Thursday, January 17, 2008

Kenya News Bulletin: Opposition Protests Continue; Emotions Run High in Kisumu; US Firm Refuses to Release Poll Data

'Seven dead' in Kenyan protests

The town of Kisumu saw at least four people killed on Wednesday

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga says police in Nairobi have shot dead seven people on the second day of fresh protests against disputed polls.

BBC correspondents reported Kenyan riot police firing into the air to disperse protesters in several cities.

They said at least two people had been shot in Nairobi's Kibera slum and there were clashes in Kisumu in the west as police tried to clear barricades.

The European Parliament has asked the EU to cut cash to Kenya's government.

On the first day of the protests on Wednesday, at least four people were killed.

The police have banned all public demonstrations.

Kenyan authorities say more than 600 people have died in violence since President Mwai Kibaki was declared the victor in elections held in December.

But Mr Odinga told reporters on Thursday that more than 1,000 people had died.

He has demanded a recount of the vote but also said he would stop disputing the result if it showed Mr Kibaki won.

Mr Odinga also told the BBC's Hardtalk programme that he would be prepared to take part in a "transitional coalition government" charged with organising new elections within six months.

The Commonwealth is the latest body to criticise the results.

The final report of its observer team said the polls "did not meet international standards".

'Defying instructions'

A BBC correspondent says two people are known to have been shot in Nairobi's Kibera slum while Mr Odinga and residents of the city's Mathare slum said seven people had been shot dead there.

The government has not yet commented on casualty figures but spokesman Alfred Mutua repeated the president's call for the opposition to take its protest to the courts.

However, opposition spokesman Salim Lone told Associated Press news agency: "Our rallies will continue until the government sits down with us and seeks a solution... calling off rallies would be admitting defeat."

On Thursday youths burned tyres and barricades, and police fired into the air in an attempt to disperse the groups.

In the western opposition stronghold of Kisumu, where four people were killed on Wednesday, residents of the Kondele slum set up barricades on a main road, which officers have been trying to clear.

TV footage of Wednesday's rally there showed a protester lying on the ground being kicked by a policeman. The man was found dead shortly afterwards with bullet wounds.

Kisumu's police chief Grace Kahindi told the BBC that local officers had ignored orders only to use tear gas and batons in putting down Wednesday's protests, and that they would now be more closely supervised.

The BBC's Karen Allen in Kisumu says there are unconfirmed reports that two more people were killed on Thursday morning.

UN aid appeal

The European Parliament on Thursday unanimously backed a resolution calling for the EU to suspend aid to the Kenyan government.

The EU is due to give some 400m euros (£298m) to Kenya over the next five years.

MEPs have no direct say over the aid budget, but the vote sends a strong signal to EU governments about the disquiet provoked by the elections and their aftermath, says the BBC's Alix Kroeger in Strasbourg.

MEP Glenys Kinnock told the BBC News website that EU money should be diverted away from the government and used in aid projects instead.

Mr Odinga said the international community should impose sanctions.

"Sanctions is one way of putting pressure on Mr Kibaki to know that it is not going to be business as usual with the rest of the world, unless and until he agrees to a peaceful resolution to this artificially instigated crisis," he said.

Meanwhile, the UN has launched a $34m (£17.3m) humanitarian appeal for Kenya, to help those affected by the violence following the disputed election.

A quarter of a million people have left their homes and 6,000 have fled to neighbouring Uganda.

Kenya is East Africa's most developed economy and its bread basket has traditionally been the Rift Valley, where maize is grown but which also suffers ethnic violence.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/01/17 14:13:28 GMT

Seven dead on second day of Kenya clashes: opposition chief

NAIROBI (AFP)--Seven demonstrators were killed in Nairobi slums on Thursday in the second day of protests against the re-election of President Mwai Kibaki, opposition leader Raila Odinga said.

Odinga said the dead included a driver for a Kenyan opposition member of parliament who was shot by police as he attempted to leave his house in the Kasarani district which includes the sprawling Mathare slum, an opposition stronghold.

Kenyan police confirmed that two people had been shot dead in Mathare and witnesses said police fired tear gas and live shots into the air to disperse hundreds of protesters in Nairobi's slums, and in the western cities of Kisumu and Eldoret.

More than 700 people have been killed in nationwide unrest since the December 27 election and the Commonwealth stepped up international pressure on Kibaki, with the group's chief Don McKinnon saying that procedures after the vote "did not meet international standards."

Odinga, who charges that Kibaki rigged the count, called three days of demonstrations after attempts to get the two to enter talks to find a political solution failed to make headway.

Two people were killed on the first day of the protests Wednesday.

Police cracked down on protesters with guns and sticks, in a grim echo of a week of severe clashes and tribal killings sparked by the presidential poll. On top of the dead, more than a quarter of a million people have been displaced.

The opposition said it would ignore a nationwide police ban on rallies.

"The demonstrations are going on and we are neither going to be cowed or stop at anything until all our aims are achieved," opposition Orange Democratic Movement secretary general Anyang Nyongo told AFP.

Police later fired tear gas in front of a Nairobi hotel, near a group of opposition officials.

"We are determined to get to Uhuru Park (for the main protest) no matter what it takes. We are even ready to die," Najib Balala, a top ODM official, told AFP.

Paramilitary police clashed with hundreds of protesters, armed with rocks and panga machetes, in the capital's slums, and western cities.

Police shot and wounded two youths in the capital's Kibera slum, witnesses said.

"They had blocked the road and then police started firing at them. Two young men were hit by bullets -- one was hit in the arm and another in the head," said witness Mark Okelo. Police confirmed the shooting.

In the opposition strongholds of Kisumu and Eldoret, riot police fired teargas on youths who had erected roadblocks on major roads, AFP correspondents said.

Protesters in Kisumu vowed to revenge the killings of two demonstrators in clashes with police the previous day, when hundreds of Odinga supporters first tried to march on city centres.

A spokesman for the ODM said in a statement Thursday that they would include reports of police violence, including images of police beating protesters captured on local television, in a complaint to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

"This killing and other acts of violence inflicted on peaceful protestors will be part of the case we are filing," said Salim Lone in a statement.

Police maintained that the ban on rallies still held.

"Police will do everything to ensure that the law is respected," spokesman Eric Kiraithe told AFP, a day after police cleared the streets of Nairobi with tear gas and batons.

Odinga warned Wednesday that a first victory for his movement in parliament -- where their candidate won the position of speaker this week -- had been the start of a fresh challenge to Kibaki's rule.

"The main intent of the opposition is to destroy the way of life of ordinary Kenyans," government spokesman Alfred Mutua charged Thursday.

Mediation efforts between the two sides suffered a fresh blow Tuesday when former UN chief Kofi Annan postponed a scheduled mission to Kenya due to "severe flu".

"We are headed to tough times ahead both in parliament and outside as both sides harden their positions," political analyst Evans Manduku warned Thursday.

Some 260,000 people have had to flee their homes since the violence erupted, prompting a humanitarian crisis in a country accustomed to sheltering refugees from neighbouring states.

'Emotions running high in Kisumu'

The BBC's Karen Allen is in the western opposition stronghold of Kisumu, where four people were killed on Wednesday.

Speaking to the BBC's Newshour programme, she said there were unconfirmed reports that two more people had been killed on Thursday morning:

I'm in the compound of a family who have just buried their 13-year-old boy who was caught up in yesterday's clashes - his name is Saleem Ahmed.

We've just moved to the place where he was buried on the family plot. There are very high emotions as you can imagine among family members, but also among other people.

A little earlier - as the funeral got under way and when we had moved away from the mortuary at a gentle pace towards the family home - there was the arrival of a high-profile politician, Anyang Nyongo. He's the secretary general of the ODM - Raila Odinga's party.

What should have started off as a very dignified, slow move back to the family home turned effectively into a political rally.

Things have calmed down now, the family have had the chance to say their farewells, and to bury Saleem Hamed, but as the funeral was under way we heard gunshots in the surrounding area.

I'm in the neighbourhood where we saw clashes yesterday, between police and protesters. We have unconfirmed reports that at least two people have died in protests this morning. We understand one of the dead is a child, possibly as young as five years old.

It's very hard to get accurate information here, but tensions are still running high.

The gunshots suggest that there are still running battles between police and protesters.

When we spoke to protesters last night and early this morning, they said they were going to maintain their right to protest, even though demonstrations have been banned by police.

All around me there are tyres that have been set alight there are telegraph poles which have been pulled to the ground and dragged across the road to form barricades - a sign of protest say the people who live here."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/01/17 14:04:24 GMT

US body won’t release exit poll results

Story by KEVIN J. KELLEY in New York
Reprinted From the Kenya Daily Nation
Publication Date: 1/17/2008

A US organisation that monitored Kenya’s December 27 elections has said it will not release results of the exit polls they conducted during the voting.

The head of the Washington-based International Republican Institute (IRI) that monitored the General election said on Tuesday that his non-governmental organisation will not be releasing the poll results of voters’ candidate preferences because the data is incomplete.

IRI president Lorne Craner further explained that publishing exit-poll figures that are “incomplete and very likely inaccurate would have been irresponsible and dangerous given the situation in Kenya.”

Prof Joel Barkan, a member of the IRI monitoring team, said at a forum last week in Washington that the institute’s exit poll showed opposition candidate Raila Odinga with a 49-41 percent lead over President Mwai Kibaki.

Those figures were apparently based, however, on survey data from only some parts of the country. Polling experts caution that a more representative sampling could show results significantly different from those cited by Prof Barkan. But they also say that well designed and properly conducted exit polls can produce accurate indicators of voters’ election-day preferences.

Speaking at the same Washington forum via a video link from Nairobi, Kenya National Human Rights Commission (KNHRC) chairman Maina Kiai urged that pressure be put on IRI for release of the exit poll.

