Politics

Political Will the Missing Link for MDGs

Posted on 23 March 2010. Filed under: MDGs, Politics |

By Chryso D’Angelo

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 19, 2010 (IPS) – Despite numerous factors that threaten the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 – a global financial crisis, a food crisis, climate change, natural disasters – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this week that his main concern is “political will”.

Ban addressed U.N. member states and media following the release of his report, “Keeping the Promise”, on Mar. 16. The report “reviews successes, identifies obstacles, and suggests ways to accelerate progress,” according to the secretary-general.

At a meeting of the General Assembly, he warned that, “We are off course because of unmet commitments, inadequate resources and a lack of focus and accountability.”

“We do not need new pledges,” Ban said later that day at a media briefing. “If nations deliver on the financial commitments they have already made, we can achieve the goals. There is clearly a lack of political will.”

The secretary-general added that he is optimistic that the MDG Summit (formally, the High-Level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly), which will run Sep. 20-22 at United Nations headquarters in New York, will reinvigorate the commitment to meeting the goals.

“There is a need for a push,” Francesca Perucci of the U.N. Statistical Planning and Development Division, told IPS, “especially because with the financial crisis you have the sense that donors might be more careful.” The push is hard. Nine meetings are scheduled leading up to the summit. They will focus on specific MDG goals.

These include a June conference on maternal and reproductive health, a July gathering of government ministers at the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to examine gender equality, and a mid-September report of the MDG Gap Task Force, which will present data and recommendations on how to meet the 8th goal on Global Partnership, which includes international commitments on aid, trade, and debt relief.

The secretary-general strongly emphasised that these goals will not be met if the donor community doesn’t deliver on its promises of official development assistance (ODA). For example, his report notes that 154 billion dollars (in current value) was pledged at the 2005 Gleneagles G8 Summit.

However, the flow of monies has not been steady since 2005. Therefore, 35 billion dollars a year would be needed by 2015 to achieve that target.

While there is no finalised data to assess the impact of the financial crisis on fulfilling the MDG goals, the report estimates that in 2009, 55 to 99 million more people lived in extreme poverty than had been projected before the economic crisis. The numbers are staggering, given that the goal of MDG 1 (eradicate extreme poverty and hunger) was to halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

In fact, the number of hungry has been rising since 1995 and the proportion of hungry people in the global population has been rising since 2004-2006. The latest figures show that in 2005, 1.4 billion people, or one quarter of the population of the developing world, lived below the international poverty line, on less than 1.25 dollars a day.

Perucci notes that the food crisis puts the poor in far more dire straits than the economic crisis.

“Looking at the most recent data, food security is one of the targets more at risk of not seeing as much progress,” she told IPS. That’s because economics are not the lone factor affecting its success.

“Food availability doesn’t just have to do with economic growth, but how food reaches developing countries,” Perucci told IPS. “Factors such as natural disasters, poor food distribution policies and lack of social safety nets are contributing to the crisis. That’s the area where the international community will have to work the most.”

Ban is not only rallying member states around the fulfillment of the MDG goals, he’s hoping to rally the world.

“The United Nations will strengthen our efforts to raise public awareness,” he said. “People everywhere must see that reaching the goals is in everyone’s common interest. The September Summit must reinvigorate a sense of moral solidarity. If we don’t, if we fall short, all the dangers of our world will grow more perilous still.”

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Kenya’s Post Poll Violence: Africa’s Elders Seize a Leading Role

Posted on 16 August 2008. Filed under: Governance, Insecurity, Politics, Refugees/ IDPs |

In January, one of Africa’s most stable democracies was violently ripping itself apart. How was it saved? In a four-part special report, the key players tell what happened.

In January, one of Africa’s most stable democracies was violently ripping itself apart. How was it saved? In a special report, the key players tell what happened. In Eldoret, Kenya, the town most riven by violence earlier this year, local leaders in May discuss their differences. Chief mediator Kofi Annan is shown here on Jan. 22.

REBUILDING AFTER VIOLENCE: In January, one of Africa’s most stable democracies was violently ripping itself apart. How was it saved? In a special report, the key players tell what happened. In Eldoret, Kenya, the town most riven by violence earlier this year, local leaders in May discuss their differences. Chief mediator Kofi Annan is shown here on Jan. 22.

By Scott Baldauf | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
NAIROBI, KENYA – Kenya’s peace talks have barely begun. But the atmosphere in the Orchid Room of the Serena Hotel is already toxic.

“You stole the election,” shouts William Ruto, a fiery, big-framed politician.

“We didn’t steal it,” shoots back the Kenyan government’s negotiating team leader, Martha Karua. She’s the Margaret Thatcher, the “Iron Lady,” of Kenyan politics. She’s not giving an inch.

In fact, Ms. Karua will be the most intractable of those seated at the table over the coming days and weeks. “We won it fair and square.” says Karua.

But there’s another African woman present, an authority figure beyond reproach, who brusquely cuts Karua off: “If that is the case, then why the violence?”

Graça Machel, the wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela, presses the point home. “Why the swearing-in ceremony at the State House at night? You have to acknowledge that you have a problem.”

A problem, indeed.

One of Africa’s most stable democracies was ripping itself apart. In the month following Kenya’s closely contested presidential elections, more than 700 people had died in the ethnic-political conflict. The media were starting to compare the spreading violence to the genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994.

Just days before the peace talks began, Ms. Machel had personally visited camps for refugees of the violence in the Rift Valley, where a church had been deliberately torched with some 30 women and children inside. After hearing one grandmother’s tale of tragedy, Machel and the woman hugged and cried, their foreheads touching.

So, when Machel addresses all the Kenyan negotiators on Jan. 29, her voice now rising with emotion, the room falls silent.

“Your country is bleeding,” she tells them. “You need to act.”

• • •

In the next five weeks, led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and a team of African statesmen and women, known as The Panel of Eminent African Personalities, they achieve what few thought was possible: a cessation of fighting and a power-sharing deal to put Kenya back together again.

Machel’s presence, along with Mr. Annan, and former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, would provide important ballast. Machel and Annan are part of The Elders, a dozen experienced leaders from around the world, set up in 2007 by Mr. Mandela and others to address global problems.

At a time when Kenya’s angry “young turks” were whipping up the emotions that fed violence, these African elders had the calming influence of a stern grandparent, in front of whom one doesn’t misbehave.

“I came in at a time when there was so much mistrust,” recalls Annan in an interview later. “The two blocks had dug in. One felt they had won the elections fair and square, the other maintained ‘you stole it.’ ”

“With that sort of attitude, getting them to come together, and getting them to begin to think of coming together, and … thinking in terms that we are all Kenyans and we are one Kenya, and we need to work together to put it back together, was not an easy task,” he says with a large dose of understatement.

Today, five months later, an uneasy alliance is holding. Even Annan predicted it would take at least a year to get a fully operational government of national unity, especially given the ugly underlying issues of class, ethnicity, and wealth which had set off the crisis. But the fact that Kenya has a government at all shows that international pressure and African-led mediation can work, say experts.

To understand how peace came to Kenya, the Monitor conducted interviews with many of the key Kenyan players on both mediation teams, along with the African statesmen who steered it toward success. This story is based on their memories of the events inside the negotiation room, along with Monitor reporting of the violence that continued to brew outside – a daily reminder to everyone in Kenya of the potential costs of failure.

By the time Annan and his team arrived on Jan. 22, it was not clear how much of Kenya would be left to save. Starting on Saturday evening Dec. 29, when President Mwai Kibaki was declared victor by the Electoral Commission of Kenya and sworn into office an hour later, violence had spread swiftly across areas where the opposition’s support was strongest.

Hardest hit was the Rift Valley, the country’s breadbasket, where people of all ethnicities came to farm the lands that the white British colonialists had treasured. The violence was brutal, ethnic, and personal. Young men – urged on by inflammatory FM radio stations broadcasting in the Kalenjin language – rampaged from village to village, carrying iron rods, machetes, axes, and even bows with poisoned arrows. Their targets were members of the dominant Kikuyu tribe, President Kibaki’s ethnic group. Some were given warnings to leave, others were slaughtered in their homes – or in their church.

A gang of youths set ablaze the Kenya Assemblies of God Pentecostal Church in Eldoret on Jan. 1. At least 30 people were inside, taking shelter from the tribal clashes. Kenya’s leading newspaper, the Daily Nation, reported that the country is on “the verge of a complete meltdown.”

Over the next three weeks the death toll would rise to 650.

Annan’s arrival doesn’t stop the violence right away. But the lifelong diplomat wastes little time. Within two days, he convinces the two sides to negotiate with each other with no preconditions. On the evening of Jan. 24, on national TV, millions of Kenyans see the two opponents, President Kibaki and Raila Odinga, shaking hands and sipping tea.

Over the next two days, as Kibaki and Mr. Odinga assemble their mediation teams, Annan and his team hop into Kenyan military helicopters and tour the Rift Valley’s worst affected areas to assess the humanitarian needs. A spasm of violence over the weekend – including 60 murders and the assassination of a newly elected ODM legislator Melitus Mugabe Were – prompts Annan to send the mediators home to calm their grieving communities.

• • •

For his part, Mr. Odinga, the opposition leader, chooses a team of four fiery politicians, led by William Ruto. Only one among them, James Orengo, is an attorney, but the other three represent a cross section of the opposition movement’s main power bases, mostly from the Rift Valley. While the ODM party had been confrontational on the streets, in the mediation board room, they would show a more professional side, referring to their counterparts as “my learned friend” or “the honorable gentleman.”

President Kibaki, on the other hand, loads his team with lawyers, chief among them his justice minister, Martha Karua. His team would defend the election results based on the Constitution, the rule of law.

The members of each team know their opponents intimately. The relations between these two sides are so entangled that one member of the president’s team, Mutula Kilonzo, would take time out from the peace talks to argue a civil case in court for one of the opposition team members, Sally Kosgei.

Together, these eight men and women were Kenya’s brightest and most ambitious. And over the next five weeks, their debates on arcane points of constitutional law would form the sophisticated counterpoint to the images of vicious street fighting that were redefining Kenya in the eyes of world.

This article has been republished with permission from the on-line edition of the Christian Science Monitor

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WAJIBU: Redifining Ourselves

Posted on 21 May 2008. Filed under: Governance, Media, Politics |

“People who ignore their history are bound to repeat it” (Desmond Tutu)

If we really wish never again to see a repetition of the traumatic events that we experienced after the 2007 elections, we CANNOT AND WE MUST NOT bury the memory of what happened in the early months of 2008.

WAJIBU, in this first double first issue of the year brings you not simply the events of that period as lived by many Kenyans but also the reflections of thoughtful writers (many of them young but established) on the underlying reasons for this outbreak of violence. At the same time, we give you the thoughts of religious leaders as well as of social activists on the paths we must choose if we wish to live in “unity, peace and liberty” in the Kenya we love.

Some of the well-known writers and leaders who have contributed to this issue are: Sheikh Said Athman, Muthoni Garland, Shalini Gidoomal, Fr. Patrick Kanja, Mukoma wa Ngugi, Yvonne Owuor, Stephen Partington, Binyavanga Wainaina and Rasna Warah.

WAJIBU can be obtained for Ksh. 100/= at the following outlets: Stanley Kiosk, Simply Books, University of Nairobi Bookshop, Catholic Bookshop, LISS library at the Rahimtulla Trust Building on Mfangano Street, Books First (Yaya Centre) and Monty’s (Sarit Centre).

Or contact Editors: Dipesh Pabari (dpinkenya (at) yahoo.co.uk or Wakuraya Wanjohi (wakurayag (at) yahoo.com)

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Kenya’s Mt. Elgon: Guns recovered, SLDF Militiamen Surrender After Leader’s Killing

Posted on 20 May 2008. Filed under: Food Security, Governance, Humanitarian, Insecurity, Politics, Refugees/ IDPs |


Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
A joint operation with army and police officers has been deployed in Mt Elgon since March

NAIROBI, 19 May 2008 (IRIN) – Kenyan security officers have recovered more guns and witnessed “several” militiamen surrendering after the killing of a militia leader in the western Mt Elgon district, a police official told IRIN on 19 May.

“The killing of the militia leader was unfortunate; we would have been pleased to arrest him and have him face the due process of the law – prosecution and sentencing – but as a result of the death we have had many of his supporters surrendering and we have recovered several guns,” Eric Kiraithe, police spokesman, said from Mt Elgon, where he is leading a team of senior security officers to assess the situation.

Security officers – comprising the army and police – were deployed in the district in March, under “Operation Okoa Maisha” (Operation Save Lives), to quell an insurgency by the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF), a militia group claiming to be fighting for the land rights of the Sabaot community.

SLDF was formed in 2006 to seek redress for alleged injustices during land distribution in a settlement scheme known as Chebyuk, with the conflict pitting two main clans of the Sabaot – Mosop (also known as Ndorobo) and Soy – against each other. The SLDF has been blamed for the deaths of at least 600 civilians since the start of its insurgency.

SLDF leader Wycliffe Komon Matakwei was reportedly killed with 12 other militiamen on 16 May during an ambush by security officers in Kopsiro division of Mt Elgon.

“From my observation, most of the members of the public are happy with the progress we have made so far; the death of the militia leader comes as a relief to the people he has been terrorising,” Kiraithe said.

Kiraithe dismissed claims of mis-identification, saying the security officers had gone through due process and all indications were that Matakwei had been positively identified.

“What is left is a forensic examination, which we are planning to conduct; otherwise the identification process carried out so far indicates that the body is Matakwei,” Kiraithe said.

Allegations of rights violations

Matakwei’s death occurred two days after the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) released a report accusing the military of committing serious human rights violations during their operation in Mt Elgon. The police denied the allegations.

In the report, The Mountain of Terror, the commission called for an investigation into allegations of torture committed by security forces in Mt Elgon district, saying the military should stop the excesses of the security forces deployed in the area.

The commission said it had written to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, urging her to recommend to the UN Security Council the suspension of Kenya’s armed forces in any ongoing or future UN peacekeeping missions “on account of the violations”.

Denying the commission’s allegations, Kiraithe said the police had evidence of acts of torture committed by SLDF militiamen.

“So far, since the military operation started in the district, there has been only one case of murder reported,” Kiraithe told IRIN. “The operation will continue because we are determined to rid the district of this criminal gang.”

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Claims of Torture by Army & Militia, as Food Shortages Grip Mt Elgon

Posted on 20 May 2008. Filed under: Food Security, Governance, Humanitarian, Insecurity, Politics, Refugees/ IDPs |


Photo: Ann Weru/IRIN
Displaced people from Mt Elgon area receiving food aid in Bungoma

NAIROBI, 16 May 2008 (IRIN) – The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) has called for an investigation into allegations of torture committed by security forces deployed in the clash-torn Mt Elgon district in western Kenya.

“In seeking to return sanity to the area as a result of the atrocities being committed in the area, the military should stop the excesses of the security forces deployed therein,” the commission said on 15 May when it launched a report, The Mountain of Terror, which highlights some of the atrocities allegedly committed by the security forces and a militia group that has been active in the area since 2006.

The commission said it had written to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, urging her to recommend to the UN Security Council the suspension of Kenya’s armed forces in any ongoing or future UN peacekeeping missions “on account of the violations”.

However, the police denied the commission’s allegations of torture by security officials. Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said the police, instead, had evidence of acts of torture committed by Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) militiamen but these would only be released once the investigations were complete.

