Friday, January 04, 2008

Kenya's humanitarian crisis grows

The news from Kenya has been quiet but I just found the following report that once again is not good news.

Source: BBC
Kenya's humanitarian crisis grows

At least 180,000 people have been displaced by unrest as the humanitarian crisis grows after last week's disputed election in Kenya, say UN officials.

Some have been housed in makeshift camps while others have sought refuge in police stations or churches, fleeing violence that has claimed 350 lives.

In badly-affected western Kenya nearly all the refugees are hungry, and several children have died of exposure.

A top UN official in Nairobi says about 500,000 Kenyans need urgent help.

The UN World Food Programme said it was scrambling to bring food to 100,000 displaced people in the Rift Valley area.

'High hatred levels'
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which is set to distribute the food, issued an international appeal for aid.

The level of hatred is very high. Violence of tribal origin is the worst - it knows no limits and is extremely difficult to quell," said Alexandre Liebeskind, deputy head of ICRC operations for the Horn of Africa.

Opposition protests appeared to falter on Friday while the government said it might accept a fresh election, but only if it was ordered by a court.

The officially-declared results of the 27 December presidential poll - giving victory to incumbent President Mwai Kibaki over opposition rival Raila Odinga - unleashed a wave of violence.

Protesters furious at alleged electoral fraud, went on the rampage, killing scores of people and torching churches, businesses and homes.

A statement by a group of independent UN rights experts on Friday said: "We are profoundly alarmed by the reports of incitement to racial hatred and the growing frictions between the different ethnic groups in Kenya."

The BBC's Karen Allen in the Rift Valley town of Eldoret says the Catholic Church is now spearheading a co-ordinated relief effort to get blankets, tents and food to around 30,000 local people who have been made homeless.


The secretary-general of Mr Odinga's opposition ODM party called on Friday for fresh polls within three months and said the current electoral commission should not be involved.

"The current crisis is not caused by the Kenyan people - it is caused by Kibaki and his henchmen, who messed up the result after the Kenyan people had voted," Anyang Nyongo told the BBC.

A Kenyan government spokesman, Alfred Mutua, said Mr Kibaki was not in principle opposed to fresh elections but said the opposition's three-month deadline smacked of "blackmail".

"We would accept even another election, as long as the constitution is followed," he told Reuters news agency.

The opposition had earlier dismissed the prospect of taking its complaints to the courts.


The BBC's Grant Ferrett in Nairobi says both government and opposition are now trying to show more flexibility.

After a meeting with Mr Kibaki, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu said the president seemed prepared to consider a national unity government.

"The president was not averse to the idea of coalitions - but clearly there has to be an acceptance that there is a governing authority," Mr Tutu was quoted as saying by Reuters.

In other developments:

Top US diplomat Jendayi Frazer arrived in Kenya for talks aimed at bringing the two sides together

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he believed the Kenyan elections had been rigged

In Nairobi on Friday, the security forces appeared to have succeeded for a second day in blocking a planned opposition rally from happening. They sealed off Uhuru (Freedom) Park, the venue for the proposed protests.

Thousands of police were deployed around the city, though fewer than on Thursday, when tear gas and water cannon were deployed against protesters.

And with traffic back on the streets, some shops and businesses have re-opened, as the city attempts to return to something like a normal life.

While the recent trigger for the troubles was the election, Kenyan politics has been dogged by ethnic tensions since independence in 1963.

Mr Kibaki depends heavily on support from the largest ethnic group, the Kikuyus, while the western Luo and Kalenjin groups - who are seeking greater autonomy - back Mr Odinga.

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