Charity says Kenya security
forces block its work
Mon 21 Jul 2008
By Guled Mohamed
NAIROBI (Reuters) - A medical charity accused Kenyan security
forces on Monday of blocking its work in a remote eastern region
where soldiers are fighting rebels.
David Michalski, a coordinator with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF),
said staff members were being stopped at roadblocks in the Mount
Elgon area and prevented by the local authorities from helping
people caught up in the violence.
"We were helping thousands of civilians until a few weeks ago and
are extremely concerned for them. Some have contacted us in great
despair," he told reporters in the capital Nairobi.
"It surprises us that we are not getting anywhere with authorities
... Vulnerable people are being left in harsh and cold living
conditions without access to vital assistance."
Last month, MSF accused Kenyan troops of systematic torture and
extra-judicial killings of civilians in the region.
Local activists have also accused the security forces of torturing
thousands of people as they hunt separatist rebels from the
illegal Sabaot Defence Land Force (SDLF) through the caves and
forests of the long-troubled area bordering Uganda.
The authorities have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Benson Chesikak, chairman of Mount Elgon county council, confirmed
that MSF operations in the region had been halted by the
government on suspicion that the charity had evidence of Kenyan
soldiers torturing civilians.
"I understand the order came from above," he told Reuters. "I
don't know if it was from the provincial level or national."
The Mount Elgon district commissioner, Mohamed Biriki, declined to
comment in detail. But he told Reuters that non-governmental
organisations (NGOs) like MSF existed to supplement government
"If any NGO fails to support government plans or goes against such
plans, then it is not good," he said.
About 600 people have died around Mount Elgon and 60,000 more been
uprooted since the SDLF took up arms in 2006 to fight for
territory it says was stolen from the local Soy community.
The violence predates the turmoil that followed Kenya's disputed
presidential election in December. But it shares many of its root
causes: land disputes, ethnic rivalries, corruption and the
neglect of outlying areas.