Friday, January 11, 2008

Kenya Update: Has Genocide Been Committed?; Women's Demo Disrupted; World Bank Backed Kibaki, etc.


Has crime of genocide been committed in Kenya?

Story by PETER MWAURA | Fair Play
Kenya Daily Nation
Publication Date: 1/12/2008

One word that has been bandied about freely both locally and in the foreign media following the recent violence is “genocide”. Also much talked about has been “ethnic cleansing”, a term originally invented during the 1990s as a euphemism for genocide in the Balkans.

In a statement broadcast by the BBC on Thursday, Kenya’s internationally renowned writer and social critic Prof. Ngugi wa Thiong’o added fuel to a raging controversy by calling on the United Nations to investigate the “massacres” in the country.

On January 2, the Government accused the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leaders of unleashing genocide, as the death toll from tribal violence over the disputed presidential election passed 300 and today exceeds 500, according to some estimates.

SAID FORMER LANDS MINISTER Kivutha Kibwana: “It is becoming clear that these well-organised acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing were well planned, financed and rehearsed by ODM leaders prior to the general elections.”

ODM made similar charges against the Government. ODM leader Raila Odinga accused President Mwai Kibaki of “genocide on a grand scale”. He said the government had used the police and the notorious Mungiki cult militants in revenge killings.

And the foreign media blithely talked about “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” as if Kenya had become the new Rwanda. CNN, for example, published very disturbing pictures of dead bodies, including infants, piled up on shelves in the City Council of Nairobi morgue.

And then there was the horrific church massacre just outside Eldoret town on New Year’s day, where about 30 people, mainly women and children and from a particular ethnic group, were roasted alive after a mob locked the church where they had taken sanctuary, doused it with petrol and torched it.

It was that gruesome incident that captured the imagination of the outside world. It revived vividly memories of the slaughter in churches of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

CNN and several other foreign news organisations called the violence “ethnic cleansing” against members of the Kikuyu community. The Kenyan media minced their words.

Victims of the violence, however, saw parallels with Rwanda. “It is called ethnic cleansing to hide the fact it is genocide, and because of that, everyone who is guilty escapes justice,” said Prof Kihumbu Thairu of Moi University’s medical school.

Prof Thairu told a Reuter’s reporter on January 3 that he escaped to Nairobi from Eldoret shortly before his house was stormed by machete-wielding youths late on January 2.

The BBC also broadcast a chilling story involving another machete-wielding mob that called at the gates of the University of Eastern Africa, Baraton (Kenya), located 50 km from Eldoret. The mob demanded to be shown workers, students and teaching staff from Kikuyu, Meru and Kamba communities.

There is no independent confirmation of these claims. What is on record is that the foreign Press saw the week-long violence as genocide committed predominantly against one tribe.

Genocide Watch, the Washington DC-based organisation, went as far as issuing a “Genocide Alert” on Kenya.

“Ethnic massacres are an indicator that the risk of genocide in Kenya has risen to Stage 6, the Preparation stage. Kenya has not yet descended into actual genocide. However, the next stage in the process is actual genocide, and Kenya is close to that stage,” the organisation said.

Gregory Stanton, president of Genocide Watch, has developed a theory that domestic genocide goes through eight stages. The stages range from classification — the first stage when people are typed, categorised, and classified into different groups — to the seventh stage when the final decision is made to attack and destroy.

THE EIGHTH STAGE EIGHT IS THE perpetrator’s denial of their genocide. “They destroy or hide the relevant official evidence, burn bodies, leave unmarked graves, or invent a reasonable rational for the killing,” says Dr Stanton.

But is Kenya another Rwanda in the making? Has the crime of genocide taken place or about to take place?

Let’s stick to the legal definition of genocide. According to Article 6 of the statue setting up the International Criminal Court — which is the only permanent international body that can prosecute the crime — genocide involves “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

The definition is both wide and narrow. It is wide because perpetrators need not intend to destroy the entire group to be guilty. Destruction of only part of a group, such as members settled in one area, is enough.

