Wednesday, January 30, 2008

US Envoy cites ethnic cleansing in Kenya

'Ethnic cleansing' in Kenya: US envoy by Bogonko Bosire
2 hours, 41 minutes ago

The violence in Kenya triggered by last month's contested presidential elections has involved acts of "ethnic cleansing," the United States' top Africa envoy said Wednesday.

"There was ethnic cleansing in Kenya. I listened to the victims," US Undersecretary of State Jendayi Frazer said on the sidelines of preparatory meetings for an African Union summit in Addis Ababa.

Frazer, who had visited Kenya after violence broke out in the wake of President Mwai Kibaki's disputed re-election, said entire communities had been forced to pack up and leave their homes.

"If they resisted they were killed. That sounds like ethnic cleansing to me," she said.

Her remarks came as Kenyan police were given shoot-to-kill orders in a bid to stem weeks of unrest, and a day after former UN chief Kofi Annan launched crisis talks between Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, who claims he was robbed of the presidency.

The orders, issued for the second time since Kibaki's re-election was announced on December 30, came after a pledge by the president to clamp down on the spiralling violence in which almost 1,000 people have died and nearly 300,000 have been displaced.

But Odinga called for them to be cancelled immediately.

"The shoot to kill order is illegal, no matter what the crime," he told supporters in the opposition stronghold Kibera slum in Nairobi, calling it "a sign of a government that has run amok."

A police commander said the orders would cover looters, arsonists and anyone "barricading roads."

Several small incidents were reported Wednesday after another peak in violent clashes in western Kenya's Rift Valley and the capital's slums.

Police told AFP that a man was killed by a poisoned arrow in the volatile Molo district in the Rift valley province and his body dumped outside a government office.

Annan said Tuesday he hoped the immediate political issues could be resolved within four weeks and gave Kenya one year to resolve damage inflicted by a month of chaos.

Each side has formed a negotiating team of three members, who met separately on Wednesday. They were due to meet together on Thursday, according to the UN.

Odinga, meanwhile, accused "our adversaries" of having a hand in the killing of opposition lawmaker Melitus Mugabe Were in Nairobi on Tuesday.

Odinga has refused to recognise the legitimacy of Kibaki's presidency and his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) has pressed for an electoral re-run, but the government has instead insisted on dialogue.

Members of Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe suffered heavily in the first wave of violence at the hands of Odinga's Luo tribe and other ethnic groups, but have since carried out numerous revenge attacks.

On Wednesday, police in Nderi, near Kikuyu town, west of Nairobi, fired tear gas and live rounds to disperse several hundred Kikuyus burning tyres and erecting roadblocks as they tried to drive hundreds of Luos out of a government forestry centre where they live and work.

"We don't want bloodshed but they must go home now. If they don't we will show them what they did to our people in the Rift Valley," said Joseph Uburu Kiiru.

One person died overnight after hundreds of Kalenjins attacked a group of Kikuyu villagers in Njoro, a settlement outside the western town of Nakuru, police and residents said.

Initial political protests have aroused latent ethnic, economic and land disputes, shattering the relatively-stable east African nation with some of the worst violence since independence in 1963.

Amnesty International called Wednesday for the protection of several Kenyan human rights defenders and activists who it said had received serious death threats.

"The threats include accusations that they are 'traitors' to their ethnicity," the statement said, adding that all but one of the activists were Kikuyus.

Meanwhile journalist rights group Reporters Without Borders urged Kenyan authorities to identify and punish those responsible for death threats sent to leading journalists in Nairobi on Tuesday.

It said at least five journalists received email threats after the slaying of opposition lawmaker Were.

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