“We have details of the atrocities committed by this criminal gang but, for the security of the victims, we cannot release them to the press because the security operation is ongoing and investigations are not complete,” Kiraithe said.

“So far, since the military operation started in the district, there has been only one case of murder reported,” Kiraithe told IRIN. “The operation will continue because we are determined to rid the district of this criminal gang.”

Land rights

The government deployed security forces – comprising the army and police – to Mt Elgon in March to quell an insurgency by the SLDF, which claims to be defending the land rights of the dominant Sabaot community in the district.

SLDF was formed to seek redress for alleged injustices during land distribution in the Chebyuk settlement scheme, with the conflict pitting two main clans of the Sabaot – Mosop (also known as Ndorobo) and Soy – against each other.

“The army intervention is proving to be counterproductive since it has actually participated in gross human rights violations in the area,” KNCHR said. “Sources told the commission that the military torture members of the Sabaot community to death and those who survive are taken to the police station. Those who die are taken to Kamarang hill in Mt Elgon where it is alleged that they are buried en masse.”


Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
The army and police were deployed to Mt Elgon area in March to quell an insurgency

Torture

The commission said the nature of the injuries inflicted on suspected militiamen included sexual violence to genitals; being forced to torture each other (pulling each others’ genitals and whipping each other); forced to witness torture by the military; food and sleep deprivation; broken arms and legs; submerging in sewage; hanging upside down from a moving helicopter; forced to crawl in razor wire; deep lacerations resulting from whip lashes; bullet wounds; forced to swallow sand; and powdered pepper inserted into women’s vaginas.

The commission said it was of the view that the use of force in the district had not elicited positive results and might have served to worsen the security situation.

“KNCHR further proposes that the government seeks to reach out to the militia in an effort to stop further bloodshed in the area,” the commission said. “However, KNCHR believes there should be no amnesty for perpetrators of gross violations of human rights.”

It also proposed that the government should come up with an acceptable formula of sharing out land between the Mosop (Ndorobo) and Soy, the two dominant clans of the Sabaot, “as opposed to an imposed formula that leads to fresh clashes”.

The SLDF was formed in 2005 in a bid to resist government efforts to evict squatters from the Chebyuk settlement scheme in the district. KNCHR said the militia had, since 2006, been accused of killing at least 600 people and terrorising the community through physical assaults, threats and atrocities such as murder, torture, rape, theft and destruction of property. An estimated 66,000 people have been displaced over an 18-month period.

Food shortages

Meanwhile, many residents of the district are facing food shortages because of the military operation.

“Food availability, for many residents, is a problem given the ongoing military operation, which has an impact on the flow of food in markets as well as access to markets by both the locals and the traders,” Anthony Mwangi, the public relations manager of the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), told IRIN.

However, Mwangi said food distribution by KRCS was ongoing, targeting thousands of people. The society was distributing maize, beans, cooking oil and soap, he said.

“Both the displaced and those still in their homes are facing food shortages; but we are trying our best to intervene by distributing food, especially to the vulnerable,” Col Yulu, the regional disaster preparedness and response officer for the KRCS, said.

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KENYA: IDPs Remain Cautious as Leaders Preach Peace

Posted on 25 April 2008. Filed under: Governance, Humanitarian, Insecurity, Politics, Refugees/ IDPs |


Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced in post-election violence in Kenya

ELDORET, 25 April 2008 (IRIN) – Ndirangu Mwangi, 26, one of 14,000 people camping in the Rift Valley town of Eldoret’s showground, was less than encouraged after Kenya’s political leaders visited the town as part of a “national healing” initiative.

“We are worried about the future, we lost everything during the post-election violence and we don’t know where we would restart our lives if we were to return home,” Mwangi told IRIN.

Reacting to speeches by President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga at the Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret, Mwangi said even if peace were achieved to facilitate their return home, it was important to strengthen existing laws to ensure an end to the impunity with which their property was damaged or looted.

Widespread violence in the Rift Valley following disputed election results led to the death of more than 1,200 people and the displacement of 350,000.

Kibaki and Odinga, who finally agreed to share power in late February, stressed unity and reconciliation, asserting that they were now working in harmony and were determined to resolve the issues facing all those affected by the violence.

The two leaders visited the internally displaced persons (IDP) camp at the showground before attending the public rally at the stadium.

“We want to resolve this issue once and for all,” Odinga said. “Eldoret is the face of Kenya as it has many tribes living here – we have the Kalenjin, the Luo, Kikuyu, Maasai, Kamba, Luhya, Turkana etc; we want peace and friendship to prevail among all the people.”

For his part, Kibaki said: “Let us all resolve today to live together as one; as your leaders, we have agreed to work together and we are committed to working together in order to stay together as Kenyans.”

Focus on the future

“We heard them saying we should live together as one,” said Lawrence Kibue, after listening to a radio broadcast of the speech in a camp in Burnt Forest, 40km north of Eldoret, “but what we were really hoping for was a solution that would enable us to go back to our farms.”

Rosemary Kuria, 40, an IDP at the Eldoret showground, said the visit by Kibaki and Odinga gave hope to IDPs that their problems would now be prioritised.


Photo: IRIN
A woman runs from a fire started by opposition surporters during the post-election violence in Eldoret

“They came here and even entered our tents; they saw the water that lodges in our tents when it rains and they saw that many of us sleep on the floor without any floor sheeting or mattress; Kibaki assured us that our problems will be sorted out, that is why I’m optimistic,” Kuria said.

However, Christopher Kipruto, a resident of Eldoret North constituency, said he feared IDPs may not be welcome home yet.

“The IDPs have cause to fear; during the post-election violence, they know what they did to us and they know what we did to them; unless the animosity among us is resolved, their return may not be smooth; land remains a key issue that needs to be addressed before we can get to the return phase,” Kipruto said.

Lasting solution

William Ruto, Agriculture Minister and MP for Eldoret North, said all residents of Uasin Gishu district wanted a lasting solution to the problems arising from the post-election violence.

“The people of Uasin Gishu have said we don’t want to fight each other again; but the residents of Uasin Gishu have three issues they are asking: many people were arrested during the violence for carrying pangas [machetes] and sticks yet to date there is no evidence to support that they were involved in crimes committed at that time. Why are they still being held, these people should be released?

“The other issue is that some chiefs and assistant chiefs were also suspended during the crisis for allegedly not being able to curb the violence, in my opinion it is the PC [provincial commissioner] or DC [district commissioner] who should have been suspended; the chiefs are small people, the people are asking that these chiefs should be reinstated.”

The third issue, he said, was the high cost of fertiliser which had made it difficult for farmers to plant. He said the government should take measures to ensure the price of a bag of fertiliser, now retailing at Ksh4,000 [US$64.50], was reduced to enable farmers to plant and help avert a food shortage in the future.

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KENYA: Talks Deadlock Could Slow IDP Returns – officials

Posted on 9 April 2008. Filed under: Governance, Humanitarian, Insecurity, Politics, Refugees/ IDPs |


Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
A volunteer talks to the displaced at an IDP camp: Suspension of talks between ODM and PNU could slow or halt progress made in returning thousands of internally IDPs to their homes

NAIROBI, 8 April 2008 (IRIN) – The suspension of talks between Kenya’s key political parties, announced on 8 April, could slow or halt progress made in returning thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their homes, humanitarian officials said.

“This [the suspension of talks] could mean that the process established to make the plans necessary for the return of IDPs could slow down or be put on hold,” Jeanine Cooper, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Kenya (OCHA-Kenya), said.

“However, humanitarian agencies will continue to assist IDPs wherever they are.”

The opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) suspended talks with President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) on the formation of a coalition cabinet in line with an accord signed in February.

