Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Kenya News Bulletin: Graca Machel, Museveni Arrive For Talks in Nairobi; IDPs Told to Leave Park; ODM Files Criminal Complaint

Museveni, Graca arrive for talks

Kenya Daily Nation
Publication Date: 1/22/2008

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and Mozambique’s Graca Machel have arrived in Nairobi as part of international mediation efforts to resolve political disputes over the Kenyan presidential election.

President Kibaki receives Ugandan President Museveni at JKIA earlier today.

Former UN chief Kofi Annan is due in Nairobi later this evening to lead the talks. The other mediator is retired Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa who has been in Nairobi.

President Museveni, who doubles as the chairman of the East African Community and of the Commonwealth, was received at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport by President Kibaki.

The mediation talks have been embraced by the main protagonists - President Kibaki and the Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga.

Several international and local election observers have declared that the tallying of the December 27 presidential poll results were flawed. Mr Odinga believes that the flaws included manipulation of results to favour President Kibaki.

President Kibaki has already named 10 Cabinet ministers led by Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka as his negotiation team, but ODM is yet to name its side.

The Ugandan leader’s trip coincided with the release of a paid up half page advertisement in local dailies by his Foreign Affairs ministry on the current situation in Kenya, where they denied reports that he had sent troops to assist President Kibaki deal with the opposition demonstrators.

In the statement, the ministry said: "It is in the interest of Uganda that a peaceful solution is found to the situation in Kenya. Uganda cannot therefore engage in any activity that would go against the spirit, as has been stated in some dailies in Kenya."

The statement further said President Museveni had been in close telephone contacts with President Kibaki and the ODM leader since the outbreak of violence on December 30 when the disputed results were announced.

The Ugandan leader was the first to arrive for the talks, at 1.30pm and was followed at 3pm by Ms Machel while Mr Annan is expected at 8pm.

Kenya opposition files international court complaint against the government as mediators arrive

By Tom Maliti
8:16 a.m. January 22, 2008

NAIROBI, Kenya – The former U.N. chief and other mediators trying to bring Kenya's warring politicians together found the opposition accusing the government of “crimes against humanity” Tuesday in a complaint it planned to file at the Hague.

The opposition and President Mwai Kibaki's administration have traded accusations in the violence stemming from the Dec. 27 election, with both sides accusing the other of “genocide.” The death toll has reached 685, the government said Tuesday.

The opposition comments Tuesday were the latest sign the two sides are far from a compromise, and came just hours before former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was due in Kenya to mediate.

Yoweri Museveni, president of neighboring Uganda, met with Kibaki Tuesday on another mediation mission.

Anyang Nyongo, secretary-general of opposition leader Raila Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement, said the party would file a complaint against the government and police with the International Criminal Court about “the abuse of rights by the police in this country.” The case would name Kibaki, Cabinet ministers and the police commissioner, he said.

“The complaint states that crimes against humanity and state-sponsored terrorism are being committed by individuals as part of a systematic plan to target selected civilian populations in pursuit of political goals,” Nyongo said.

It was not clear the complaint would result in an international investigation. The Hague-based court has looked into information sent to it by scores of groups citing possible abuses in places ranging from Iraq to Ivory Coast, but has not yet opened a formal investigation based on such tips. It also investigates complaints sent to it by the U.N. Security Council or countries that signed the treaty creating the court in 2002.

So far the court has launched formal cases in just four countries: Sudan, Congo, Uganda and Central African Republic.

In a statement Tuesday from the Hague on the Kenyan opposition plans, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor noted Kenya was a party to the international statute establishing the court, and that it “considers carefully all information relating to alleged crimes within its jurisdiction committed on the territory of States Parties or by nationals of States Parties, regardless of the individuals or group alleged to have committed the crime.”

The Dec. 27 Kenyan election returned Kibaki to power for a second five-year term, with official results putting Odinga second in the closest presidential race in Kenya's history. Odinga accused Kibaki of stealing the vote, and protests exploded into riots and ethnic fighting.

Foreign and local election observers have said the vote count was deeply flawed. Although the electoral chief pronounced Kibaki the victor, he later said he had been pressured to do so and did not know who won.

U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger urged a political settlement.

“The tragedy Kenya is now suffering, and the extremely bitter polarization of Kenyan society, demands that all leaders and institutions speak in a responsible, respectful and dignified tone,” Ranneberger said in a statement Tuesday.

The election has tapped into resentments that resurface regularly at election time in Kenya. But never before has the anger been so prolonged or taken so many lives.

On Tuesday, police fired tear gas Tuesday to disperse dozens of Kibaki supporters.

“Kibaki is our president!” the supporters shouted in downtown Nairobi before riot police broke up the gathering.

As Kibaki's power becomes more entrenched each day, the opposition's best hope may rest in working out a power-sharing agreement that could make Odinga prime minister or vice president.

Odinga has called for another “peaceful protest” on Thursday, saying, “let them bring their guns and we will face them.”

The protest will take place in defiance of a ban and despite the deaths of at least 24 people in three days of protests last week – most blamed on police.

Odinga also has urged supporters to boycott companies owned by Kibaki allies, including Brookside Diaries and bus companies Citi Hoppa and Kenya Bus. On Monday, the government condemned the economic boycott as sabotage.

New Kenya deaths ahead of Annan mediation

NAIROBI (AFP) - - Kenyan police fired tear gas on Tuesday to disperse supporters of President Mwai Kibaki and six more deaths were reported in other clashes ahead of a mission by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan to end the political strife.

The opposition and government also threatened each other with international court action over the violence that erupted after Kibaki's December 27 reelection and which has left at least 700 dead.

Police, who have banned all demonstrations, fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of demonstrators marching in support of Kibaki in the capital, an AFP correspondent said.

At least 63 of the fatalities in the unrest have been reported since opposition leader Raila Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party started nationwide protests last Wednesday.

Dozens of opposition supporters died in a string of banned nationwide protests, many of then shot dead by police.

The violence has degenerated into tribal revenge killings, targeting mainly members of Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe.

The six latest victims, including a father and his two sons, were killed late Monday in the volatile Molo district of the Rift Valley, where rival tribes have been clashing in recent weeks.

Tuesday's protest came a few hours ahead of the arrival of Annan for the latest international bid to make Kibaki and Odinga hold talks.

But the rhetoric between the two sides worsened with the ODM saying it has filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

"The ODM has sent a formal complaint to the International Criminal Court in The Hague notifying the panel about the charges that authorities committed crimes against humanity during the crackdown on demonstrations," ODM spokesman Salim Lone told AFP.

The government responded by accusing some opposition leaders of being involved in planning "mass genocide" and promising to file its own complaint with the ICC.

"The government is aware that some leaders of ODM planned and executed a mass genocide that we saw in the Rift Valley of this country," government spokesman Alfred Mutua told AFP.

"They are now running to The Hague because they know that we have overwhelming evidence against them for ethnic cleansing. They should know that very soon, they, as individuals not as a party, will be languishing in jail."

Since international mediators started their campaign three weeks ago, little has been achieved to find a solution to the country's worst crisis since a failed 1982 coup.

Odinga has defiantly pressed his challenge to Kibaki and vowed more street protests this week.

Meanwhile Kibaki has dug in, naming a cabinet packed with his close allies and vowing to crack down on anyone attempting to defy a rally ban.

The African Union's Peace and Security Council issued a statement Tuesday in which it condemned "gross violations of human rights" in Kenya and called for an investigation, which was also supported by the United Nations.

"The killings have to be investigated expeditiously and impartially, and anyone found responsible for human rights abuses must be brought to justice," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said in a statement.

Kenya's Nobel peace laureate Wangari Maathai, who campaigned alongside Kibaki and was once a minister ion his cabinet, joined the growing chorus of criticism aimed at the government's handling of the crisis.

"The government is contributing to the tribal clashes by its failure to protect its citizens and their property," she said at a press conference.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni -- one of the first heads of state to congratulate Kibaki on his re-election -- was also expected in Nairobi on Tuesday to support dialogue efforts.

The government has rejected the term "mediation", insisting there is no crisis in the country, but has welcomed African leaders as "facilitators of dialogue".

Families at park told to go home

Kenya Daily Nation
Publication Date: 1/22/2008

Families displaced by the post-election violence have been asked to return to their homes.

Parklands Sports Club chairman Dominic Motindi (second left) and Ms Muthoni Muthiga of The 2007 Charity Golf Tournament present a donation for displaced persons to Mr Itotia Kihura and Ms Sudesh Walia of the Rotary Club. Photo/MICHAEL MUTE
This follows yesterday’s decision to shut the major camp in Nairobi at Jamhuri Park.

According to the Government, an estimated 1,500 people, mainly from Kibera, have been camping there.

Government officials also told the Nation that other camps in the country would gradually be closed to enable the more than 250,000 internally displaced persons return to their homes.

Aid agencies

In Nairobi, the decision to close the Jamhuri Park camp was reached after a meeting between the Government and aid agencies.

Those present at the meeting included representatives from Agricultural Society of Kenya, Kenya Red Cross Society, Medical Assistance Programme, St John Ambulance and AAR.

The UN children’s agency, Unicef, had expressed concern over the Government’s plan to close all camps and send the displaced back to their homes as a gross violation of humanitarian principles.

Ms Sarah Cameron, the agency’s communications officer, took issue with the directive arguing that some areas were still insecure. She had wanted the displaced to stay on for 15 more days.

A meeting with Ministry of Special Programmes permanent secretary Rachael Arunga to discuss the issue did not take place. Ministry officials indicated that they were not aware of it.

Voluntarily vacate

The Government said it was becoming too expensive to maintain the families at the camps, yet calm had been restored in most parts of the city.

