricultural sectors.

The two leaders have been holding a series of talks for dividing up cabinet posts nearly a week after parliament enacted laws entrenching the coalition government in the constitution.

Kenyan newspapers pressed the pair to finalise the talks and name a coalition cabinet, in which Odinga is expected to be prime minister.

"What may have appeared as a clear-cut deal is proving rather tricky," said the mass circulation Daily Nation in its editorial.

"Apparently, there are many vested interests that are making it extremely difficult for the two main players to make a quick decision."

Meanwhile, Kenyan security forces combed the country's western region in search of members of the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF), a militia which has been fighting against the government over land claims.

Government troops backed by helicopters have been sweeping the restive area in an operation that has claimed at least eight lives. The militia's activities have claimed hundreds of lives and displaced tens of thousands since last year.

"Most of the SLDF leaders are hiding, but we will not stop the operation until all the criminals are apprehended and stability is restored in the area," police spokesman Eric Kiraithe told AFP.

Kiraithe said stability has been restored in most parts of the country, home to 35 million people.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Today's headlines - Tues 3/25/2008

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Despite Kenya peace deal, ethnic tensions simmer
Reuters South Africa, South Africa - 6 hours ago
By Andrew Cawthorne ELDORET, Kenya, March 25
(Reuters) - Nearly three months after the worst massacre of Kenya's post-election violence, children's shoes ...

Ethnic tensions simmer despite Kenya peace deal

Tue 25 Mar 2008, 10:10 GMT
-] Text [+]
By Andrew Cawthorne

ELDORET, Kenya (Reuters) - Nearly three months after the worst massacre of Kenya's post-election violence, children's shoes and charred clothes remain in the ashes of a rural church where about 30 people were burned to death.

Wreaths of dried-out flowers lie where a mob set fire to the Assemblies of God building with 100 or so terrified villagers cowering inside. A cow nibbles grass around a fallen yellow tape reading: "Crime Scene, Do Not Cross."

All around the church, torched and trashed homes litter countryside outside the western town of Eldoret, one of the epicentres of violence that killed at least 1,200 people and uprooted 300,000 others after Kenya's December 27 election.

President Mwai Kibaki and his main challenger, Raila Odinga, have since made their peace, burying their dispute over who won in a power-sharing agreement. They have taken tea and even watched golf together at a colonial-era country club.

But on the ground, wounds from the worst bloodletting in the east African nation since independence in 1963 remain sore and many fear violence could erupt again if the deeper roots of the troubles are not tackled.

Communities are suspicious of one another. Tens of thousands of people still live as refugees. And there has been a massive population shift as Kenyans from different tribes return to the safety of their ancestral heartlands.

Less than a mile from the burnt church in Kiambaa village, police are building a new base to prevent repetitions of the attacks by Kalenjins -- who are in the majority in the Eldoret area -- on Kikuyus, members of Kibaki's ethnic group.

"We will hold the peace, and we will catch the perpetrators," one policeman said, nailing planks to new huts.

A few nervous-looking Kikuyus are back to check their plots.

"Some fear to return, some want to sell their land, some might come back and re-settle here if there is peace," said Francis Waweru, 23. His sister scorched her arm escaping from the church and has gone far away to the Kikuyu town of Limuru.

"It is hard to forget," he said, standing next to the church and describing how hundreds of Kalenjin warriors barred the refugees inside before burning the building and hacking those who tried to escape with machetes.

Down the road, locals have daubed a new name in their tribal language -- Kipnyiket -- over the Kikuyu word Kiambaa. Authorities say the perpetrators are among hundreds they have arrested nationwide. They plan a memorial at the church site.

On another side of Eldoret, scores of houses and shops are reduced to blackened rubble in scenes more reminiscent of war-riven neighbours Somalia and Sudan.

Huge boulders beside the highway also bear witness to the gangs who took over the area in January. Armed with machetes and bows-and-arrows, they had set up roadblocks to hunt Kikuyus.

"Of course we were angry. They stole the election in front of our eyes," one jobless 28-year-old Kalenjin man said.

"Now power is supposed to be shared 50-50 but they are not willing to share really," he added, echoing a widespread accusation among Kenya's non-Kikuyus that Kibaki's community has monopolised power and wealth.

Another Kalenjin man chided a visiting reporter, saying the media -- like Kibaki and the police -- had focused on deaths of Kikuyus around Eldoret, but not the killing of members of other communities elsewhere around Kenya.

"What about the house burned in Naivasha with 15 people inside? You don't talk about what the Kikuyus did," he said.

"There are no Kikuyus living round here any more. If they come back, it will depend on the 50-50 deal, if it works. Then if they return and are friendly with us, it will be OK."

According to the power-sharing deal, Odinga is set to become prime minister although wrangling remains over other posts.

Further down the line, Kenya's politicians will also have to overhaul the constitution and discuss underlying problems such as land and inequality that were laid bare by the dispute over Kibaki's re-election last December.

At Eldoret showground, 15,000 refugees -- almost all Kikuyus -- live in tents crammed together on the field.

They are either too scared to return home, have nothing to go back to, or are waiting for some way of travelling to their community's heartland in central Kenya.

"Power-sharing has brought peace to the people above, but not to us," said pastor Gideon Mwangi, whose house in Eldoret was torched and whose family fled to Naivasha.

"We are willing to go back, but only when there is real peace. There are still threats going on in the villages."

Refugee leaders are petitioning for compensation for destroyed properties, stolen livestock and lost crops.

Some Kikuyus in the Eldoret area have, however, returned to their former lives. In the centre of town, several dozen stick together for security in streets where they work as mechanics and labourers fixing minibuses.

Joseph Gitau, 23, was born in the area, saw his father killed with a poisoned arrow during inter-ethnic fighting in 1997, and admits taking up a machete to face Kalenjin gangs in January. One day, he saw seven fellow Kikuyus decapitated.

Yet he has returned to work to help feed his mother, and ten brothers and sisters. And he has no intention of returning to a tribal homeland he does not know.

"There, I have no job, no land, nothing. What could I do?"

(Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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

© Reuters 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Today's headlines - Mon 3/24/2008

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