News 2008


Post-poll violence: US threatens to intervene

Story by NATION Team and Agencies

Publication Date: 1/31/2008

Foreign countries may impose a solution on Kenya to end the post-election crisis if its leaders fail to reach a workable settlement, the United States warned Wednesday.

Its tough message came as international pressure mounted on the rival factions led by President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga to reach settlement to the poll dispute, which has left more than 850 dead and over 350,000 displaced in one month.

Dr Jendayi Frazer, the US top diplomat for Africa, said she planned to consult African leaders meeting in Addis Ababa this week on the way forward, and warned that a solution from outside the country could be imposed on Kenya if it does not solve its own problems.

“We’ll find an international mechanism if they can’t find it internally,” she said.

Her comments were echoed by the Secretary of State, Dr Condoleezza Rice, who stressed the urgency for Kenyan leaders to find a solution.

It was the clearest signal yet of the world’s growing impatience with the wave of killings which have rocked different parts of the country since Mr Kibaki was declared winner of the presidential elections on December 30

On Wednesday, Australia’s Foreign minister Stephen Smith announced that his government officials in Kenya would limit their contact with Cabinet ministers over the disputed election result.

Mr Smith said Australia did not want to perceived as supporting any of the parties in the conflict.

“I’ve indicated today that we will start now to limit ministerial contact in Kenya as part of our responses to seeking to encourage all the political leaders in Kenya to commence sensibly the mediation processes which Kofi Annan is trying to affect,” he said. Speaking in Washington on Tuesday, Dr Rice appealed for Kenya’s political leaders to broker an end to the violence.

“There needs to be a political resolution of this conflict. The election was not one that inspired confidence in the Kenyan people,” she said.

The leaders of the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and the President of the EU Commission welcomed the face-to-face encounter between President Kibaki and Mr Odinga through the Kofi Annan mediation and called for an end to the violence.

British prime minister Gordon Brown, French president Nicolas Sarkozy, German chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian prime minister Romano Prodi and EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso asked both sides to pursue urgent dialogue for the sake of the country.

Government spokesman

“We fully support Kofi Annan’s efforts and those of Ben Mkapa and Graca Machel. We call on Kenya’s leaders to pursue this dialogue urgently, including in addressing the underlying issues - as they have committed to do - in order to resolve Kenya’s problems and put in place the basis of governance that is representative of the democratic will of the Kenyan people.”

Responding to the US stance, Government spokesman Alfred Mutua said Kenya was currently seeking a solution to the crisis because it was capable of handling its own matters.

Since the December 27 election, the death toll across a country, since last December among the most stable in Africa, has soared to more than 850.

Separately, a group of international donors announced that they were freezing Sh2.9 billion to the Governance, Justice, Law and Order programme which has helped reform the country’s prisons, the prosecution department in the Attorney-General’s office and the police department.

The programme’s chief technical coordinator Jacques Cartens wrote to government ministries, departments and agencies informing them of the suspension.

But Mr Cartens described the move as “short term and would be reviewed regularly.”

In other development, President Kibaki launched a Sh1 billion fund to help victims of the violence and displacement.

A Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning resolved to take a no-nonsense approach in dealing with the lawlessness in parts of the country.

Following the meeting, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Internal Security minister George Saitoti said law enforcers would now deal firmly with the lawlessness and ensure that the nation’s highways are free of gangs.

Research institute

But even as he spoke, tension was high at Muguga, Kikuyu and Limuru areas, where major research organisations, including Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) and Kenya Forestry Research Institute (Kefri) started evacuating their staff following threats.

In Addis Ababa, Ms Frazer said there was clear evidence of ethnic cleansing in Rift Valley, but it did not amount to genocide.

“There has been an organised effort to push out people from Rift Valley... It is clearly ethnic cleansing. I don’t consider it genocide,” she told reporters on Wednesday.

Ms Frazer said the United States was keen to see investigation into the violence, including the killing of civilians by police. She called on Kenyan leaders to avoid inflammatory rhetoric.

“We are advocating some kind of power-sharing and some kind of coalition government,” she said, adding that the country needed constitutional and land reform to address deep-seated grievances between various groups.

Speaking separately in Kigali, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said intervention by the military may be the only way to halt the bloodshed.

“This is a case of emergency where certain things have to be done very quickly to stop the killings that are going on. There’s no time to go into niceties and debates when the killings are taking place,” President Kagame, who heads a nation recovering from a 1994 genocide that claimed nearly a million citizens in three months, told Reuters.

Meanwhile, the UN special adviser on preventing genocide and atrocities warned leaders responsible for the violence that they could be held to account for violating international law.

Mr Francis Deng pledged to dispatch a staff member to assess the situation in Kenya. The official, Ms Marylene Smeets, was due to leave on Thursday, Mr Deng said.

But he clarified his organisation had not classified the killings as genocide.

“We’re not talking the G-word at this point, but the kind of atrocities we’re seeing could easily escalate to dangerous levels,” he said.

Separately, deputy US ambassador to the United Nations Alejandro Wolff said he raised the Kenyan crisis at a meeting of the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

“We think this is a tragic situation. We thought it was high time that the council hear from the (UN) secretariat and get a full briefing on the situation on the ground.”