Wednesday :: Jan 2, 2008

Mediators Arrive in Nairobi, Amidst Charges of Genocide


by Turkana

The facts are blunt. From Agence France-Presse:

Kenya's political leaders traded charges of inciting ethnic violence Wednesday as diplomatic efforts intensified to end post-election unrest that has left some 330 people dead.

A dispute over last week's presidential ballot, focused on discrepancies in the counting process, has triggered Kenya's worst urban clashes in 25 years and displaced tens of thousands of people in the process.

Spiegel Online reports:

The unrest in Kenya following the disputed election victory of President Mwai Kibaki is escalating into a tribal war. On Tuesday more than 40 people, many of them children, burned to death in a church after seeking refuge from machete-wielding members of another tribe. The carnage is starting to remind observers of the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

They stand in small groups in front of the mortuary near the Ngong Road in Nairobi and have been waiting for hours. They talk quietly among themselves. They have donned their best Sunday clothes. The people gathered here are mourning relatives killed in the violent clashes that have raged in the Kenyan capital since Sunday. Now and then they cast anxious glances at the riot police gathering across the street in their bulky green protective uniforms that make them look like the Ninja Turtles comic figures. The police are getting ready to march towards one of Africa's biggest slum areas, Kibera in the southwest of Nairobi. They are getting ready for battle. There will be more deaths. Reports say 300 have already been killed so far in clashes between rival tribal groups and between the police and supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga.

As the BBC has reported, ethnic violence has spread, with bodies piling up in the morgue, and Kenya's economy tottering. The Guardian writes that aid agencies say Kenya faces a humanitarian disaster.

The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation reports that the business community is appealing for calm, Kibaki's Vice President Moody Awori appealed to Odinga to agree to unconditional dialogue, and to urge his supporters to refrain from violence, while Kibaki is calling newly elected members of parliament to a statehouse meeting.

The UAE's Gulf News says:

Odinga has refused to meet Kibaki, saying he would only do so when he "he announces that he was not elected."

While:

EU observers said the election "fell short of international standards" and Odinga has said he was “robbed.”

As the AFP explains:

Kibaki belongs to Kenya's largest tribe, the Kikuyu, and his defeated opposition challenger, Raila Odinga, to the second largest, the Luo.

Kibaki's land minister, Kivutha Kibwana, accused Odinga of orchestrating "well organised acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing" -- a charge the secretary general of Odinga's party, Anyang Nyong'o, threw back at the government.

Arriving today, to mediate, will be the head of the African Union, Ghanaian President John Kufuor and the head of the Commonwealth observer mission in Kenya, former Sierra Leonean president Ahmed Tejan Kabbah.

Starkly put, by the BBC:

The crisis in Kenya has prompted a wave of international pressure from governments concerned at the risk of ethnic cleansing and a descent into chaos of what was regarded as one of Africa's more stable political systems.

The twin examples of Rwanda and Zimbabwe provide diplomats with ample incentive to do what they can to stop the spread of violence and resolve doubts over the presidential election.

The African Union, the EU, the U.S., and China all have direct interests in Kenyan stability. The BBC says there is worry that Kenya, as a model, is now in doubt.

The international community's quick recognition that this could explode into a massive crisis can be cautiously applauded. The U.S. and U.K. are trying to find the balance between being firm and not appearing to dictate terms. Kenya is a former British colony, and Britain still has great influence, there, but Britain needs be very careful in how it uses it. Even so, the BBC says it appears Britain and the EU may not recognize Kibaki's right to the Kenyan presidency. The EU has been a little slower to respond, in the midst of its six month EU presidency rotation.

There is talk of election recounts, and possible targeted sanctions. Military options are reported to be unlikely "unless law and order breaks down completely." With Kufuor and Kabbah just arriving, this would appear to be the start of a critical few days.

Turkana :: 8:20 AM :: Comments (3) :: Digg It!