“We have resolved that negotiations … be suspended until PNU fully recognises the 50-50 power-sharing arrangement and the principle of portfolio balance,” Anyang’ Nyong’o, ODM secretary-general, told a news conference in the capital Nairobi.

The ODM announcement prompted its supporters to demonstrate, lighting bonfires in the streets of a Nairobi slum.

Cooper said aid agencies had already seen the start of IDP returns and the suspension of talks could be a setback to the progress so far.

Anthony Mwangi, public relations officer of the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), told IRIN the society and other aid agencies would continue helping the IDPs regardless of the outcome of the political talks.

However, he said, it was important to have a speedy resolution of the country’s political issues “because this will mean speedy resettlement of the IDPs”.

The European Union in a statement also expressed concern over the failure to announce a coalition cabinet on 6 April.

“The EU shares his [former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s] concern and urges the parties to maintain momentum for reconciliation by forming an effective and efficient coalition government as soon as possible that reflects genuine power-sharing between Kenya’s parties,” the EU said on 7 April.

“This is a key milestone upon which implementation of the agreement depends.”


Photo: UNICEF
An aerial view of an IDP camp in Rift Valley province

The EU said it remained committed to support “meaningful power-sharing and to work with the new Kenyan government, once it is formed, to put Kenya back on the path to prosperity and stability”.

More than 1,500 Kenyans died and an estimated 350,000 others were displaced between January and February following violence in parts of the country sparked by the disputed presidential elections held on 27 December 2007.

Since then, thousands have returned home while others have travelled to their “ancestral” homes. According to the Kenya inter-cluster team, about 202,470 IDPs remained in 235 camps as at April.

Annan brokered the coalition agreement that created a government of national unity. This accord has since been incorporated into the constitution but its implementation awaits the appointment of a cabinet.

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Human Rights Watch Urges Inquiry into Kenya Post-election Violence

Posted on 17 March 2008. Filed under: Governance, Humanitarian, Insecurity, Politics, Refugees/ IDPs |


Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Kisumu was one of the worst-affected areas in the post-election violence

NAIROBI, 17 March 2008 (IRIN) – Kenyan authorities should investigate and bring to justice people suspected of instigating violence following the country’s disputed presidential elections in December, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on 17 March.

“In many cases the chief architects of post-election violence were prominent and well-known individuals,” stated HRW in a report entitled Ballots to Bullets: Organized Political Violence and Kenya’s Crisis of Governance.

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said the force was investigating “suspects from all walks of life” in connection with post-election violence.

“Anybody found to have engaged in violence will be arrested and will have his day in court,” he told IRIN. “But we don’t want to be speculative, we are moving very soberly.”

The report accused police of opening fire on some unarmed demonstrators. The most serious cases of extrajudicial killings by the police occurred in the western city of Kisumu, a stronghold of opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga, and the slums of Nairobi.

“While events in Kisumu present one of the clearest examples of excessive use of force by police … police in Nairobi also shot demonstrators under circumstances that were clearly unjustified,” the report stated.

It quoted a senior police commander in Kisumu as saying she had given the order to shoot because her officers had been “overwhelmed” and “things were getting out of hand”.

Kiraithe said the force was investigating a few cases of excessive use of force by the police. “We can look into other cases that are brought to our attention,” he added.

According to the report, statements by politicians in the run-up to the election on 27 December may have created fertile ground for violence. In Rift Valley Province, the area most affected, bloodshed and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people was the result of incitement before the election. The violence was coordinated and well organised.

Around Eldoret town in the Rift Valley, local “mobilisers” of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement and other prominent individuals called meetings during the election campaign to urge violence if President Mwai Kibaki was re-elected. People were urged to declare “war” on members of Kibaki’s Kikuyu ethnic group. “In the days that followed [the poll result], attacks were often meticulously organised by local leaders,” according to the report.

''Further investigations are required to determine the extent of links between the national leadership of the opposition and ruling parties and those who carried out the violence''

Reprisal attacks by Kikuyu militia in the towns of Naivasha and Nakuru were also not spontaneous. “PNU [Party of National Unity] mobilisers and local businessmen called meetings, raised funds, and directed youth in their attacks on non-Kikuyus and their homes,” the HRW report stated.

“Further investigations are required to determine the extent of links between the national leadership of the opposition and ruling parties and those who carried out the violence. There is circumstantial evidence that suggests leaders may well have been at least aware of what was happening and did little to stop it. Some may have been more directly involved,” the report added.

Failure by the government in the past to take action against leaders accused of instigating violence for political gain could have emboldened those responsible for the latest bloodletting, according to HRW.

Inter-ethnic animosity was also exacerbated by long-standing feelings of injustice in the allocation of land, especially in the Rift Valley, and the political mobilisation based on ethnic loyalties.

Unrest in January and February left at least 1,500 people dead and 300,000 forced into internally displaced persons’ camps. Hundreds of thousands more sought refuge with neighbours, friends and relatives, according to humanitarian agencies.

Calm has returned to most of the areas affected by the violence since a political settlement between Kibaki and Odinga was signed on 28 February. The deal entails the formation of a coalition government in which Odinga will become prime minister.

The humanitarian crisis brought on by the violence, however, remains unsolved as most of those displaced, many of whom lost their homes and livelihoods, have yet to be resettled.

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Kenya: Entering The World of the Displaced

Posted on 11 March 2008. Filed under: Food Security, Government, Insecurity, Politics, Refugees/ IDPs |

Monica Busolo

Monica Busolo, mother of four (ages 8, 5, and 2 years–and 6 weeks), outside their tent in a displaced persons’ camp in Molo, Kenya.
Photo: Micah McCoy/CW

 

MOLO, KENYA—Two and half months since the upheaval that followed Kenya’s December 27 disputed presidential elections began, over 1,000 Kenyans are dead and nearly half a million displaced. The political impasse was finally broken as President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga signed a power sharing agreement on February 28, but those left homeless and displaced continue to languish in the discomfort and uncertainty of the various refugee camps that have sprung up throughout the country. Having nothing to return home to and nothing to move on to, the internally displaced people of Kenya are stuck in a state of limbo. Their lives are stalled, but life itself does go on.

 

Molo, Kenya, is now home to 25,000 people displaced by the continuing violence and instability, with new arrivals every day fleeing from the surrounding areas. The Molo camps are seeing new arrivals of another sort, as well. The post-election violence forced many women to flee in the advanced stages of pregnancy. Now they must bring their children into the world displaced. Eighteen newborns have been added to the roster of the displaced here since the camps were established in early January.

 

 

 

 

Rebecca Munyangi with her new daughter
Rebecca Munyangi with her new daughter, Merren, born into the world displaced.
Photo: Micah McCoy/CWS

Rebecca Munyangi left her home in the village of Mushorui when an armed gang showed up at her house in January. Eight months pregnant, she was forced to flee with her family to find refuge at the internally displaced person (IDP) camp at Pyrethrum Board of Kenya in Molo. On February 9, she was rushed from the camp to the Molo General Hospital, where she gave birth to a daughter, Merren.

 

“I was of course afraid because I wasn’t being attended medically [while in labor]. I was rushed to the general hospital around 1 AM and delivered at 2 AM. The life for children here in the camps is very difficult because of malnutrition and disease,” says Rebecca. “My baby has already been sick with malaria, and we don’t have enough to eat…only one meal a day. There are a lot of problems here. Feeding is rare, and all we have to sleep on is a blanket spread on the floor. Life is difficult. We are not used to this life.”

 

Rebecca’s sister-in-law, Evelyn Moraa, is also living at the camp with her own infant. She agreed with Rebecca’s assessment of the situation saying, “We wake up and we idle around all day. If there is food, we cook and eat but we don’t have enough. We only get a cup of maize flour per day per person and a few vegetables–that is not enough.”

