U.N. rights investigators condemn Kenya violence

UN human rights investigators have condemned ethnic killing in Kenya and urged leaders to calm their supporters

In a statement, they raised concern over reports that Kenyan security forces had used excessive force against demonstrators and that gang rapes had accompanied the upsurge in violence.

More than 300 people have died in a week of clashes and 100,000 have fled their homes. The crisis blew up following the disputed re-election of President Mwai Kibaki on Dec. 27. Opposition leader Raila Odinga said the vote was rigged.

“We are especially distressed by the tragic loss of human lives, the numerous casualties and destruction of property and infrastructure,” the 14 independent U.N. rights experts said.

They condemned the killing of 30 civilians, including women and children, when a mob set fire to a church where they had taken sanctuary in the western town of Eldoret.

“In this regard, we are profoundly alarmed by the reports of incitement to racial hatred and the growing frictions between the different ethnic groups in Kenya,” the investigators said.

They called on all political parties to work for “a peaceful and rapid solution to end the violence”.

“While we recognise the prerogative and duty of the Kenyan authorities to maintain public order, we are however alarmed by reported instances of use of excessive force by Kenyan security forces against demonstrators and other civilians,” they added.

Odinga has claimed that many of the 300 Kenyans killed have been shot dead by security forces, but they counter that they have only fired at looters.

News just out that African Union head and Ghanain President John Kufour has shelved plans to travel to Kenya altogether because Nairobi has not given the go-ahead. An analyst said that “Accepting that outside intervention would sort of give the impression that the crisis is beyond control, when maybe it is not.” Further, Kibaki appears to be allowing the anger to dissipate, calculating that once it does life will return to normal.

Kibaki’s government has asked the International Criminal Court to charge Odinga with crimes of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

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