Archive for the 'Crimes Against Humanity' Category

Where’s the sense of proportion in all of this?

This morning I nearly fell off the sofa while watching BBC News24 when a report outlining how Rwanda is behind the genocide in the Congo was broadcast. The fleeing of people from Goma initiated this report. It even went so far as to say that we have all been told lies about what really happened in the Congo. Was this really happening? I had to rewind the V+box to replay this news again and again just to make sure that I had not misheard the report. But no, I had heard correctly. Mention was made of how the regions mineral wealth has fuelled the crisis and how Kivu has become the prize fought over by Rwandan businessmen. This was extraordinary. Truth was finally dribbling through my box! Was my hardening cynicism of the function of the media going to have to be relaxed? When had I last heard the British Broadcasting propaganda service for the corporate elites do something as revolutionary as telling the truth? But here was the BBC telling their viewers that “Tutsi rebels” paid for by Rwandan businessmen have been committing crimes against humanity and well basically, it has to stop, chaps. Does one Messrs Tony Blair know this? Having appointed himself envoy to Rwanda recently he must be made aware of these facts straight away.

Talk of humanitarian intervention was interspersed with pictures of ragged Congolese men stoning UN blue tops as they passed in their shiny white tanks and the finger of blame was pointed at them by the BBC for failing to prevent the deaths of one million people. There was video too of Kagame’s men in crisply pressed new green uniforms filmed from sinister angles decrying their innocence. No mention was made of the fact that the BBC had bought these lies and why but I was prepared to forgive this omittance at this point and the fact they got the death toll wrong, it’s closer to 5 million who have died in the DR Congo at the rate of 45,000 a month since the Rwandans invaded the country ostensibly to hunt down Hutu rebels.

A developing story so more was bound to leak through the miasma. But just as the horror of what has transpired in the Eastern region of DR Congo, and why, threatened to dominate the headlines it was killed dead in its tracks at about 10.00 am by the very important coverage of bad boy comedian Russell Brand and partner in crime tv presenter Jonathan Woss and their crime of having made a rude call in the middle of the night to a grand-father about some sexual dalliance Brand had supposedly enjoyed with his grand-daughter. And that was that.

Other bad boy friends of Brand and Ross came forward to tell us this was a conspiracy of the left media to tarnish these good people. Calls for the resignation of the lads and producers who had allowed their obscene behaviour to filter through to the public at 2.00 am in the morning was gathering steam. None of this I would have heard anyway if it had not been relayed to me through the media as I happened to be fast asleep in the early hours of Sunday morning and I don’t listen to dead-wood like Radio 2. By this morning the deluge of calls for the sacking of anybody that had come within 2 feet of Brand and Ross was in full swing. Complaints that had been received by OFCOM on Monday morning had swelled from 4000 to over 10,000 today.

The report on DR Congo, as far as I can see, has not made it to the website but you can hear what the important news stories in the UK are today.

Russell quit his job as Radio 2 presenter in a video in which he claimed to be contrite over his bad behaviour, intriguingly, a picture of Joseph Stalin could be spied behind him as he explained himself and offered up his resignation. This was no accident on Russell’s part as he’s a smart man. George Orwell, no lover of the BBC, I think would have commiserated with Brand and understood the significance of this detail.

Now watch the BBC version. What’s missing? I think my cynicism about the media is hardening… again!

In the meantime Johan Hari wrote an article for the Independent on the crimes being carried out in our names in the Congo. We are all a party to this genocide because people being killed in the Congo are dying over coltan which is used in the manufacture of the mobile phones we use. I remember explaining this to a Bigfish back in 2003 who thought I was nuts but Hari gets it.

Now wouldn’t it be great if the BBC could get just as indignant and self-righteous about people dying in the Congo in wars as it does about Brand and Ross playing pranks in the middle of the night?

Fiddling while Mt Elgon burns

I am ashamed that after three months of grandstanding Kenyan leaders have not led but haggled over distribution of ministerial portfolios while people are falling ill and dying in the displaced people camps and human rights abuses are being committed behind a government imposed media blackout. This is not happening under a colonial governement. Shame on you Kibaki. Shame on you Odinga.

Sickening proof that people are being tortured:

” The people of Mt. Elgon are being doubly victimized, first by the rebel militia and now by the army. “
Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch

Kenya: Army and Rebel Militia Commit War Crimes in Mt. Elgon
End Murder, Torture, and Rape of Civilians

(Nairobi, April 4, 2008) – The rebel Sabaot Land Defence Force and the Kenyan military are responsible for horrific abuses, including killings, torture and rape of civilians, in a little-known armed conflict in the Mt. Elgon area of western Kenya, Human Rights Watch said today in a joint statement with two Kenyan human rights organizations, Mwatikho and Western Kenya-Human Rights Watch (WKHRW). (Human Rights Watch and Western Kenya-Human Rights Watch are entirely separate organizations).

The Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) is an armed group formed in 2005 to resist government attempts to evict squatters in the Chebyuk area of Mt. Elgon district. Evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch, Mwatikho, and WKHRW shows that since 2006 the Sabaot militia has killed more than 600 people and terrorized the local population through physical assaults and threats, and the seizure and destruction of property. The Kenyan army was deployed in March 2008 to quell the insurgency. Local residents initially welcomed attempts to deal with the rebellion but scores of eyewitnesses told the human rights organizations that the army has pursued a strategy of rounding up all the adult males in the district. Further investigation is required to establish precise numbers but preliminary estimates by the human rights organizations suggest that the military has detained thousands, tortured hundreds, and unlawfully killed dozens of people. Thousands of people are believed to have been displaced by the violence, although no official figures are available.

“The people of Mt. Elgon are being doubly victimized, first by the rebel militia and now by the army,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The Sabaot Land Defence Force has committed hideous crimes and people welcomed the army at first. But now Kenyan soldiers are abusing those they are supposed to protect.”

In a recent investigation in Mt. Elgon, Human Rights Watch documented deliberate killings, torture, and rape of civilians by members of the Sabaot force and the Kenyan army, and mass detentions by Kenyan military forces. Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 100 victims and eyewitnesses as well as members of the police force and army, government officials, journalists and humanitarian workers.

Human Rights Watch spoke to several women who described how SLDF troops broke into their homes, kidnapped their husbands at gunpoint, and told the women, “You won’t see your man again.” Many of them have not. One woman learned about the fate of her husband when a man she knows to be a member of the SLDF gave her a pile of the clothes he was wearing when he was abducted and said, simply, “sorry.”

One man described what happened to him:

“I was woken up by a knocking at the door. I opened it and there were guns and torches staring at me. They rounded up my cows, beat me and stabbed me as we walked. When we reached the bush they tied me by my feet to a tree, my head hanging down. There were others hanging also. They beat me very badly and said, ‘Choose: Either surrender all your possessions including your land or you die now.’ I told them to take it. They cut off my ear as a mark, then they made me eat it. I crawled home, I could not walk.”

Human Rights Watch also interviewed victims of Kenyan military abuses. Several witnesses who were beaten at Kapkota military base told Human Rights Watch in separate interviews that they saw people beaten to death there. According to one witness, “The soldiers were holding [the prisoners’] legs apart and smashing their private parts with a club. Some were falling unconscious, some died. I saw two corpses.”

A resident of Kaptaboi village interviewed by Human Rights Watch described seeing a military helicopter dropping off bodies on April 2:

“We ran away from Kaptaboi where the military were conducting operations. We ran to the forest. There we stumbled across other soldiers. I was about 10 meters away, a helicopter landed and four soldiers dragged four bodies out of the helicopter and then threw them in the bush. Then they left, very fast.”

Human Rights Watch, Mwatikho and WKHRW called on leaders of the SLDF and the Kenyan army to immediately end these abuses, which are serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and issue clear, public orders to protect civilians. The Kenyan authorities should also investigate serious crimes, leading to the prosecution of those responsible, in particular the principal organizers.

“The Kenyan army should stop denying claims of torture in Mt. Elgon and instead investigate and prosecute those responsible for the crimes,” said Taiga Wanyanja, director of Mwatikho, an organization that supports survivors of torture.

The District Commissioner for Mt. Elgon, Birik Mohammed, told Human Rights Watch that the military sweep operation is proceeding, “as planned,” and that he had received no complaints of torture. His comment was made despite a long line of persons outside his office at the time who told Human Rights Watch that they were there to complain about torture. The District Commissioner said that there were more than 1,000 suspected SLDF members in custody, in the jails and police cells. This number does not include the thousands who have been detained in Kapkota and have been released, many of whom have alleged they were tortured. Some men have been through Kapkota twice because they were picked up in other locations as well.

Human Rights Watch, Mwatikho and WKHRW also called on the Kenyan authorities to ensure that aid workers, media and human rights investigators have unimpeded access to civilians in the area. The Kenyan authorities should allow medical personnel immediate access to detainees in prisons and military bases where hundreds of people have been tortured, some of whom require urgent medical attention. One person has already died in custody in Bungoma jail.

