Kenya: ODM Welcomes Museveni Mediation
The Monitor (Kampala)
21 January 2008
Posted to the web 21 January 2008
Frank Nyakairu and Agencies
KENYA’S main opposition party, the Orange Democratic Movement has welcomed President Yoweri Museveni’s mediation aimed at stemming the violence that followed the December 27 re-election of President Mwai Kibaki.
Mr Museveni has in the recent past been strongly criticized for being the only African head of State to have congratulated Mr Kibaki on winning the disputed poll. And claims of Ugandan troop deployment in Kenya only served to fuel tensions.
“President Museveni has telephoned Hon Raila Odinga informing him of intentions to travel to Kenya and mediate between us and the PNU in efforts to make sure that there is peace and democracy in Kenya. As the chairman of the East African Community he is welcome,” ODM spokesman Salim Lone told Daily Monitor in a telephone interview yesterday. More than 650 people have been killed in the post election violence triggered by the disputed December 27 re-election of Mr Kibaki.
The opposition and observers insist the election was flawed. The opposition has called for more demonstrations on Thursday despite the fact that police, under orders to crash rallies, have shot dead scores of their supporters. Atleast 20 civilians died in the troubled Rift Valley area yesterday according to media reports.
Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa said at the weekend that Mr Museveni would be mediating as “As chairman of the East African Community and the Commonwealth.” ODM’s Lone said; “We have several mediation mechanisms; we have the international community, former African Heads of States and our own East African Community must also play a role in mediating.”
On alleged deployment of Ugandan troops in Kenya, ODM said they had to take President Museveni’s word. “He (Museveni) assured us that there were no and will not be any Uganda troops in Kenya.” Mr Museveni is slated to travel to Kenya on Tuesday.
In Nairobi, clashes between rival tribes killed at least three people on Sunday in a fresh flare-up of ethnically-motivated, witnesses said.
All of the bodies bore scars of machete attacks.
“I saw three people dead, killed by pangas (machetes), slashed on the head, cuts on the back and a hand chopped off,” Mr Samuel Oduor, 22, a freelance cameraman, said. He had footage of one of the bodies but police had collected the others, he told journalists. Other witnesses confirmed the death toll in clashes between youths from Mr Kibaki’s Kikuyu ethnic group and the Luo tribe of opposition leader Raila Odinga.
They bring to at least 51 dead, the toll from days of violence since the opposition launched a three-day anti-government demonstration on Wednesday. Many were killed by police opening fire on protesters, others by ethnic gangs. Mr Harold Mukigi, a driver, said of one victim: “He was sliced with a panga (machete) over the head. There was fighting through the night.” The other killings were reprisals, witnesses said.
Police were not available for comment but a Reuters reporter saw one body and a severed hand where the clashes took place in Nairobi’s Huruma slum, whose name means “mercy” in Swahili. Police were heavily deployed on Sunday in an effort to contain further post-poll violence that has tarnished Kenya’s image as a stable country in a troubled region, hurt its democratic credentials and damaged investor confidence.
“It does not matter how long it takes. Ultimately, justice will triumph,” Mr Odinga told a few hundred supporters at a church service in Nairobi’s Kibera slum on Sunday, where just outside lay the ashen remains of days of flaming road blockades.
More ethnic clashes are expected. “They are beating us. They want to chase us away. They are armed with bows and arrows and they are killing our children,” a visibly angry 75-year-old Wangeci Mwangi said of the gangs raiding her neighbourhood in Huruma. Other parts of the country appeared quiet following sporadic killings and lootings in flashpoints such as the western town of Eldoret and the southern town of Narok on Friday and Saturday.
EU aid commissioner Louis Michel, who met Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga on Saturday, has urged both sides to meet and hold talks to resolve their standoff and end the killings. Human rights groups have been dismayed by what they say are heavy-handed police tactics to stop opposition gatherings last week, which included shooting some protestors as they tried to flee.
The police are investigating television footage which shows police shooting two demonstrators at close range. The opposition and government accuse each other of genocide. In the worst ethnic-based attack since the violence started, around 30 people were locked in a church near Eldoret, in the Rift Valley. A mob then torched it, burning them to death.