Sunday, January 20, 2008

Kenya News Bulletin: Do Not Dishonour MLK; Women Seek Peace; ODM Calls for Renewed Protests, etc.

Do not dishonour Martin Luther King Jr

Publication Date: 1/20/2008

Quite often some of our political leaders have been heard to cite Martin Luther King Jr, the great American civil rights movement leader, as their inspiration in calling for and holding demonstrations.

Some have even quoted lines from MLK’s speeches as if they were their own.

Using MLK as a platform for justifying the mess in Kenyan demonstrations is an absolute embarrassment and dishonour to this highly respected man who was a leader, not only of black people but of America and the world.

Love, not power

Inspired by his religious convictions, MLK’s starting point was not to be president; it was to be in a free human being. The quest on Kenya’s centre stage is for the presidency. The spirit evident in the sentiments of the leaders who allude to MLK is that of hatred cooked to an outrageous degree.

If we were to assess MLK, we would put him on the opposite side of the continuum with an outrageous love that made him a target of many critics who thought that he had dug too deeply into his love trench. In one of his expression sf love he said “ not let anyone bring you so low as to hate him.”

What our leaders have led us into is a quagmire of hatred. They have deliberately polluted Kenyans with hatred and continue to saturate their minds with tribal animosity; the results are clear.

MLK’s marchers were enlightened on non-violence, not masters of violence.

Having scrutinised the path of violence and its yields, and inspired by the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, MLK took a road less travelled and constructed the philosophy of non-violence.

In keeping with his belief in the power of non-violent protest, those who took part in his freedom marches were thoroughly coached in the philosophy of peace that informed MLK’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The marchers even made an official commitment to non-violence.

MLK’s non-violence was not in any way pacifism; he was just using peace as the context in which to make a powerful point.

The coaching was as advanced as equipping the marchers with
the attitude with which to respond when their non-violent spirit encountered violent opposition. These were not only marchers, they were philosophised marchers.

The marchers we’ve seen on Kenyan streets are violent people, many of whom are armed, at the very least with stones. Peace is their enemy. When peace is present, they generate incitement to tamper with it.

At the very best, they use peace not for it’s sake but as a guise, waiting for the right moment to show their true colours, which, going by our flag code, is not white!

To them, an opportunity to go to the streets is an opportunity to “go shopping,” code for a call to thuggery and looting.

He had the church as a fortress

In the current madness, the church has been a target, not a refuge. People who have sought refuge in a church have been the victims of a more cruel death than those in the farms or streets.

What words can we use for people who torch a place of worship?

What name would we give to their sponsors? What words should be used to describe the leaders who affirm their action by playing down the act, or try to pass by it as insignificant? What do we call the leaders who publicly renounce the act but silently laud it?

Somebody help me on this one.

For MLK, the church was a haven since his childhood. His spirituality was nurtured by his service in the Black Church. During his time, acts of burning churches were done by the enemies of freedom, in this case the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).

He never used the poor

It is common knowledge that most of the marchers in Nairobi are mobilised from the slum areas. Their economic vulnerability makes them easy prey for shallow promises.

A carrot is dangled before them, luring them into the streets into something they could under normal circumstances not agree to do. The leaders use them as a display of the massive following they claim.

They also use them as potential statistics of injuries and deaths which they can wave at the international media when they clash with the police.

The hypocrisy of these leaders is exposed when they are dispersed by police.

MLK did not retreat into a five-star hotel or hop into a bulletproof limousine while his followers fled on foot for dear life.

He stuck with them and was ready to die with them because he was not different from them; what his non-violent followers embodied he also embodied, what they represented he also represented.

The marchers were not his tools as is happening on the Kenyan scene. He was in authentic solidarity with them.

MLK did not stand for disintegration. He stood for integration.

It is unfortunate, in fact it is truly teary, that leaders who are quoting MLK are fuelling tribal hatred and animosity.

The best they have been seen to do is to stand by, watch and say nothing, meaning that whatever comments they give on the matter are not rooted in any conviction, but it is a public relations gimmick to conceal their affirmation of and mileage from the same.