“Both the SLDF and Kenyan military should also ensure that aid workers have access to detainees and people displaced by the conflict,” said Job Bwonya, executive director of WKHRW.

Key international partners, including the European Union, the United States, the United Nations and the African Union, should urge the Kenya government and the SLDF to stop extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and arbitrary arrest and detention, the three human rights organizations said.

Abuses Involving the Sabaot Land Defence Force

Deliberate Killings and “Disappearances” of Civilians

The Kenyan human rights group WKHRW has documented 613 people killed by the SLDF since 2006, the vast majority of them civilians. According to WKHRW research, the rebel militia also abducted 118 and maimed 33 people. There have also been numerous media accounts of prominent politicians, chiefs, and others supposedly executed in broad daylight by the SLDF. A February 2008 police operation uncovered mass graves in the forest of Mt. Elgon, apparently victims of the SLDF.

A man who says he was abducted by the SLDF and tortured at one of their bases in the forest, witnessed five corpses lying around the torture site. One chief in Mt. Elgon district described how the bodies of five people opposed to the SLDF were dumped in his area one morning with their throats cut.

Many of the recent murder victims of the SLDF were politicians or party agents who competed against SLDF’s favored candidates in the December 2007 elections.

Mutilation and Inhumane Treatment of Civilians
Dozens of witnesses described to Human Rights Watch how members of the SLDF came to their homes at night, beat them and members of their family, then bound and blindfolded victims and abducted them. Some were beaten in their home and had their ears cut off there without being taken to the forest. The signature maiming of the SLDF is to cut off the ears of those who do not obey their orders or do as they wish.

Many of the young men were maimed in 2007 because they refused to join the SLDF or because they supported political parties opposed to SLDF candidates. Human Rights Watch interviewed numerous people who had had their ears cut off by the SLDF and women who were beaten by members of the SLDF searching for their husbands. One man described how the SLDF beat his wife naked in front of him as a warning to him not to stand for the ruling PNU party in the upcoming elections. He was later abducted along with others and witnessed male prisoners forced to have sex with each other.

Rape and Sexual and Gender-based Violence

Many young men who did not join the SLDF fled the area, leaving their wives to tend their farms. Male and female residents told Human Rights Watch that rape of men and women by members of the SLDF was routine during the last two years, but that many victims were too scared to report violations to the police because the SLDF explicitly warned all their victims not to go to the police or seek hospital treatment.

Several cases of sexual violence are now being documented as victims feel safer. An example is two sworn statements submitted to a local human rights group and seen by Human Rights Watch that describe how two victims were gang-raped for long periods of time by up to five assailants.

Destruction of Property, Theft of Land and Livestock
Numerous victims described how their homes were set on fire and livestock, money, and land were taken by the SLDF at gunpoint. Sometimes the motive appears to have been theft, sometimes politics, and sometimes settling scores over land disputes. One retired civil servant told Human Rights Watch how he witnessed his neighbors abducted by SLDF and their homes set on fire. The targets were political rivals of the SLDF: “They were singing: the MP (member of parliament) is one, the party is one.”

Many people now living in towns further down the mountain are destitute since their land and their livelihood has been taken away. One man whose land was stolen, explained to Human Rights Watch: “I have the title deed, but the SLDF have guns. Now they have my land. I live in a shack in the town and my family and I eat the tomatoes that fall in the market.”

Abuses Involving the Kenya Army

Unlawful Killings and Enforced Disappearances
The army’s principal strategy to flush out the SLDF in Mt. Elgon has been to arrest every single male over the age of 15 in the area, and “screen” them at a military base called Kapkota in Cheptais division of Mt. Elgon district. At the time of arrest, and later when in detention at Kapkota, detainees are routinely beaten, and some have died as a result.

In the mortuaries of Webuye and Bungoma in districts neighboring Mt. Elgon, Human Rights Watch saw bodies of men brought by police from Mt. Elgon, but whom mortuary attendants say came from Kapkota. The bodies showed obvious visible signs of torture such as welts, bruising, swollen faces, broken wrists and rope burns around the wrists.

As of April 2, 13 such bodies have been delivered to the mortuaries, and three of the victims have been identified and collected. In those cases, for the hospital to release the body without a post-mortem, police told relatives to swear an affidavit stating, “that I or the relatives do not intend to lodge claim of any nature against anyone or the state pertaining the death of the said, X.” Relatives who collected two of the bodies told Human Rights Watch the men had been arrested by the military several weeks before.