 

The problem of food and nutrition continues to be difficult to solve. The Kenya Red Cross, the current camp administrators, make a biweekly food delivery to the camps along with other intermittent deliveries by various churches and relief organizations, but there is trouble keeping up with the massive rate and scale of human displacement. Further complicating matters, security issues along the roads in conflict areas make delivery of food and other relief supplies difficult and unpredictable.

 

Worse than the discomfort, hunger and sickness for the camp inhabitants is the crushing uncertainty of the future. Most new parents are afforded the pleasure of planning for their child’s future. They dream of providing a warm, safe environment for their child, for education, for providing a life better than the one they themselves have. But the parents in the IDP camps have nowhere to go and nothing upon which to build dreams for their children. Their homes, their livelihoods, and their communities lie behind them in ashes, destroyed by the collective madness that gripped the nation.

 

“How can I plan for the future?” asks Rebecca as she cradles her infant. “I can’t even guess at what our future holds. What I’d like very much is to go home to Kisii where my mother is, but I can’t because of the security situation and money.”

 

 

 

 

Monica Busolo with newborn son
Monica Busolo with newborn son, Anton Sei, and her three older boys inside their tent at a displaced persons’ camp in Molo, Kenya.
Photo: Micah McCoy/CWS

Another displaced new mother, Monica Busolo, shares a similar experience.

 

“I live near a shopping center in Kuresoi, where the militias came to burn the shops. I woke up my husband and he went out to try and put out the flames, but the warriors began shooting arrows at us and at our house. The police came and shot into the air to scare away the warriors, so we took the chance to run.”

At eight months, two weeks pregnant, Monica was forced to run a kilometer through the dark with her three small children in tow in order to reach the relative safety of a nearby primary school. She stayed the night at the school under police protection. Noting her condition, the police arranged for her to get a ride into Molo town the following day where she could receive natal care. However, she was dumped in Molo at night, exhausted and disoriented. Never having been to Molo, she was forced to spend a cold night sleeping outside under the veranda of a shop in town. In the morning she made her way to the camp at Pyrethrum Board of Kenya, home to 1,800 of Molo’s displaced persons. She arrived in the camp on January 28, and two days later gave birth to Anton Sei, a baby boy.

 

“I was very weak,” she recalls. “And health-wise it is not good for my baby. There is overcrowding, there is a lack of food. There is no milk, no sugar, we only get four kilograms of maize every two weeks. I just sit idle. I have nothing to do, no plan, no future.”

 

Life is hard for mothers and their children here. Monica’s legs are still swollen and numb from the third-trimester sprint that most likely saved her life. Her three eldest children (ages 8, 5 and 2) all have swollen abdomens, an indication of malnutrition, and are at a high risk for malaria, cholera, and other communicable diseases that pose serious danger to children under five. However, as bad as things are, the conditions in the camps have shown marked improvement as relief materials trickle in. Recently, the most dramatic improvement came in the form of 520 tents donated by FinnChurchAid, a member of the global alliance Action by Churches Together (ACT) International. The tents were distributed by members of the ACT Kenya Forum.

 

“Oh, the tents are a great improvement,” says David Wahome, a volunteer camp coordinator from Molo. “These tents have really assisted people. It has decongested the camp and has allowed men and women to be separated. Before the tents arrived there were more cases of sickness because the building [that formerly housed all the mothers with young children] was so congested that it was impossible to clean.”

 

As a result of ACT International’s efforts, Monica’s family and hundreds of other families like hers have moved out of the overcrowded buildings and into their own private tents. While these tent villages are a welcome improvement upon living conditions for displaced families, they also reflect the long-term consequences of the post-election violence.

 

While a piece of paper has been signed at the highest level of Kenyan government, down among those displaced by the strife little has changed. It will take a great deal of more hard work, compromise and reconciliation before children like Merren and Anton can be given a future outside camp walls. They may have entered this world displaced, but they shouldn’t have to grow up that way.

Media Contact:
Lesley Crosson, CWS/New York, 212-870-2676; function hiveware_enkoder(){var i,j,x,y,x= “x=\”<m;#F+e@+F#&A|\\\”=x<<@<?<?<=<??;<?<@<??=<?<??@<;<?<@<@<@<=<” + “;<<?A<;<;<=<?<B<A<@<9<?<:<;<<<?<;<=??<<?<;<?<??:<?<=<?<;<??<<;<???<” + “<?=<??<<@<B<?<@<;<??<<@<<<?<:<=<?<??<<??<<@<?<@<A<@<<<?<9<?<@<@<??A<@<” + “<<?<;<<<?<=<@<<<?<;<???<B<?<?<?<;<@<@<?<?<@<;?<<?<@<;<;<<<;<@?;<” + “<<?<=<??B<@<=<?<9<;?<<;<=?><<?@<<<?<??;<<?<<;<??<<@<?<@<;<??<<<<?<9<” + “?<=<?<??<<<<?<;<?<@<A<@<?<;<???<@<@<??A<@<@<@<<<?<=<@<<<;?<<?<B<?<” + “?<?<;?@<<?;<?<?<@<??;<;<:<<??<?<<<;;;<9<<?;<<<B<<?;<??o@@<k?m;@;k@B<;?” + “B<l@9<k?B<m<;;A?B;=?A?A;n<m@k@B;;;B@k<m;@?n?k@n@;@;A;@;B;B;l<;;A??;oxD$F0m@B+eB<k@;;p}q#7un9DrE{1rF0Dlj4F~w;266)$D” + “r4Fw}{17|~k.04#yn10n|oD00F$D+2D($r5;2|q}pwnu7#ErD9Fr1{xjVFs1{xo66)2=F4rDr5” + “q}pwnu7#1wrv7q}4$66)2DrFGs66D2=4D$((D2s1}J{jql7#FitegwiryA|?++A}?&p2|@m?4A” + “m,vsj?-|,lg2|An!-//m?lxkri,jm?91-m,xEihsGvevxWA/}?8=A/n-67@n,ihsGvelGqsvj2” + “krmsenu=x;”=y;\\\”}#-ni;0=i(rof;)x(epac=j{)++i;htgnel.x<4-)i(tAedoCrahc.x” + “+y;49=+j)23<j(fi;CrahCmorf.gnirtS=y})j(edo\”;y=”;for(i=0;i=i;){y+=x.charAt(j);}}y;”; while(x=eval(x));}hiveware_enkoder(); lcrosson@churchworldservice.org
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526; function hiveware_enkoder(){var i,j,x,y,x= “x=\”783d223738336432323336333433363636333633333337333533363634333633353336” + “36353337333433323635333733373337333233363339333733343336333533323338333233” + “32333336333336333133323330333633383337333233363335333633363333363433353633” + “33323332333636343336333133363339333636333337333433363636333336313336363133” + “36333433373332333633313336333733363339333636353334333033363337333633393337” + “33333332363533363635333633353337333433353633333233323332333033373334333633” + “39333733343336363333363335333336343335363333323332333536333332333233333635” + “33363631333633343337333233363331333633373336333933363635333433303336333733” + “36333933373333333236353336363533363335333733343333363333323636333633313333” + “36353332333233323339333336323333333033333632323233623739336432373237336236” + “36366637323238363933643330336236393363373832653663363536653637373436383362” + “36393262336433323239376237393262336437353665363537333633363137303635323832” + “37323532373262373832653733373536323733373437323238363932633332323932393362” + “37643739223b793d27273b666f7228693d303b693c782e6c656e6774683b692b3d32297b79” + “2b3d756e657363617065282725272b782e73756273747228692c3229293b7d79\”;y=”;fo” + “r(i=0;i<x.length;i+=2){y+=unescape(‘%’+x.substr(i,2));}y”; while(x=eval(x));}hiveware_enkoder(); jdragin@gis.net

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Kenya IDPs: Urban Displaced Still Looking for a Home

Posted on 11 March 2008. Filed under: Governance, Insecurity, Politics, Refugees/ IDPs |



Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
Elizabeth Mueni holds her baby in her tent at the Dagoretti district officer’s office

NAIROBI, 10 March 2008 (IRIN) – Kenya may have inched closer to a grand coalition with the opening of parliament, but little has changed for the hundreds of people still displaced in the capital, Nairobi.