In reality, they know it is to their political advantage that tribal hatred brews and that our beloved nation continues to be drunk with the blood of innocent people.

Therefore, claiming to find a peer in MLK while being a disintegration machine on the other is a pure contradiction.

Fought for integration

Togetherness was his sincere gospel. He was boldly clear that he dreamt of a time when white people and black people would coexist respectfully, equally and productively.

But truth be told, the possibility of a united Kenya is a nightmare to some of these leaders whose creativity thrives in divisive politics.

The writer is a Nairobi theologian and religious minister.

Kibera women in campaign to restore peace

Publication Date: 1/20/2008

Some residents of Kibera, the Nairobi slum hit hard by violence since the announcement of the controversial presidential election, have started a campaign to restore peace to the area.

More than 200 women drawn from both sides of the political divide and different tribes plan to march through the slum in attires branded with peace messages.

Led by Ms Jane Anyango, a young mother of four, and 70-year-old Trufosa Aleyo, a grandmother of nine, the group visited the area District Officer (DO) Kepha Maribe yesterday to seek his support for their cause.

Mr Marube promised the women that he will help fit the branded clothes for their representatives and urged them to traverse the entire area drumming up support for peace.

The DO called on those who had camped at the Jamhuri Park grounds to return to their homes by Tuesday, January 22.

“We are officially closing the camp and the last day they should be there is Tuesday. I will give food to the women from various villages in Kibera for distribution because they know their neighbours well,” said Mr Marube.

Ms Anyango appealed to the wives of leaders on the opposite sides of the current political dispute to plead with them (the politicians) to embrace peace and dialogue.

“We are not calling on President Mwai Kibaki or ODM Leader Raila Odinga alone. We are also calling on the First lady Lucy Kibaki and Mrs Ida Odinga to plead on our behalf. They have children and let me remind them that our children are dear to us as theirs are to them,” said Ms Anyango.

She narrated how a young woman met her death by a bullet on Friday night as she (the victim) went to a nearby shop.

"The poor girl was not even protesting. The police were shooting indiscriminately and they shot her too. That is innocent life lost. This has to stop,” said Ms Onyango.

The number of those who died in Kibera following the Friday protests stood at five. Fifteen people were admitted to Masaba Hospital in Nairobi with bullet wounds.

The hospital authorities told the Sunday Nation that some still had bullets lodged in their bodies as doctors examined the dangers of operation to remove the bullets.

A number of them had fractured legs. It was confirmed that three people died on arrival at the hospital that fateful night from bullet-related injuries.

Mr David Odhiambo narrated how he found himself in the fracas as he headed home.

“I am lucky to be alive. I was just heading home and when I reached Karanja Road, which heads to Old Kibera, I heard gunshots from down the railway line. I started running home.

But I did not go far. Suddenly my leg became numb and I sat down. I knew I had been shot. Just a few metres behind me, another man, who was from town, had just been shot. He died on the spot. I count myself lucky,” he said from his hospital bed.

It was the same story from other victims of the Kibera shootings at the hospital. All of them said they owed it to God to be alive.

Ms Aleyo called on youths to avoid acts of hooliganism, saying she needs peace to sell her vegetables and feed her children and grandchildren.

The DO promised to give them over 200 iron sheets he had received from well-wishers to assist them rebuild their business sheds.

The women decried police whom they accused of breaking into their houses in the pretext of looking for trouble makers and tear gassing their shanties despite the fact that they had little children inside.

“They know that the youths are now not in the houses. Why are they throwing tear gas canisters into the houses where we have our toddlers?” Ms Aleyo asked.

The women and Mr Marube exuded confidence that calm and peace will return to Kibera soon.

ODM calls fresh round of protests

Publication Date: 1/20/2008

The Orange Democratic Party has retreated from a promise made only hours before and announced a new round of mass action to protest against the disputed presidential election results.

This time the protests would also include economic sabotage of companies whose directors are perceived to be close allies of President Kibaki.

The announcement came on a day when youths armed with spears, bows, arrows and machetes went on the rampage in areas surrounding Eldoret town and burnt houses in broad daylight.

Kipkelion District Commissioner Abdi Halake said that six people were killed and 50 houses burnt in the area.