It is narrow because the crime can be committed to only “national, ethnical, racial or religious groups”. In other words, it does not include political, economic, and other groups. For example, police shooting rioters to death is not genocide, though it may be murder.

Nobody doubts that many innocent people have been killed. However, the conclusion that genocide is happening or about to happen, would not stand the scrutiny of international law.

That, of course, does not mean that other crimes, such as crimes against humanity, have not been committed.

ODM calls three days of mass action

Story by NATION Reporter and REUTERS
Publication Date: 1/11/2008

The Orange Democratic Movement is set to resume street protests against President Kibaki following the collapse of talks to broker a peace deal over the contested presidential poll.

The party has announced three day of mass protests countrywide on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday next week. Former UN boss Kofi Annan is expected to reopen mediation and the new Parliament has been summoned for Tuesday.

“Talks between ODM and the other side have collapsed due to the refusal of that side to negotiate with us. We are not ‘unresponsive’ at all. We worked hard, together with other parties, to come up with a just solution,” said party secretary Prof Anyang Nyong’o at a Press conference.

ODM listed 15 venues countrywide where they will hold protests beginning 10am on each of the three days. The rallies will be held in: Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Kakamega, Eldoret, Kapsabet, Kisii, Kericho, Nyeri, Embu, Machakos, Voi, Garissa, Narok and Siaya.

Previous demonstrations have led to riots and bloody clashes between ODM supporters and riot police, adding to a total death toll of over 500 since the December 27 vote.

The Government has previously maintained that public rallies are outlawed until the political mood in the country calms.

"Dialogue is not engaged in the streets. Dialogue suggests that people resolve their differences peacefully, over a table, not through destroying property and killing innocent Kenyans," Local Government Minister Uhuru Kenyatta told reporters.

Yesterday's failure of African Union head and Ghanaian President John Kufuor to broker a deal has sent panic across the country with many fearing fresh riots.

On his way back to home, President Kufuor said Mr Annan, another Ghanaian, would lead a group of eminent Africans in another push to resolve the crisis.

The ODM leaders skipped a meeting that President Kibaki had called for 2.30pm, maintaining that they would only engage the Head of State in talks chaired by an internationally recognised mediator.

The West, including the United States and Kenya's former colonial ruler Britain, has expressed displeasure at irregularities in the presidential vote count, and is pressing for some sort of power-sharing agreement.

In the latest statement from abroad, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband urged both sides "to engage without any pre-conditions" and "agree on a way to share power so as to reflect the clear democratic will of the Kenyan people."

At the same time, ODM-Kenya’s Kalonzo Musyoka has come out to explain why he accepted the Vice-Presidency offered by President Kibaki. Mr Musyoka came third in the disputed presidential poll but has since joined President Kibaki’s Government.

Mr Musyoka said he wanted to ensure the nation remains intact following the violence that rocked the country after President Kibaki was declared the winner of the presidential election.

Addressing a Press conference at his Jogoo House office earlier today, Mr Musyoka said the move was also dictated by the party’s policy to work in a coalition.

He said ODM-Kenya now has an opportunity to push for the implementation of some of its policies as opposed to common belief that its goals and principles will be swallowed by those of President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU).

“ODM-Kenya has entered a coalition Government. I am here to tell you that the party’s principles and goals are closer to being realised today than at any other time in our party’s history,” Mr Musyoka said.

Police break up women's demo

Publication Date: 1/11/2008

Police Thursday dispersed a group of women supporting the Opposition as they marched to a church in Nairobi for “prayers.”

A member of the Orange Women Democrats runs from tear gas after police officers blocked their march in Nairobi yesterday. Photo/PHOEBE OKALL

Members of the ODM Women Professionals and Democrats lobby attempted to march to St Stephen’s ACK cathedral.

Addressing reporters at Orange House later, the group accused Justice minister Martha Karua of endorsing a flawed election and described her as a letdown in the fight for the rights of women in the country. Ms Karua told the BBC Hard Talk programme that President Kibaki had been validly elected and advised those opposed to it to seek redress in court.