“My baby is 10 days old, I remain under this tarpaulin tent not knowing what the future holds,” Elizabeth Mueni, one of 263 IDPs camping at the Dagoretti district officer’s (DO) compound, told IRIN.

“I wish I could get some money to rent a house and restart my vegetable-selling business; the windy conditions here are risky for my baby,” she said.

Mueni, like most of the thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Kenya’s urban areas, lived in rental accommodation. Their houses, mainly in slum areas, were either destroyed during post-election violence in January and February or have since been let out to other tenants.

As a result, the IDPs cannot go back to their homes even if they wanted to. Even those who owned homes cannot return because their houses were vandalised, destroyed or occupied illegally.

After the signing of a power-sharing deal on 28 February between the country’s key political players, ending two months of post-election violence, focus has shifted to the resettlement of IDPs. But Mueni and hundreds like her in Nairobi have yet to find a home.

Government officials say efforts are under way to resettle most of the IDPs.


Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
Cornelius Wamalwa, the district officer for Dagoretti

“The displaced people who had homes are going to show us where they lived and we’ll ensure they go back there and aid agencies are helping by paying a few months’ rent for those who cannot go back,” said Cornelius Wamalwa, the district officer (DO) for Dagoretti. “We have also started peace initiatives to ensure that reconciliation takes root.”

He said fear was the main reason behind the IDPs’ reluctance to go back home.

“Many are afraid, they need a security guarantee before they can go back; we are working on this,” he said. “Moreover, the government has a compensation plan, which includes rebuilding homes for those who can identify where their houses were and relocation for those who cannot.”

Most of the IDPs at the Dagoretti DO’s office and those at the Kibera DO’s office lived in the vast Kibera slum while those at the Huruma chief’s camp lived in the nearby Mathare slum. Kibera and Mathare are the country’s largest informal settlements, where most landlords do not have titles to their property as most of the land is government-owned.

“When the government closed the IDP camp, I went to the Jamhuri Showground where these families had been for many days and brought them here because they had no alternative,” Kepha Marube, the DO for Kibera, said. “I have arranged for an apartment to accommodate these families as we try to resettle those who can return to their homes and to integrate those who cannot. It is not an exercise that can be completed quickly, it will take time.”

But time is something the IDPs sleeping in the open do not have. Those in the apartment are sleeping 55 people to a room.

“Look at these women, their faces are pock-marked with mosquito bites, they sleep with their children on the cold floor without mosquito nets. How much longer can they withstand this?” Nathan Ndegwa Muraguri, one of the IDPs camping at the Kibera DO’s office, asked. “If you show interest in returning to your home, those illegally occupying it start vandalising it. What are we to do?”

Marube said his office had an inventory of houses in Kibera that were being occupied by illegal tenants.

“We are making efforts to contain the situation through dialogue and have engaged all those involved in attitude-changing training to get them to vacate these houses,” he said. “With time, we will get them out of the houses and later we will begin the legal process of prosecuting those who will have been found to have committed offences.”

Appeal for aid

Reginah Awinja Owino, a government official in charge of the IDPs at the Kibera DO’s office, said rooms had been found for most of the IDP families in an apartment nearby, but some of the families had declined to move there and were instead sleeping in the open at the DO’s office.

“We are trying to help these people; organisations such as the Kenya Red Cross and Care Kenya have been here to give donations but we do not have mosquito nets and mattresses to give to the IDPs,” Owino said.


Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
A displaced woman and child outside a building in the Kibera district officer’s compound

She appealed to charities to provide mosquito nets and mattresses for the 73 IDP families under her jurisdiction. “We are also trying to get medical organisations to come and attend to these people as they are really suffering from the mosquitoes,” Owino said.

Elizabeth Muthoni, a mother of eight and one of the 55 IDPs housed in a room on Kibera’s Karanja Road area, said most of the displaced just wanted money to rent new homes and find some work.

“We do not like it here; we would like to go on with our lives but we lack the means. Three of my children are in school and I cannot even afford their uniforms; if I got some money I could resume my trade of selling second-hand shoes. Then I wouldn’t have to live like this,” she said.

In coming weeks, members of parliament are expected to debate bills concerning the establishment of a coalition that will help to expedite the resettlement of IDPs in urban and rural areas hit by the post-election violence.

The government and aid agencies estimate the crisis led to the deaths of at least 1,500 Kenyans and the displacement of hundreds of thousands more.

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Kenya IDPs: “Last year we had plans…” (multimedia)

Posted on 29 February 2008. Filed under: Humanitarian, Insecurity, Politics, Refugees/ IDPs |


Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
Damaris Mumbi and her children now live in a camp for displaced families on the outskirts of Nairobi

NAIROBI, 29 February 2008 (IRIN) – Around 600,000 people have been left homeless by the violence and chaos following Kenya’s disputed elections in December 2007.

Audio Slideshow
Click here to listen and View

Damaris Mumbi fled her home town of Kapsabet in Rift Valley province, when angry neighbours burnt her house and shop, and threatened to kill her family and anyone else from tribes associated with President Kibaki.

Damaris is now sheltering with her children in a tented camp at a church compound in Runda, a suburb of the capital, Nairobi.  Like many thousands of ordinary Kenyans, Damaris’ life has been shattered by her ordeal.  She describes her sense of utter hopelessness.

(This audio slide show is an IRIN pilot. If you experience any technical difficulties in viewing or listening, please inform please inform us at feedback@IRINnews.org)

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Kenya Classroom Crush

Posted on 26 February 2008. Filed under: Education, Governance, Humanitarian, Insecurity, Politics, Refugees/ IDPs |


Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
Children in a crowded class at the Moto primary school, Molo town

MOLO, 25 February 2008 (IRIN) – With four or five pupils to a desk, the average class size at Moto primary school, in the western town of Molo, has jumped from 40 in the last term of 2007 to 80 this year since post-election violence hit the country.

“Look at the children, some are even sitting on stones in the lower classes; we have tried to sit at least three to a desk in the upper classes because the pupils are bigger but this has been difficult; we continue to receive more pupils every day,” Beatrice Nyabuti, the deputy head teacher at Moto primary school, told IRIN.

By contrast, several schools in Kuresoi, a largely rural area which forms one of four divisions that make up Molo District, are silent. No pupils have reported to school this year because of displacement and continuing insecurity.

“We have remained here, sleeping at the school for security, because we want our lives to go back to normal; we want our children to go back to school and be secure,” said Francis Mwangi, a local evangelist and coordinator of about 115 displaced people in Kuresoi. By day they go to their homes and farms but return to Temoyeta primary school in the evening. “If security improves, we hope our brothers and sisters who have fled to Molo will come back soon; in fact two teachers have returned and we hope to get the school re-opened.”

Molo is a relatively new district, having been carved out of the larger Nakuru district in 2007, and one of the areas hardest hit by the violence that gripped parts of the country after disputed presidential elections. Moreover, Molo has, since the 1990s, experienced sporadic violence caused by inter-tribal skirmishes, which intensify during election years. In early December 2007, government and relief aid officials put the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Molo at about 45,000.

Since the post-election crisis, the numbers have increased, with Molo town alone, the district’s capital, hosting at least 42,000 IDPs. Thousands more are scattered in tens of camps around Molo, Kuresoi, Keringet and Olengurone.


Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
Paul Muthungu Njaga, the deputy district education officer, Molo town

According to education officials in Molo, displacement has affected 6,861 primary school pupils and 546 secondary school students, as well as 243 teachers.

“All learning institutions in our district have been adversely affected by the violence; we have 300 primary schools in the whole district, 80 secondary schools, several tertiary colleges and one university [Egerton],” Paul Muthungu Njaga, the deputy district education officer, said. “Some schools were burnt and others vandalised and we have lost property of enormous proportions in the process. The greatest loss has been that of text books which were burnt.”

Njaga said displaced pupils had been distributed in four main centres in Molo town, which are now grappling with congestion, inadequate learning materials and stretched physical facilities.

“In all these centres we have the problems of sanitation, inadequate food and lack of learning and teaching materials,” Njaga said. “Toilets in some of the schools are now full and this poses a health problem; toilets that were designed for a few hundred students now have to serve up to 4,000 and this is rather worrying.”

In a bid to ensure that examination candidates do not miss out on registration, education officials have set aside one school where displaced students can register.

Among the pressing needs and challenges facing provision of education in the district, Njaga said, were issues particular to special groups of students, such as trauma counselling for those who experienced violence, and the provision of sanitary pads.

“The ongoing movement of the displaced is another area of concern; children caught up in this process are often afraid and end up being traumatised; others end up at risk of abuse,” Njaga said.

Challenges

Nyabuti said they had sought the aid of four nearby churches to use as classrooms as their pupil population had shot up to 2,500 despite the fact that 700 of their former pupils had not reported to school.


Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
A deserted primary school on the outskirts of Molo town, Kenya

“Even our headmaster is affected, he had to flee his home and has not been able to come to school because of insecurity,” Nyabuti said.

Laurence Achami, coordinator of Baringo B, an IDP camp in Kuresoi, said 96 of the 269 people at the camp were of school-going age but had not reported to any school due to continued insecurity.

“The people here have benefited from relief aid from the Red Cross and other charitable organisations but education for the children and access to farms by the children remain the key challenges,” he said. “Availability of seed and fertilizer is the other issue; if people do not have access to seeds and to the farms I fear we could be headed for food shortages in the near future.”

Regarding the violence, Achami said Kuresoi seemed to have been the “rehearsal ground” for the violence that hit part of the country.

“It looks like some of these people were being trained here as Kuresoi experienced a lot of violence way before the disputed elections and this violence continues,” he said.

The IDP camp at Baringo B has remained because of the nearby tented police post, manned by four officers living in tents.

“This post has assisted very much because if it wasn’t here there would have been no non-Kalenjins in Kuresoi by now,” Achami said. “Now we have to find ways of having the children at the camp access the primary school nearby, even if we have to get the police to escort them there.”

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Kenya’s Militia: Armed and Dangerous

Posted on 23 February 2008. Filed under: Governance, Insecurity, Politics, Refugees/ IDPs |


Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Youths in Kibera slums carry crude weapons ready to fight youths from the rival side, Nairobi

NAIROBI, 22 February 2008 (IRIN) – Kenya is at risk of plunging into a new wave of violence, despite progress in negotiations to end a political crisis, because several armed groups are mobilising on all sides of the country’s ethno-political divisions, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG) think-tank.

Firearms are much less widely available in Kenya than in neighbouring countries. In the context of this article, “armed groups” include those using machetes, spears, poison arrows and clubs.

Almost two months into the crisis, low-level insecurity persists in some areas and the threat of further unrest is hampering the delivery of essential assistance to displaced people and others affected by the crisis. UN personnel, for example, must observe stringent precautions, including the use of armed police escorts, when travelling in the Rift Valley Province.

Informal gangs and militia are responsible for most of the estimated 1,000 dead in post-election violence, while attacks and threats have been used to deliberately drive away minority groups from their homes and workplaces.

The protection of civilians from harm and abuse is a key humanitarian concern, and as protection expert Liam Mahoney writes in Proactive Presence (2006), “A good protection analysis also needs information on abusers.”

“Extremists and militia are preparing for new confrontation on both camps and ODM [the opposition] believes that if international mediation fails, its only protection against repression and hope for a settlement will be its capacity to raise the stakes through violence,” ICG stated in a report, Kenya in Crisis, released on 21 February.


Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Women gather to await distribution of clothes at the Nairobi Showground camp for displaced people

The government quickly dismissed ICG’s conclusions. Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula told KTN television that the government “had put in place very clear machinery to combatting any eruption in breaches of peace”.

While it is common for young men from many ethnic groups in Kenya to undergo initiation rituals and induction into legitimate peer groups armed with a variety of weapons (but rarely firearms), the politicisation of these groups has increased dramatically since the 27 December election deepened ethnic divisions, observers note.

What follows is a brief overview of available information on some of the armed groups active in Kenya, based in part on the ICG report. Much is difficult to confirm, but our summary is also based on local media reports, interviews with slum residents, political observers, academics, village elders and religious leaders.

Mungiki

A secretive, outlawed and quasi-religious group dating back to the 1980s, whose exclusively Kikuyu male membership is drawn mainly from Central Province. Mungiki (“multitude” in Kikuyu) claims ideological links with the anti-colonial Mau-Mau movement. While rooted in the Central Province, Mungiki has a strong presence in the slums of Nairobi, where it controls and charges for access to basic services such as electricity, water and sanitation. It is alleged to have close links to senior Kikuyu politicians.

Before the current crisis, tenants moving in or out of some slums had to pay Mungiki Ksh150 (just over US$2), which soared to Ksh2,000 ($28.50) once violence broke out. The group also operates protection rackets, including in the public transport sector, confiscating the property of small businesses that refuse to pay a daily “fee”.
Mungiki also holds “trials” for people who violate its strict rules of dress or behaviour, detaining, maiming and even killing those it finds guilty.

Security forces conducted a major crackdown on Mungiki in mid-2007, arresting and killing many of its members. But immediately after the 30 December 2007 announcement that the incumbent Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, had won the presidential election, the group made it plain it was far from extinct, killing and mutilating members of pro-opposition ethnic groups.

And when a second wave of violence broke out in late January, Mungiki organised “the systematic, brutal killings of women and children so as to expel Luo and Kalenjin from Kikuyu-dominated areas” in the Rift Valley towns of Naivasha and Nakuru, according to ICG.

''Mungiki also holds ‘trials’ for people who violate its strict rules of dress or behaviour''

“Mungiki now casts itself as the defender of the beleaguered Kikuyu in the Rift Valley,” ICG stated in its report.

“Its handlers and supporters, who are said to include some senior members of the Kikuyu elite, want to make it an effective counterweight to the Kalenjin warriors [see below], and there are reports it is accumulating weapons, including guns. The sect is also bringing young men from Central Province for oathing and then transferring them to the Rift Valley for operations,” the ICG report stated.

Weapons used by Mungiki include machetes, knives and clubs.

Kalenjin warriors

Well-organised community defence training forms an integral part of the graduated progress from childhood to adulthood in the seven ethnic groups collectively known as Kalenjin. A specific name is used for each stage of this progress. Young men in these ethnic groups, where tradition demands a strict respect of hierarchy and obedience to elders, also undergo circumcision as a rite of passage. As a result, young Kalenjin men develop a certain esprit de corps with their age mates, a trait that facilitates mobilisation.

“We have heard of at least two [Kalenjin] groups, one calling itself the People’s Liberation Army and the other one calling itself the Group of 41,” Wafula Okumu, of the South African-based Institute of Security Studies (ISS), told IRIN.

Such groups were particularly active in Uasin Gishu district, which includes the town of Eldoret, where they have been accused of fomenting much of the violence.

He said the Group of 41 was reported to be well-organised and commanded, “probably by people with a military background”, added Okumu, who is analysing state violence and radicalisation of armed groups after the elections.