Many women described to Human Rights Watch how in the past few weeks their husbands and male relatives had been taken by soldiers at dawn. The women are now searching prisons, police stations, and mortuaries for the missing men. WKHRW has compiled a list of 23 missing people whom villagers believe are dead. The military and police spokesmen say that no one has died and no one has been tortured.

One woman told Human Rights Watch how her uncle was taken by the military at night at the beginning of March. Two days later, a relative told her that he had been killed by the army. Two days after that, his body showed up in the mortuary at Webuye. She collected the body and buried him. One of the soldiers present at his arrest apologized to her at the funeral.

The Daily Nation newspaper on March 27 quoted a military source describing how bodies had been dumped in the forest. In addition, a different military source told Human Rights Watch that eight bodies from Kapkota were flown in two army helicopters and dumped in the forest, north of Kaptaboi village on April 2.

A senior government official, who chose not to be quoted, told Human Rights Watch, “We take no responsibility for those killed in the forest. What are they doing in the forest anyway?”

Torture, Arbitrary Arrest and Detention
“There is not a man left on the mountain,” complained one woman who described to Human Rights Watch how her husband was dragged from their bed by soldiers, beaten and driven to the Kapkota army base.

Dozens of men interviewed by Human Rights Watch described how the military arrested them in their homes, on the street, in their fields. The soldiers asked them to show them members of the SLDF or the whereabouts of illegal weapons, and when they said they did not know, they were beaten. According to a man arrested in Cheptais trading center: “Soldiers came into my home and started beating me, they were shouting, ‘show us the criminals, show us the criminals.’”

Another explained:

“It was 6 a.m., the soldiers banged on the door. They took me and others to the market place and made us lie down on the road while some of them beat us and others went to collect more men. Then they took us to Kapkota. There were many people there, maybe 1,000, it was all the men of Cheptais. There were many soldiers, kicking, beating with sticks. They made us lie down, they walked on top of us. Then they made us walk past a Land Rover with black windows. Those inside were the ones condemning or releasing us. The guilty ones had to stand in the ‘red’ line, the innocent ones, like me, went to the ‘blue line.’”

Those in the red line were then taken to the jails at Bungoma and Kakamega. Several hundred of them have been charged. Bungoma prison is now holding more than 300 persons brought from Mt. Elgon as a result of the military operation. The government-appointed visiting justice officer to the prison told Human Rights Watch that all of them had been tortured; many had urinal problems and fractures as a result. Thirty-two of them were in a critical condition and needed urgent medical attention. One died on April 2. A doctor working with Mwatikho was denied entry to the prison on March 31. The prison is now holding 1,240 prisoners according to the visiting justice officer but its official capacity is 400.

Rape and Sexual and Gender-based Violence
Human Rights Watch documented one case of rape by Kenyan soldiers. A neighbor of the victim described what she saw: “At night [the soldiers] steal food, destroy homes and rape women. I heard a commotion next door. I woke up and came outside. I hid in the bushes. I saw my neighbor there on the ground outside her house. Three soldiers all took their turn.”

Background

The SLDF originally took up arms in 2005 to defend land seized during the controversial Chebyuk settlement scheme, a government plan to re-settle landless people that was marred by corruption and arbitrary land-grabbing. In recent months SLDF forces were co-opted by opposition politicians to ensure particular candidates would win seats in the region in the hotly contested December 2007 parliamentary elections.

The conflict in Mt. Elgon pre-dates the recent post-election violence in Kenya but SLDF atrocities were related to the election, as militia members sought to intimidate opponents of their favoured Orange Democratic Movement candidates prior to the poll, and punish supporters of rival parties afterwards.

In April 2007 WKHRW warned of the atrocities committed by the SLDF, including killings of civilians, torture, extortion and rape, but Kenyan authorities initially failed to respond. During the last year, the SLDF set up its own “administration” in the Mt. Elgon area. Residents of this area have complained that, following this, the SLDF has seized and destroyed property, purportedly as “taxation.”

The Kenyan government claims that the ongoing operation in Mt. Elgon district is led by the police and supported by the military. However, research by Human Rights Watch, Mwatikho and WKHRW, suggests that, starting in March 2008, the Kenyan military has mounted intense counter-insurgency operations in the area and the conflict now amounts to an internal armed conflict. This means all parties should respect fundamental principles of international humanitarian law (the laws of war).