International crusade

The women, led by Ms Ester Passaris, Prof Jacqueline Oduol, Ms Irene Oloo, Mrs Nancy Abisai, Dr Mary Nyamongo and Sofia Abdi addressed more than 500 women at Orange House.

They accused Ms Karua of being insensitive to the feelings of suffering Kenyans. “She is a letdown to their (women’s) gender in the international crusade for justice, peace and welfare of children,’’ Ms Passaris said. The women said the disputed poll had resulted in the death and suffering of women and children across the country.

They condemned the killing of the youths, children and women in election protests. “Those who were doing business in Western Kenya, Coast and land owners in Rift Valley cannot suffer because a few people want to hang onto power” Ms Passaris said.

They welcomed mediation efforts by the international community and called for a presidential re-run pitting ODM leader Raila Odinga and President Kibaki.

In Nyeri, Law Society of Kenya (LSK) Mt Kenya branch Thursday said the High Court had the capacity to resolve the current political crisis. Lawyers said calls for President Kibaki’s resignation were unprocedural, an affront to the Constitution and the will of Kenyans.

In a statement read by branch vice-chairman Morris Njage, the lawyers expressed confidence in the country’s judicial system and urged Mr Odinga to pursue the legal route.

The lawyers said remarks by LSK chairman Okong’o O’Mogeni were outside the society’s mandate.

“If the national chairman does not have faith in the court system then we wonder who does,” said Mr Njage.

They said mediation led by Ghana’s President John Kufuor should continue but noted that the impasse can only be solved through court.

Victims’ dilemma over lost documents

Story by NATION Team
Publication Date: 1/11/2008

Victims of the election-related violence in Eldoret are finding it hard to resume normal life due to the loss of crucial documents.

Identification documents and academic certificates were lost either to fire that razed their homes or to looters who descended on their houses and swept everything they found.

Eldoret Town saw some of the worst fighting that broke out after the Electoral Commission (ECK) declared President Kibaki the winner of December’s election amid controversy over vote tallying.

Electoral Commission chairman Samuel Kivuitu admitted to flaws in tallying of results in some of the poll stations, and observers and the opposition Orange Democratic Movement complained that the results had been twisted in President Kibaki’s favour.

The conflict led to the loss of hundreds of lives, displacement of people and massive destruction of property.

Nothing to prove

“I lost all my academic certificates when our home was burnt down,” said Ms Ruth Nduta Onyando.

“Now I have nothing to prove that I ever went to school although I have been working for the past five months,” she said.

Mr John Mwaura has nothing to show that he is Kenyan. He lost his national identity card, birth certificate, baptismal card, marriage certificate, passport and academic documents. Documents for his wife and four children too were consumed in the inferno that gutted their Sh3 million house.

“I am an alien in my own country now,” he said sombrely at Langas Police Station where he is camping.

Mr Michael Kiromo Mwangi lost title deeds to three parcels of land to looters who chased him away from his house and proceeded to sweep it clean.

It tears Ms Nancy Muthoni Kamau’s heart apart to see her children go hungry yet she has Sh80,000 in her bank account.

But she cannot access it because she lost her ATM card along with other documents to thieves who stole her bag at the Sacred Heart Cathedral where she is camping with her two young sons.

“Now we too have to depend on relief food, which would have helped somebody in greater need than us,” she said.

“I have many friends who I can approach for a driver’s job. But my driving licence was burnt with everything else when our house was set ablaze,” said Peter Mwaniki, a matatu driver.

At Eldoret Police Station, Mr Mwaniki could not even get an abstract because the papers had run out.

Neglected them

Separately, more than 1,000 displaced sisal estate workers in Koibatek and Nakuru districts Thursday claimed that the Government had neglected them.

The victims who have been working in sisal farms in Banita, Lomolo, Alphega and Athenai narrated their ordeal at the hands of armed gangs who burnt their homes, killing two people.

Most of them are landless and had lived on the sisal farms for many years until hell broke lose last week.

They were ordered to vacate their homes and those who did not were beaten to death. “We will not go back to that place because we will be attacked again and the Government has not guaranteed us security,” one of them said.