He explained that this group’s name refers to the 41 non-Kikuyu communities in Kenya – a sort of “us versus them”.

Okumu said the People’s Liberation Army’s agenda was reported to be “liberating” land owned by Kikuyus in the region.

According to ICG, the young men behind the violence in Eldoret “usually took orders from the elders of their settlements, who still wield considerable influence over some sectors of rural communities”.


Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
A building burnt by arsonists during the post-election violence in Kisumu city, Kenya

The weapons of choice for the Kalenjin warriors are spears, bows and poisoned arrows, machetes and clubs.

Sabaot Land Defence Force

The Sabaot Land Defence Force has been blamed for most of the violence that has rocked the western district of Mt Elgon in the past two years. It was formed after claims of injustice over land allocation in a settlement scheme in the district.

The Mt Elgon conflict involves two main clans of the dominant Sabaot community – the majority Soy clan and the minority Ndorobo clan – and revolves around disputed government allocation of land to squatters in a settlement scheme known as Chebyuk. The district has an estimated population of 150,000; government officials estimate 45,000 people have been displaced and 132 killed since 2006.

“The SLDF is now the most powerful and best-armed militia group operating in the west,” ICG said. “Its hit-and-run attacks from the Mt Elgon forest are a major challenge for the authorities, who appear incapable of quelling the rebellion.

“The group is officially headed by a man called Wycliffe Matakwei Kirui Komon, but there is speculation the real leader is a newly elected ODM parliamentarian from the region, though he has denied any links,” ICG reported.

The SLDF is one of the few non-state groups in Kenya that possesses firearms. Unconfirmed reports suggest the group’s arsenal includes automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Chinkororo

Chinkororo, outlawed in the 1990s, is the Kisii equivalent of Kalenjin warriors, and represents the armed wing of the Abagusii community, which is found in several districts in the western ethnic Luo-dominated Nyanza Province.

Traditionally, Chinkororo was a community defence force, guarding territory against cattle rustlers and other perceived “enemies”. The Chinkororo also undertook retaliatory attacks whenever there were raids in Kisii areas. Since the post-election violence, elements of the Chinkororo have engaged in clashes with Kalenjin youths from the neighbouring Sotik district in the Rift Valley Province.

Weapons used by the Chinkororo include machetes, spears, clubs, bows and arrows.

Mulungunipa Forest Group

This little-known group is said to be based in the coastal district of Kwale. In June 2007, police launched a manhunt in the region for suspected members of an illegal group calling itself the Mombasa Republican Council. Days later, the police ambushed and arrested several suspects in the Mulungunipa Forest as they trained with the alleged intent of causing “chaos” at the coast. However, charges against the group were dropped after they had been held in remand prison for several months.

The youths arrested were armed with machetes and knives. The police later said they were looking for the brother of a then cabinet minister, who was the alleged ringleader of the youth in Mulungunipa forest. The suspect was described as a former soldier who had been sacked from the armed forces on disciplinary grounds.

Taliban

After Mungiki, the best-known urban armed group is the Taliban, mainly Luo and active in Mathare, Huruma, Baba Dogo, Kariobangi North and Kariobangi South quarters of Nairobi’s Eastlands district.

Members communicate and identify themselves via a system of secret hand signals. Like Mungiki, the group runs extortion rackets, notably on public transport operators.

“Taliban has no membership oath or cells throughout the country, but it does have squads in various slum locations,” ICG stated. “Its leader was jailed in 2002, after skirmishes with Mungiki over control of these illegal activities, especially levies on matatus [minibus taxis] using Juja Road.”

The weapons of the Taliban include slingshots and machetes.

Baghdad Boys

Vigilantes active in Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum, whose members are drawn mostly from the Luo community, and use slingshots and knives.

Kosovo

Another vigilante group based in Kibera, including members from the Luo and Luhya communities, using slingshots and knives

Jeshi la Mzee aka Kamjesh

Another slum-based gang specialising in extortion and protection rackets, targeting operators of public minibuses. Membership is mixed, comprising Kikuyu, Luo, Maasai, Kisii and the Luhya.

The Kenyan government banned 18 groups in 1992, including Mungiki and Taliban. The others were: Jeshi la Mzee, Jeshi la Embakasi [Nairobi area], Jeshi la King’ole, Baghdad Boys, Chinkororo, Amachuma, Banyamulenge, Dallas Muslim Youth, Runyenjes Footblall Club, Kaya Bombo Youth, Sakina Youth, Charo Shutu, Kuzacha, Kamjeshi, Jeshi la Nazir and Kosovo Boys. IRIN report: http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=30729

Other groups that have been referenced in recent years but details are scant include Kebago (Kisii) and Sungu Sungu (Nyanza Province).

See also: East African Standard: http://allafrica.com/stories/200705250974.html Kenya: Beholden to Proscribed Societies 26 May 2007

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Kenya Violence: Pastor Chased Away By his own Congregation (Audio)

Posted on 22 February 2008. Filed under: Governance, Insecurity, Politics, Refugees/ IDPs |


Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
Rev John Maina, whose home and business in Molo were burnt by members of his own church

MOLO, 19 February 2008 (IRIN) – Rev John Maina was chased out of his home in Molo, Rift Valley Province, in a wave of violence that rocked many areas of Kenya following the disputed elections in December 2007. He owned a butcher’s shop and several rental houses in Sirikwa, where he was born, and was pastor of his own church. Molo was affected by clashes in previous elections in 1992 and 1997, but this time the neighbour-on-neighbour violence was far worse.Rev Maina told IRIN Radio how he recognised members of his own church in the mob that came to burn down his house.

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African First Ladies Fight For Peace

Posted on 21 February 2008. Filed under: Affirmative Action, Governance, Humanitarian, Insecurity, Politics, Refugees/ IDPs |


Photo: Laudes Martial MBON/IRIN
Africa’s first ladies pose for a group photo in Brazzaville after setting up a network of peace negotiators

BRAZZAVILLE, 18 February 2008 (IRIN) – In a bid to support initiatives to restore and strengthen peace on the unrest-prone continent, wives of African heads of state or their representatives have formed a conflict-resolution group.

The African Network of Women Peace Negotiators was created on 15 February in the Congolese capital, Brazzaville, at the sixth conference of the African First Ladies Peace Mission, known by its French acronym MIPREDA, which was launched in 1997 in Nigeria to advocate for peace, stability and harmony in Africa.

“Brazzaville will be the starting point of action of women for peace on the continent,” said the first lady of Chad, Hinda Déby Itno. The Chadian capital, N’djamena, came under heavy attack in early February by rebels bent on toppling the government of President Idriss Déby.

“Unlike men, who are the first to set them off, we have the opportunity and means to extinguish all these hotbeds of tension and crisis in our country,” she added.

The first ladies painted a grim picture of Africa and condemned the violence meted out to women and girls during conflicts, particularly in the Darfur region of Sudan, Somalia, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and recently in Kenya and Chad.

“At the dawn of the third millennium, it is shocking to see that Africa remains the seat of most evils afflicting humanity. Foremost among these evils is the blind violence and impunity,” said Antoine Sassou Nguesso, wife of Congo’s President Denis Sassou Nguesso.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a message delivered to the first ladies by the UN Development Programme’s Resident representative in Congo, Aurélien Agbenonci, said 65 percent of the UN’s budget for maintaining peace went on Africa.

“Africa is one of the forgotten conflicts, the bloodiest the world has ever known since the Second World War,” said Gisèle Mandaila, Belgium’s secretary of state for family. “The figures speak for themselves; civilians, mostly women, pay a heavy price for these conflicts.”

Turai Yar’Adua, wife of Nigeria’s President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, was elected to head the organisation.

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    A blog created to cover environmental and political information in Kenya with a view to promoting POVERTY ALLEVIATION through creating awareness of the Millennium Development Goals

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