But an IRI spokeswoman refused to say on Wednesday whether the institute would ever publish the exit-poll figures. She also would not indicate how many reports from poll-takers around the country still have not been forwarded to IRI officials. And the institute further declines to comment on the numbers mentioned by Prof Barkan.

The IRI exit poll was financed by the US Agency for International Development and conducted in conjunction with the Nairobi-based polling firm, Strategic Public Relations and Research.

In a January 2 comment on the conduct of the elections, the IRI monitoring team in Kenya cited “irregularities” in the vote tabulation process and accused the Government and the Electoral Commission of Kenya of having “failed” in their responsibilities to the Kenyan people.

The IRI delegation did not indicate who it believed had won the December 27 election.

A Kenyan organisation also carried out an election-day exit poll that it is likewise declining to release due to what it says are incomplete returns from the field.

The Institute for Education in Democracy says on its website that it has received exit-poll data from 137 of the country’s 210 constituencies.

Early results of the Kenyan institute’s exit poll showed President Kibaki leading Mr Odinga by a margin of 51.3 percent to 39.6 percent, according to a December 27 Reuters report. But those results were based on figures from only 273 of the country’s 27,000 polling stations.

A posting on the institute’s website says “the presidential exit polls will be made available once data analysis is completed. A comparative analysis of the exit polls with the actual election results will also be made available.”

1 comment:

Pan-African News Wire said...

Musicians in Kenya lead push for alternative protests

Peter Martell | Nairobi, Kenya
16 January 2008 11:59

A catchy "song for peace" crackling over Kenyan radio is breaking pace with the litany of doom and gloom and bloody fallout from last month's elections that dominates the air waves these days.

WaKenya Pamoja (Kenya Together) carries a different message, and maybe a reason not to give up on a vote meant to uphold this nation as a beacon of democracy in a troubled region.

"It's a cry to Kenya, to let the people get back together," says gospel music producer Robert Kamanzi, who wrote both the music and lyrics.

In the same vein as Bob Geldof's charity supergroup Band Aid, three dozen musicians from this East African state recorded the song only days after rioting broke out following the presidential poll on December 27.

It mixes hip-hop, reggae and other styles, in a musical metaphor for the unity it aims to inspire to help heal raw ethnic divisions revealed by the recent violence.

"It questions why the great people of Kenya are fighting each other; it asks why a people once together are shedding the blood of women, children and the elderly," Kamanzi says, translating some of the lyrics, which are sung in Swahili.

"The reaction has been amazing and one DJ in a radio station said he played it over 20 times with tears in his eyes," he adds.

The song is part of a wider movement of alternative opposition that has sprung up in response to a strict ban on street protests.

The United States-based rights group Human Rights Watch accused police of using "excessive, lethal force against public rallies" when the opposition -- led by Raila Odinga, who claims he was robbed of victory in the presidential poll that reinstated Mwai Kibaki -- tried to stage demonstrations last week.

Plans for more rallies this week have sparked fears of further violence.

Already, about 700 people have died in the post-election clashes, mainly in western Kenya and Nairobi's slums, and at least a quarter of a million people been displaced -- while rival politicians remain at loggerheads.

New protests

Even more than the disputed election itself, many Kenyans are angrier about the brutal street violence triggered by the political arguments, and are now seeking new ways to protest.

Among them, Binyavanga Wainaina, a leading Kenyan writer and Mail & Guardian columnist, is working to publicise a "non-political picture" of the situation through articles posted on websites, as well as in both domestic and international media. He is one of more than 30 members of the Concerned Writers for Peace organisation.

"We are trying to clarify and to humanise the situation," Wainaina says. "We don't know where things are going to go, but what we can do is document what is happening."

Several websites have also sprung up, some offering opinion, others logging and documenting violence, others mobilising fund-raising and support for the thousands forced from their homes.

"We cannot gather together in direct action, given the behaviour of the police. So we have had to come up with ingenious ways to mobilise people instead," says Shailja Patel, a poet and founding member of an umbrella group of human rights and legal organisations called Kenyans for Peace, Truth, Justice.

Patel says her planned protest of shaving her hair in a Nairobi park -- in a "symbol of collective mourning" -- was barred by police. Now she plans to post a video of her cutting her hair online.

With the worst-hit areas of recent clashes lying in Kenya's poor and sprawling slums, such efforts may seem mere symbolic gestures of little consequence. Writer Wainaina, however, defends the initiatives.

"I don't think either Kibaki or Raila have the answer," he says. "But it is the right of artists to hold the soul of the nation together, to see the truth from all sides and document the things that others might dare not to say. They write texts that dream of the possibilities of the future."

Music producer Kamanzi, who has witnessed conflict both in his birthplace of Burundi, then again in Rwanda, expresses hope that the efforts could do some good.

"I have seen and know war, but there wasn't the opportunity to do something like this then," he says. "But the Kenyan people want peace, and this helps to bring those voices together." -- AFP