Ms Sherry Waweru, a volunteer worker, said that little had been done to alleviate the woes facing the group camping at Mogotio Police Station. Among them are several young children.

She said: “A permanent solution must be found because these people are landless and they have no other place to go. These children may also miss school which opens next week.”

And a doctors’ club has warned of the likelihood of increased cases of rape and waterborne disease among the thousands of displaced people.

Kenya Medical Association chairman Stephen Ochiel said lack of clean water in most camps in Nakuru, Kuresoi, Eldoret, Kericho and other areas posed a serious health hazard.

In a statement read by KMA secretary Dr Elizabeth Wala, the group said its 5,000-strong membership was willing to provide health care services wherever required.

The KMA statement comes barely a day after the Director of Medical Services, Dr James Nyikal, urged displaced Aids patients who were on anti-retroviral treatment to make every effort to reach their regular clinical care centre.

In a media advertisement, Dr Nyikal said those unable to reach their regular care centre should visit alternative ones near them to access the vital medication.

In Nyamira, several days after they were evicted from tea estates in Kericho and Buret districts, hundreds of families are still sheltering at Ikonge Primary School. Among them are nine unclaimed children and women who have lost contact with their husbands.

Nyamira district commissioner Samuel Karanja Njora was Thursday leading an evacuation exercise of the displaced people.

“We have been transporting them to their homes but others are still coming,” he said.

The situation is grim for women who met their husbands in the tea estates and do not know their ancestral homes.

“I met my husband of four years at the estate and we have two children. He has never taken me to his home and I don’t know where he is because after the violence everybody went his way,” said a woman who identified herself only as Bonareri.

Reports by Kipchumba Some, Noah Cheploen, Mike Mwaniki and Angwenyi Gichana

World Bank boss in row over Kibaki

Story by NATION Correspondent
Publication Date: 1/11/2008

A row is brewing over a confidential memo from the World Bank’s Kenya office that supports President Kibaki’s victory in the disputed elections.

According to UK’s The Financial Times, a story headlined “Leaked memo deepens Kenya crisis”, the leaked January 1 briefing note, originating from Mr Colin Bruce, the World Bank’s country director, appears to support President Kibaki’s victory on the basis of “oral briefings and documents from senior United Nations Development Programme officials."

The memo claims that “the considered view of the UN is that the Electoral Commission of Kenya announcement of a Kibaki win is correct”.

However, Michele Montas, a spokeswoman for the UN secretary-general, denied that the UN had adopted that position. UNDP officials said they had neither monitored the elections nor provided any assessment suggesting a Kibaki victory.

The lending institution has denied taking sides in the disputed election results.

In Washington, the World Bank’s head of external relations stated that it was not in their ways of working to take sides in a political contest.

He was quoted in The Financial Times saying: “The bank does not take political positions. Neither Colin Bruce nor the bank has a position on (President) Kibaki or (opposition leader Raila) Odinga.”

In Washington, the World Bank’s head of external relations stated that they do not take sides in a political contest.

Mr Bruce was later in the day roped in another controversy as ODM claimed that he had led a team which drew up an agreement which President Kibaki declined to sign. The document, said ODM secretary-general Anyang Nyong’o, also drew contribution from US, UK and French envoys.

Another memo

However, the Government disowned the document and denied sending any emissaries to Mr Bruce to author the memo which urged the international community to give credibility to President Kibaki’s victory.

A statement by the Presidential Press Services said: “At no time did President Kibaki send any emissary to the World Bank Country director to discuss a document of any nature. The Government, therefore, categorically disassociates itself from the content of that document.”

In Nairobi, the PPS said that the Government had been taken aback by the memo and sought to assure the public and the international community that it was committed to the mediation efforts by President Kufuor.

“The Government remains committed to constructive dialogue and welcomes the initiative taken by President John Kufuor,” it said.

The Ghanaian President, who chairs the African Union, arrived in the country on Tuesday evening to mediate between President Kibaki and Mr Odinga in a bid to end the violence in which at least 500 people have been killed.

President Kufuor’s mediation mission was supported by the United States, Britain and European Union.

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