Friday, February 01, 2008

Kenya Conflict is Major Focus of African Union Summit

Stop Kenya burning, says AU head

African leaders at their summit in Ethiopia have been told they must get involved with the crisis in Kenya.

African Union (AU) commission chairman Alpha Oumar Konare told them they could not just sit by. "If Kenya burns, there will be nothing for tomorrow," he said.

More than 850 people have died in political and ethnic clashes since last month's elections, which the opposition says were rigged.

In Nairobi, talks between government and opposition have been postponed.

Substantive negotiations started for the first time on Thursday but were adjourned until Friday after an opposition MP was shot dead by a policeman in the western town of Eldoret.

The police say the killing was a domestic dispute but the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) says he was assassinated.

The death of David Too has raised tensions in parts of the Rift Valley, the scene of serious violence this month.

Mr Konare - the AU's top executive - said it was the AU's duty to support the mediation process.

"Kenya is a country that was a hope for the continent," he said.

"Today, if you look at Kenya you see violence on the streets. We are even talking about ethnic cleansing. We are even talking about genocide.

"We cannot sit here with our hands folded."

'Special responsibility'

The peace talks in Nairobi are being led by the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

His successor, Ban Ki-moon - who is also at the AU summit - urged Kenyan leaders to find a peaceful way out.

"President [Mwai] Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga... have a special responsibility to solve the crisis peacefully," he told the summit.

"I call on the Kenyan people: stop the killings and end the violence now before it's too late."

He said he would go to Kenya himself on Friday to help with the talks. He has held discussions with Mr Kibaki in Ethiopia.

Violence first broke out after the 27 December presidential elections, which the ODM says Mr Kibaki's government rigged.

Mr Kibaki is among more than 40 leaders present at the AU summit in Addis Ababa, even though the ODM called on the AU not to recognise him.

Mr Odinga, by contrast, has not been invited.

Despite Mr Konare's plea, the official theme of the AU summit is industrialisation.

The AU has also chosen Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete to succeed Ghana's John Kufuor as its head.

But other subjects are likely to include:
Sudan, where the AU and the UN have promised to create the world's largest peacekeeping force in Darfur;
Somalia, where members are keen to strengthen the small Ugandan and Burundian forces in the country;
the AU's own internal organisation.

The BBC's Will Ross, who is at the summit, says many Africans hope other urgent issues such as Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo will also be tackled.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/01/31 18:09:46 GMT

Kenya crisis set to dominate AU summit

Jean-Marc Mojon
Mail & Guardian
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
31 January 2008 07:43

African Union heads of state were set on Thursday to begin a three-day summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, focused on the deadly crisis in Kenya and the challenges facing the body's peacekeeping missions.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was expected to address the 53-state organisation and call for a peaceful resolution of the post-poll dispute in Kenya, a country whose stability is seen as key for the region.

"The Kenyan crisis is a serious one and we cannot simply condone what the Kibaki regime is trying to feed us," said one member of the AU commission. "The government will not be given a blank cheque at this summit."

Yet President Mwai Kibaki, who is accused by the opposition movement of defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga of rigging his way to re-election, was set to arrive on Thursday to take part in the summit.

The talk behind the scenes was all Kenya ahead of the summit, but it remained unclear how the organisation would handle the bitter dispute born of allegations of mass fraud and ethnic cleansing in one of its members.

Odinga's movement has warned that Kibaki's presence in the ranks of the heads of state would amount to a recognition of his election, despite widespread international concerns over flaws in the December 27 polls.

The dispute has spurred Kenya's worst political crisis in 25 years and ignited violence that has killed about 1 000 people in a month.

"There was ethnic cleansing in Kenya. I listened to the victims," US Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer said in Addis Ababa on Wednesday, on the sidelines of preparatory meetings for the summit.

Also on the agenda will be Africa's other conflicts and how to solve them, as the six-year-old grouping fights to acquire credibility on the international scene and shake off its tag as yet another toothless regional body.

The AU dispatched troops to Sudan's troubled western region of Darfur in 2004 but has failed to make an impact on the ground.

Since January 1, it shares responsibility with the United Nations for a more robust force known as Unamid, which has yet to fully deploy.

The pan-African body is also struggling to fulfil its pledge for 8 000 peacekeepers in war-torn Somalia, where only 1 600 Ugandan troops and a few hundred Burundian troops have been sent.

The Horn of Africa country remains locked in a deadly struggle between Islamist insurgents and a weak Somali government backed by the Ethiopian army.

Africa is attempting to take the lead in solving its own conflicts but it remains constrained by lack of experience and equipment, while the UN Security Council's permanent members are also reluctant to relinquish control over missions they largely fund.

Also expected to feature prominently on the summit's agenda will be internal leadership issues, including the renewal of the position of AU commission chairperson, currently held by Alpha Oumar Konare.

Konare has been at the helm of the organisation since 2003 and while he was successful in putting the body on the international map, he has also been criticised for failing to reform the body.

The frontrunner in the succession race is Gabon's foreign minister, Jean Ping, but a vote on the key position could yet be delayed.

The rotating chair of the organisation, currently held by Ghana, is also expected to change, with Tanzania holding the lead after Sudan's bid was snuffed out by fellow members' reservations over its handling of the crisis in Darfur. --


Policeman Shoots Dead MP And Woman

The Nation (Nairobi)
31 January 2008

A policeman has shot dead Ainamoi MP David Kimutai Too and a policewoman in what security chiefs are calling a crime of passion.

The Orange Democratic Movement MP was shot dead in Eldoret shortly after 10am. A policewoman companion, Constable Eunice Chepkwony, was also shot and later died in hospital.

Riots were reported in Eldoret, Kericho, Kisumu and Siaya following news of the MP's death, coming at a time of heightened political tension following the disputed results of the presidential election a month ago.

The presidential election dispute has thrown the country into political crisis that is currently the subject of an international mediation effort led by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan.

Police Commissioner Hussein Ali has addressed a Press conference in Nairobi and identified the suspect as Constable Andrew Maoche.

Maoche, a police rider, was arrested about 40 kilometres away at Turbo township while attempting to flee. He will be charged in court tomorrow with the murders.

"The constable will stand charges of murder tomorrow," Maj Ali told a news conference at his Vigilance House office in Nairobi.

Mr Too is the second ODM MP to be shot dead in as many days following the murder of the Embakasi MP Mugabe Were on Wednesday morning outside his Woodley estate house in Nairobi.

ODM leaders addressed a news conference in Nairobi where they condemned the killing of the MP.

The MP, he said, picked a woman constable from Eldoret police station at 9.30 am and drove in a Toyota Carina to West Indies residential estate. The suspect then followed them on a motorbike.

According to the Government Spokesman, Dr Alfred Mutua, the suspect was the dead woman's live-in boyfriend.

The police commissioner warned the public against using the incident to incite others.

The warning came following the fluid political situation in the country. "It will be wrong for people, including politicians to use the incident to incite the public," Mr Ali said.

No comments: