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U.S. congratulates Kenyan president on re-election amid crimes against humanity

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          • #65

            February 3, 2008 -- Mount Kenya rises in the distance, its glaciers reflecting the sharp morning light. Tea bushes cover the slopes around the huge estate, with its high walls and three separate entrances, one manned by heavily armed policemen. If the pre-election predictions had been followed, the 76-year-old golf-loving, aloof owner of the estate in Othaya should have been strolling in its neat gardens, enjoying his first month of retirement and reflecting on his legacy of furthering Kenya's passage towards democracy.

            But instead Mwai Kibaki is holed up in State House in Nairobi, three hours' drive away, fighting to entrench his presidential power following a highly contentious election victory that has plunged Kenya into its worst crisis since independence. In little over a month more than 900 people have been killed, 300,000 people displaced, and entire towns split along ethnic lines.

            Yesterday the violence continued. In the town of Kericho in the Rift Valley, hundreds of homes belonging to people of Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe were being set alight by gangs of youths.

            Kibaki's handling of the crisis, so far limited to one brief visit to displaced people and reading out a few pre-written statements insisting he won fairly, has invited fierce criticism. The normally pro-government Daily Nation newspaper warned Kibaki: 'If Kenya disintegrates, history books will record that the collapse of a once great, united and prosperous country happened on your watch'. The Nairobi Star was headlined: 'Where is Kibaki? ... as Kenya slips into anarchy'.

            Other questions come from millions of Kenyans struggling to understand what is happening in their country. How could people have misread a man who has been in government since independence, regarded as the gentleman of Kenyan politics? What motivated an already wealthy President, with little apparent ego, caricatured in newspapers as enjoying afternoon naps, to stage what the opposition has called a 'civilian coup'?

            'I have spoken to nearly every prominent columnist in this country and asked "Did you see this coming?"' said Wycliffe Muga, one of Kenya's best-known journalists. 'None of them did. From being a detached, almost aristocratic President, Kibaki suddenly seemed to change overnight into a scheming, duplicitous leader willing to see bloodshed in his thirst for power.' Some are looking into Kibaki's past to see whether they missed the warning signs of a leader who would take more than 40 years to reveal his true colours.

            A brilliant student at the London School of Economics, Kibaki entered Kenya's first post-independence government in 1963. Six years later he stood in Nairobi's Bahati constituency against Jael Mbogo, the popular head of Kenya's biggest women's association. He won by a wafer-thin margin in remarkably similar circumstances to December's election; behind in the early tallying, the verdict was delayed for days and a crack squad of police officers swarmed around the vote-counting centre when the result was announced. 'I was so far ahead in early vote counting that even the BBC even reported that a young woman had felled a government minister,' Mbogo, now a civil society activist in Nairobi, told The Observer. 'Kibaki stalled the result, and then robbed me of victory. Because he looks so holy, people are still asking if he really was capable of stealing this election. What I say is "Of course, he has done it before".'

            As Vice-President under Daniel arap Moi, Kibaki was well regarded. His family become rich through his contacts, but he was never tainted by corruption. He was happiest on the golf course and in the colonial-era Muthaiga Club where he held court with Nairobi's elite Kikuyus; politicians and businessmen, the lines between them often blurred.

            His reluctance to press for multipartyism earned him the nickname General Coward. But by the 2002 election, after 24 years of Moi's misrule, a strongman was the last thing Kenyans were looking for. Kibaki was a safe pair of hands.

            'Kibaki is the one politician I have always trusted in Kenya,' said Philip Machila, 67, who used to attend party meetings with Kibaki. 'The only problem he has always had is some of the people around him.'

            The 'bad-influence' theory is always used to excuse Kibaki. Throughout his first term in office he was surrounded and shielded by old friends, virtually all Kikuyu. Initially Kibaki needed protecting. Badly injured in a car accident a few weeks before he was sworn in in 2002, he was then reported to have had a stroke. For much of 2003 it was unclear whether Kibaki would complete his term. His memory was as shaky as his walk. His health improved but access to him has not. He has not given a single media interview since he became President in 2002 and does not take questions at rare news conferences.

            Several of Kibaki's Kikuyu golfing friends have assumed significant influence at State House in recent years. 'Some of these people hold very strong thoughts about the superiority of the Kikuyus and their inherent right to govern,' said a former government minister. 'It's a case of "We helped end British rule using the Mau Mau, and we are the ones that keep the economy ticking over. The other 42 ethnic groups are welcome to live in Kenya, but only we can rule".' He said he did not believe 'the President is calling the shots at all. He always has to consult the hardliners around him'.

            'It was not until September last year that we could even get him out on the campaign trail,' said an adviser to Kibaki's PNU party. 'He seemed very reluctant for a long time.' But the adviser rejected the assertion that Kibaki is not completely in charge: 'He attends a security briefing even morning. He understands his legacy will be hurt if this current crisis does not end well.'

            Even with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in Nairobi this weekend, supporting mediation efforts chaired by Kofi Annan, Kibaki made a speech to the African Union that could hardly have been more antagonistic towards opposition supporters, already on edge after the murder of two opposition MPs last week. He reiterated that the election result was fair and that the opposition was to blame for the violence. It should take its election grievances to the courts, he said, and blamed unnamed foreign countries for suggesting a power-sharing. This hardline stance at a time when towns like Kericho are in flames - and his quiet dismissal of Murage a fortnight ago - means there is an increasing body of people who now believe that Kibaki alone must take the blame for the country's mess. 'I honestly believe he is the man driving the whole operation; the ineptly rigged election and the aftermath,' said David Ndii, a Nairobi-based analyst. 'Kibaki very much knows what is happening, and must be held responsible.'


            • #66

              BONDO, Kenya, February 3, 2008: The main opposition leader in Kenya called Sunday for the African Union to send peacekeepers to help stem violence sparked by the country's disputed presidential election, as gangs with machetes and arrows faced off in the beleaguered west.

              "The AU should bring in peacekeepers because the violence in Kenya is appalling," Raila Odinga said at his home in Bondo, a village in western Kenya. African Union officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

              Western Kenya has been at the center of fighting that has killed more than 800 people since the election of December 27, which returned President Mwai Kibaki to power after a tally that foreign and local observers contend was deeply flawed. The violence has often degenerated into ethnic clashes over decades-old grudges about land and resources, with much of the anger aimed at the Kikuyu, who are resented for their long domination of politics and the economy.

              On Sunday, gangs with machetes and arrows were facing off in the western town of Sotik, and smoke billowed into the sky from burning houses. The day before, young men from rival ethnic groups hunted each other through the streets of another western town, Eldoret, burning houses and blocking roads.

              A Presbyterian home and its school for children were also burned down overnight. No children were hurt, but the school principal, Samuel Rutto, said that seven teachers who lived there had been attacked with clubs. "The school had nothing to do with the election," he said.

              Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general, brokered a deal Friday between Kibaki and Odinga, laying out a plan to end the violence before moving onto the tougher political issues at the root of the fighting. Annan said it should take two weeks to resolve the immediate crisis and up to a year for the deeper problems.

              The agreement called for illegal militias to be disbanded and for the investigation of all crimes connected to the violence, including those allegedly committed by the police, who have killed scores of people.

              Both men who signed the deal Friday were still talking tough. Kibaki accused his opponents of orchestrating the violence, and Odinga said Kibaki's "aggressive statements" were undermining efforts to quell the fighting.

              With the two sides trading blame, as they have done repeatedly since the beginning of the crisis, the fighting has continued unabated.

              Odinga remained defiant. "Kenyans will continue to resist Kibaki because they didn't elect him," he said. "He has no choice but to step down because the world will judge him harshly."

              Odinga later attended a service at St. Michael's Cathedral. The Anglican congregation interrupted the bishop's sermon demanding to hear their local hero. Afterward, Odinga addressed the singing and chanting crowd outside the church, standing on a wooden dais next to his wife.

              "This is not a tribal war. You should know that even Kikuyus and Kisii voted for me," he said to the 1,000-strong crowd in his native Luo language.

              A Pentecostal church in Eldoret was burned to a smoldering ruin early Saturday. The pastor's nephew, Peter Ndungu, said it had been targeted because his aunt was from Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe.

              Terrified Kenyans, meanwhile, poured into camps for the displaced. The post-election violence has forced 300,000 from their homes.

              It's unpredictable," said Joseph Njoroge, 28, a Kikuyu, as he strained to push a cart piled high with furniture along a road lined with burned-out homes and businesses Saturday.

              Men armed with bows and arrows had come to his house, threatening to kill him in retaliation for the murder of an opposition lawmaker Thursday. The police said that killing - the second of an opposition lawmaker in a week - was tied to a love triangle, but opposition supporters said it was political.


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                    Lower Manga, Kenya, February 5, 2008:
                    Children walk to their school,
                    which is among those which reopened this week
                    following recent politically-inspired violence


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                        Kusumi, Kenya, February 6, 2008:
                        Displaced people move to a new home


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                            • #74

                              Further violence could erupt in Kenya unless a solution to the country's political crisis is found urgently, an international think tank has warned.

                              Armed groups on both the opposition and government sides are mobilising for fresh attacks, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG).

                              Its report calls for legal, electoral and constitutional reforms and for aid to be conditional on a peaceful result.

                              Ex-UN chief Kofi Annan has been leading mediation talks in Nairobi.

                              The two sides agree on a grand coalition in principle, but deadlock remains over how it should work in practice.

                              Opposition leader Raila Odinga wants powers vested in a new post of prime minister - but this needs MPs to amend the constitution and is opposed by President Mwai Kibaki.

                              The ICG report comes as Kenya's opposition warned it would relaunch mass protests in a week's time if the talks do not break the political deadlock.

                              Using aid

                              Ethnic and political violence broke out after President Kibaki was declared the winner of December's presidential election.

                              At least 1,000 people have been killed across the country and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced.

                              The ICG report warned "serious obstacles" to peace remained and made 12 recommendations.

                              These included sanctions to be targeted at those responsible for inter-ethnic violence.

                              And the group said international aid should be made dependent on a satisfactory outcome to negotiations.

                              "The current uneasy calm in Kenya should not be misunderstood as a return to normalcy," said the report.

                              Roots of conflict

                              In an interview with the BBC, the ICG's Donald Steinberg said he thought the negotiations to establish a transitional government were going quite well.

                              "It's very important, however, that the negotiations go deeper than that," he said.

                              "We are very concerned that the efforts to reach that short-term agreement come at the expense of very long-term and fundamental changes that need to occur.

                              "If all we get is a short-term agreement on power-sharing and transitional arrangements, it's uncertain that the instigators of the violence will deem that as acceptable," and the violence might resume, he said.

                              At the root of the violence, said Mr Steinberg, were the tribal divide-and-rule policies of Kenya's previous ruler, Daniel arap Moi, which had not been addressed under Mr Kibaki.

                              The report noted that Kenya was the platform for relief operations in Somalia and Sudan and a haven for refugees from throughout the region.

                              The think tank also said Kenya was a vital regional trade hub and a key anchor for prospects of long-term stabilisation in Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.

                              It concluded: "The quicker a comprehensive solution to the crisis in Kenya is found, the better the prospects will be for the entire region.

                              "The alternative - a collapsed economy, the evisceration of the democratic process and ethnic and territorial conflict - would have severe consequences for the whole of east Africa, and well beyond."


                              • #75

                                February 25, 2008 -- Kenya's opposition today called for mass rallies after negotiators admitted failing to resolve outstanding issues on power sharing.

                                The opposition Orange Democratic Movement has filed papers giving police the required three days' notice of demonstrations.

                                Negotiators representing the country's president, Mwai Kibaki, and the opposition leader, Raila Odinga, said they had gone as far as they could and the two leaders had to take the hard decisions on sharing power themselves.

                                "We have isolated a number of items that require our chairman's consultations with our principals," the government negotiator, Mutula Kilonzo, told reporters.

                                The opposition negotiator, William Ruto, accused the government side of "changing their mind over sharing power", but declined to give further details.

                                Kilonzo denied any change in position. "This is not correct at all," Kilonzo told the Associated Press. "They thought this was a picnic where they would walk in and take over the government."

                                Negotiators for Kibaki and Odinga have agreed in principle to create a prime minister's post for the opposition, but sticking points remain over how much power the post would carry. Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general, has been mediating in the talks.

                                Odinga, who accuses Kibaki of rigging the December 27 elections, wants the prime ministerial position to carry real power and a 50-50 power split in the cabinet.

                                Kibaki says he won fairly and accuses the opposition of instigating riots and ethnic violence instead of challenge the election through legal channels. He wants changes to be made under Kenya's constitution.

                                Widespread fighting that killed more than 1,000 people in the weeks after the election has largely subsided, but there are fears of renewed violence if no political agreement is reached.

                                Police said eight houses were burned in a village near the western town of Molo in an apparent clash between rival ethnic groups. Two people — a father and son — were taken to hospital with injuries.

                                Much of the violence, which has been concentrated in the Rift Valley, has been ethnic, between supporters of Kibaki — a Kikuyu — and western groups who rally to Odinga — a Luo.

                                Most of Kenya's 36 million people appear to want a quick end to the two-month-old crisis, which many see as a battle between wealthy political elites being fought at their expense.

                                As negotiators tried to reach agreement before the planned protests, a human rights group said the winner of the 2004 Nobel peace prize, Professor Wangari Maathai, had received death threats after her plea for a peaceful agreement.

                                Amnesty International said Maathai was sent three death threats by text message last week which read: "Because of your opposing the government at all times, Prof Wangari Maathai, we have decided to look for your head very soon, you are number three after Were, take care of your life."

                                Two people working for her received similar threats. The threats were signed "Mungiki", the name of extremists belonging to the Kikuyu tribe, which claimed responsibility for beheadings and other murders involving mutilation.

                                Maathai is a former MP. "Number three after Were" refers to the MP, Melitus Mugabe Were, who was killed outside his home in Nairobi on January 29. A second MP, David Kimutai Too, was killed in Eldoret town on January 31.


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