A Catholic priest in the district had sent out a distress call to the police after the monastery he runs was surrounded by armed youths.

“As I speak to you, I can see about 1,500 people armed with bows, arrows and spears,” Fr Dominic Vincent Nkoyoyo told the Sunday Nation.

The priest said that the monastery had received threats of attack by people who said they were unhappy about the 600 displaced people camped there.

From State House Nairobi, President Kibaki last night said that no form of violence against innocent Kenyans will be tolerated. The Head of State stressed that security of the country was paramount and the government will continue beefing up security in areas facing unrest to ensure the lives of wananchi and their property are protected.

He was meeting a European Union delegation, which had earlier held talks with ODM leader Raila Odinga.

While supporting the Kofi Annan-led initiative of eminent persons, European Union Commissioner Louis Michel said the solution to Kenya’s political problem must come from Kenyans themselves, a statement from PPS said.

Mr Michel noted that although the European parliament passed a resolution that was not favourable to the government, the European Union would not take any precipitating action against Kenya but would wait for the outcome of dialogue.

President Kibaki expressed his willingness to dialogue in addressing the current political situation.

The violence that has rocked the country started soon after the announcement of the results of the December 27 presidential election, which ODM says were rigged in favour of Mr Kibaki.

Fr Nkoyoyo told the Sunday Nation that four more violence victims were brought in for treatment. All appeared to have been attacked with arrows.

ODM’s fresh call for mass action also came three days ahead of the expected arrival of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, who has been detailed by the African Union to mediate between President Kibaki and Mr Odinga.

In Nairobi, the opposition party’s officials said they would hold inter-denominational funeral services tomorrow for their supporters who died during the post-election violence in Kisumu.

A follow-up one would be held in Nairobi on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Friday would be the national day of prayers to commemorate all the “martyrs who have given their lives in the peaceful struggle for democracy, the rule of law and the rejection of the December 27 presidential election results.” And Thursday would be the day of countrywide peace rallies.

Police say that 510 people have died in the violence across the country, which has also left more than 250,000 displaced and property worth billions looted, torched or destroyed.

Announcing plans to sabotage selected companies, ODM chairman Henry Kosgey said: “We would like to formally inaugurate our campaign for economic boycott directed at hardline members of the clique around Mr Kibaki. These individuals are using the wealth they have created from our open democratic system to undermine the rule of law and democracy in Kenya.”

Yesterday’s statement came a day after Mr Odinga denied that his party planned any economic sabotage to force President Kibaki to the negotiation table under the auspices of international mediators.

Mr Odinga had spoken after a meeting with businessmen from the Mount Kenya region and top brass of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions.

“Equity Bank is everywhere helping the poor in the process of economic empowerment,” Mr Odinga had been quoted as saying.

“It is foolhardy to tie it to an individual when we know shareholders include international bodies and countries like the United States.”

On Friday, the business community separately met President Kibaki and Mr Odinga and asked them to resolve the political crisis.

During the media conference at Pentagon House in Nairobi, Mr Kosgey said some bus firms had been identified for sabotage because they were implicated in the controversial transporting of administration policemen to Western Kenya on the eve of the polls.

At the same time, the party condemned what it called inflammatory advertisements the government had been placing in the media.

Mr Kosgey accused the government of taking a hard position on the mediation efforts. He said they were committed to internationally mediated negotiations and were looking forward to the arrival of Mr Annan, former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and Graca Machel, the wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela.

Said Mr Kosgey: “We have placed absolutely no preconditions to these talks.”

In a separate statement, Mr Kibaki’s PNU said that a truth and reconciliation approach to the current impasse would resolve the crisis.

“The whole country is in the mood of truth, justice and reconciliation. Truth will only be based on the losers accepting defeat and the winners being magnanimous in victory, like Francis Kaparo and Kenneth Marende have demonstrated to this country.

“We urge Raila Odinga to follow suit and recognise that Kenya can only have one president, and Mwai Kibaki is the one President who has won the mandate of Kenyans,” the PNU statement, signed by the party’s director of programmes, Mr Moses Kuria, and National Board member Dr Josephine Ojiambo, said. They said justice had a custodian — the Judiciary — and that any aggrieved Kenyan should seek justice there.