Nairobi West district commissioner Evans Owankwa, who chaired the meeting at Jamhuri Park, said the displaced families had been given three days to voluntarily vacate the facility.

The administrator said they would be given food and other essential supplies.

“We are also looking at the possibility of resettling those who will not have managed to move into smaller camps from where they will be taken care of,” said Mr Owankwa.

Earlier, most families at the camp said they would not return to their homes since protesters demonstrating against the presidential results of last December’s presidential election had destroyed most of the homes.

But others said they were ready to go back as long as their security was guaranteed.

Mr Kevin Njoroge and his brother Mustafa said they lost all their property when their house was burnt a few days after the results were announced.

No money

“We have heard that the Government plans to remove us from this place. Where are we supposed to go if we don’t even have any money on us?” he asked.

His sentiments were echoed by Mr David Ombuya, who was concerned by the speed with which the Government was repatriating them to their homes, yet their security concerns had not been fully addressed.

Unicef says about 200 people are ready to go back to their homes while others had indicated that they would also go.


Pan-African News Wire said...

Kenyan explosion fueled by poverty, flawed election

WW commentary
By G. Dunkel
Published Jan 10, 2008 10:49 PM

After the Electoral Commission of Kenya certified Mwai Kibaki on Dec. 31 as victor over Rail Odinga in the Dec. 27 presidential election, giving Kibaki 4.6 million votes to 4.4 million votes for Odinga, the opposition supporters, including many of the poorest Kenyans, rose up in protests that were in turn repressed with police bullets.

According to accounts in the Kenyan and Ugandan press, as well as in the imperialist-controlled media, by Jan. 6 at least 1,000 people all over Kenya from the Coast to the Rift Valley had died in the battles. Some 250,000 Kenyans have been forced to leave their homes.

Kenya is among the 20 poorest countries in the world, with a per capita income of $360 and a high degree of income inequality. Many of Odinga’s supporters were from the very poor, and not all the fighting has taken place along ethnic lines. Nevertheless, much of the big-business media in the United States try to portray this outburst in Kenya solely as the result of ethnic tension and ethnic disappointment over what is seen as a manipulated election result.

But the corporate media omit the historical background and the role the imperialist world plays in the internal conflicts in the former colonies. They hide the responsibility of the colonial policy devised by the British and reinforced by Washington to divide and conquer, pitting peoples against peoples, nationalities against nationalities, and setting up countries, not only in Africa but also in Asia and the Middle East, for internal conflict in order to strengthen the hand of imperialism.

As they were being driven out of their colonial holdings in South Asia, the British divided the subcontinent into India and Pakistan. They split Kuwait from Iraq to hold onto its oil. They drew arbitrary borders in Afghanistan and Sudan. They made these moves to sow the seeds of future conflict that they could use to promote their own interests.

In Kenya, the British consciously followed a policy of divide-and-rule, favoring some of the 40 ethnic groups in the country over the others. Kibaki is from the Kikuyu ethnic group, which contains about 22 percent of the Kenyan population. The British, the former colonial power in Kenya, focused their exploitation and oppression and land grabbing on this ethnic group, which led to the Mau Mau rebellion from 1952 to 1959. Over 10,000 people were killed during this period and the British forced nearly 300,000 into resettlement camps.

Odinga belongs to the Luo people, which is about 13 percent of the Kenyans. His father, Oginga Odinga, was one of the Luo leaders of the struggle against British imperialism and was vice-president in the first government after independence, serving with President Jomo Kenyatta. Kenyatta, who was a Kikuyu and a leader of the Mau Mau, spent most of the rebellion in prison.

Raila Odinga, educated in the socialist German Democratic Republic but now a wealthy business owner, was himself part of the Kibaki government from 2002 to 2005.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Dr. Jendayi Frazer arrived in Nairobi Jan. 4.

She has had a series of meetings with President Mwai Kibaki, who Washington has treated as an ally up to now, and separately with Raila Odinga. As of Jan. 7 Dr. Frazer was still in Nairobi, calling the elections flawed, criticizing both the regime and the opposition, and thus not publicly taking sides.

Odinga’s party has called off nationwide demonstrations called for Jan. 8, citing the “threats of violence.” But no agreement on power sharing or new elections has been announced. It appears that the African Union will also be sending President John Kufuor as a mediator.

Washington is trying to recolonize East Africa under the guise of the so-call “war against terror.” Since February 1980 it has had an agreement with Kenya for the use of local military facilities, such as the port of Mombasa and airfields at Embakasi and Nanyuki.

The airbases were used very recently when U.S. special forces intervened along with Ethiopia to drive out the Islamic Courts government in Somalia. London and now Washington’s use of a client regime in Kenya to support its overall intervention in East Africa can do nothing but harm the people of Kenya, whatever nationality or ethnic group they belong to.

Whatever steps the Kenyans take to resolve the current crisis, it will be important for anti-imperialists worldwide to demand that the U.S. and Britain keep their hands off Kenya and East Africa.

Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Email: ww@workers.org

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