MSF at odds with Kenyan police
over aid work in western Kenya
21. 07. 2008
NAIROBI (AFP) — Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres on Monday
denounced Kenyan authorities for blocking its mobile clinics in
the troubled Mount Elgon region, but police responded that the
restrictions were necessary.
"Since June 27, we are not allowed from our base in Kapsakwony to
go to any of the locations where we have been running mobile
clinics," MSF's coordinator for operations in Kenya, David
Michalski, told a press conference.
People who sought refuge in the region's Chebongweny area told MSF
(Doctors Without Borders) that armed forest guards burnt down
their homes and shelters and took their food reserves nine days
The charity said blankets were either stolen or destroyed and the
MSF medical unit -- where many people had spent the night in
search of safety and shelter -- was also burnt down.
"Intentionally attacking medical structures and hampering relief
agencies from working, whether during conflict or periods of
instability, are serious acts prohibited under the Geneva
Conventions," Michalski said.
"MSF is calling on the authorities to meet with us and lift the
current restrictions so that we can continue providing
humanitarian aid to the people of Mount Elgon as we have always
done in a neutral and impartial manner."
Although MSF has written several letters to local authorities and
several ministers, "to this point, we have no clear explanation
for why we are blocked," he said.
Kenyan police confirmed the restrictions and said they were there
to stay because Mount Elgon was a "security operation area."
"At one point or another, a certain class of people will be
blocked from accessing certain areas of Mount Elgon. We are doing
this because of security to everybody and we believe that there
are guns in the wrong hands," police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said.
Responding to MSF claims that civilians are in need of medical
supplies, Kiraithe said: "The government has deployed a full
military medical camp that has so far treated at least 21,000
"The camp is equipped with air support to ensure that all the
remote areas are covered," he said, adding MSF was free to return
to the areas after the security operation wraps up.
Since March, the army has cracked down on the Sabaoti Land Defence
Force (SLDF), a ragtag militia that has been fighting to reverse a
government settlement scheme that displaced the small Sabaot tribe
from their ancestral land.
The militia's raids have claimed the lives of at least 600
villagers and displaced tens of thousands. In April, Human Rights
Watch accused the Kenyan army and SLDF of a raft of rights
violations, including rape and torture of civilians.
Meanwhile, the Ugandan army said it had handed over at least 21
SLDF fugitive fighters to Kenya between May 13 and Wednesday last
"Because Uganda believes in good neighbourliness. We had that
obligation to take back the rebel (fighters) where they belong,"
said Captain Henry Obbo, a Ugandan military spokesman.