Uganda maintains it has not deployed troops in Kenya

Story by HUSSEIN BOGERE in Kampala
Publication Date: 1/20/2008

Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kuteesa has said he will resign his job if accusations that Uganda has sent soldiers to politically troubled Kenya are proved true.

Addressing journalists in Kampala yesterday, Mr Kuteesa dismissed claims that Uganda has soldiers across the border.

“I will resign my job if it is discovered that Uganda sent troops to Kenya,” Mr Kuteesa said in response to a question by a journalist.

Talk has been rife within the Opposition circles in Uganda and in Kenya, and in sections of the Kenyan press, that Uganda has troops in Kisumu helping shore up President Kibaki’s hold on power.

On Monday last week, Kenyan opposition Members of Parliament from Western and Nyanza provinces expressed concern over what they said was the presence of Ugandan troops in their areas.

“These troops have been seen landing by boat along the shores of Lake Victoria at various points from Sori to Port Victoria. They have made crossings at Malaba and Busia border posts or simply violated the international boundaries by constantly crossing into Kenya,” a statement from the MPs read.

The MPs further alleged that in Nyatike, Rangwe, Mbita, Busia, Bungoma, Kakamega, Siaya, Bondo, and Kisumu districts, the Ugandan troops entered villages and markets and harassed people. The troops have caused deaths in Nyatike, Mbita, Gem, Bondo and Ugenya, the MPs claimed

Mr Kuteesa said he had called reporters to brief them on the political situation in Kenya, which he said not only affects Kenyans but also “their brothers and sisters in Uganda, and indeed, the region”.

Said Mr Kuteesa: “The government and people of Uganda wish to assure our brothers and sisters in Kenya that there is no truth whatsoever in the allegations that Uganda interfered in the electoral process in Kenya or that it deployed or intends to deploy troops in Kenya or even engage in activities that would endanger the lives of our brothers and sisters in Kenya.”

It is not the first time that Uganda is denying an alleged presence of its troops on foreign soil. In 1998, the government flatly denied that its troops had rolled tanks into DR Congo territory only to turn around later and admit that the invasion was in the interest of protecting Uganda from anti-Kampala rebels operating from across the border.

The minister blamed “mischievous elements within Uganda and Kenya” for the relentless allegations of Ugandan troop deployment in Kenya, ostensibly to help prop up President Kibaki whose re-election has yet bo be recognised around the world.

“People are talking recklessly,” Mr Kuteesa said. “There is absolutely no truth. There are no troops and there will be no troops. This is a Kenya problem which must be resolved by Kenyans. This is a political problem, not a military problem.”

He said Uganda will not give solutions to Kenya for its own problems, adding that Kampala has no magic wand to wave. He said, however, that there are a number of solutions, one of which is power-sharing.

Mr Kuteesa said President Museveni, who has been in regular contact with President Kibaki and Mr Raila Odinga, the leader of the Orange Democratic Movement Party (ODM), will come out with a position in the near future.

Sunday Monitor has separately learnt that President Museveni, in his capacity as chairman of the East African Community, will likely announce his proposed “way forward” on Wednesday in Nairobi.

It should be noted that President Museveni thus far is the only known leader to have sent a congratulatory message to President Kibaki.

Mr Kuteesa said, however, that Uganda would not find itself in an awkward position if there were a change of leadership in Kenya.

He said that while President Museveni congratulated President Kibaki upon his swearing-in for his second five-year term, he also pointed out to him that he was hearing that there had been problems with the electoral process.

“He asked him whether he needed assistance,” Mr Kuteesa said, although he did not reveal whether President Kibaki had called for assistance.

Mr Kuteesa appealed to the government and people of Kenya to stop attacks on Ugandans and Ugandan goods transiting through Kenya.

On Friday, protestors in Nairobi’s Kibera slum vandalised the railway line, derailing a goods train destined to Uganda.

“The railway line has been restored,” he said.

Uganda, Mr Kuteesa said, will continue to stand by Kenya in the quest for a peaceful and lasting solution.

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