The Kenyan armed forces and the rebel militia in Mt. Elgon district are obliged to respect Common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, the Second Additional Protocol of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions (Protocol II) (ratified by Kenya), and customary international humanitarian law. This law requires the humane treatment of all persons taking no active part in hostilities, prohibits deliberate or indiscriminate attacks on civilians, and prohibits the destruction of property indispensable to the survival of the civilian population. Serious violations of the laws of war carried out intentionally or recklessly are war crimes.

International human rights law also applies in Mt. Elgon, particularly regarding the detention and treatment of individuals by Kenyan security forces. The use of torture is prohibited at all times.

Whether the current security operation is led by the police or the military, the Kenyan security forces must respect the right to life of all citizens. Even if those killed are responsible for crimes, and it is not clear that they are, they should be tried in a court, not summarily executed or beaten to death. Moreover, families should be properly informed and the bodies of those who die in custody should be returned to relatives.

While the criminal justice authorities may arrest and prosecute those against whom evidence exists of involvement in armed rebellion and other criminal acts, all governmental authorities must respect the rights guaranteed by the Kenyan constitution and international instruments to which Kenya is a state party. These rights include freedom from arbitrary detention, the right to have all detention reviewed by a judge, and the right to a fair trial. At all times, the prohibition on the use of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment is absolute, including during a state of emergency, which has not been declared in Mt Elgon.

Investigations and prosecutions are key to ending Kenyan cycle of violence, says new HRW report

Kenyan politicians helped finance and organize violence that claimed 1,000 lives after the country’s disputed presidential election, according to a report released Monday.

The report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch also found that police shot hundreds of people protesting the election result in Nairobi, the western port town of Kisumu and other towns between late December and early January. In many cases, it said, witnesses reported that the police had not acted in self-defense and had not been provoked.

Much of the violence after the Dec. 27 presidential election, which local and foreign observers said was rigged, took on an ethnic dimension.

Local political leaders from pro-government and opposition parties as well as businessmen helped organize attacks against rival ethnic groups or retaliatory attacks, the report said.

“As the country slid into interethnic violence, there were examples of the police intervening to protect lives, but in many other situations the police appear to have had little will or capacity to prevent violence,” the Human Rights Watch report said.

“The ethnic divisions laid bare in the aftermath of the elections have roots that run much deeper than the presidential poll,” the report said. “No Kenyan government has yet made a good-faith effort to address long simmering grievances over land that have persisted since independence.”

“Lasting solutions require a thorough overhaul of Kenyan institutions and a serious attempt to redress deep-seated problems that have been ignored or exacerbated for too long by those in power,” said the report, titled “Ballots to Bullets: Organized Political Violence and Kenya’s Crisis of Governance.”

It said the deep-seated problems include, “the ownership and allocation of land, the constitution, and impunity for corruption and the organization of political violence.”

The report was based on 200 interviews with victims, witnesses, perpetrators, police, magistrates, diplomats, Kenyan and international NGO staff, journalists, lawyers, businessmen, councilors, and members of parliament across the country.

After monthlong negotiations to end the violence and the political impasse over the disputed results, President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga signed a power-sharing deal last month.

“Human Rights Watch believes that there is no alternative to criminal prosecutions of those who have contributed to the violence, including for members of the police found to have used excessive force,” the report said.

“Kenya’s leaders, Kenyan civil society, and international actors deserve praise for uniting and bringing the country back from the brink,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “But the hard work starts now. Confronting long-ignored human rights violations and historical injustices means investigations and prosecutions.”

On January 22, we were called to a meeting by one of our elected [PNU] councillors at a school–word went around to all the youth. We were told they have work for us, just go and follow orders, everyone should bring their weapon. They said there would be food and, if we did a good job, money. At that time war was all around the town, there was no secret about the meeting. We went to get our weapons and then immediately went to [the] farm, we thought we would be able to keep whatever there was at the farm to loot, sheep, cattle etc. Someone had tipped off the Kalenjin, we met warriors waiting for us. We did nothing, they killed those who were unable to run away, mostly the older ones. Thirteen were killed. Then the Kalenjin started burning houses on the edge of town. I went home to sleep. I said I’ll never try it again!


Political Manipulation of Ethnic Tensions During the Campaign

Around Eldoret many Kalenjin politicians stoked ethnic tensions to mobilize political support among their ethnic kinsmen, a tactic familiar to Kenyan politics. To cite just one of many typical examples, a Kalenjin councillor reportedly told a rally in the town of Soi that, if elected, the ODM would “remove the roots” of local Kikuyu communities “so there would be only one tribe there.” One locally-prominent Kalenjin politician acknowledged to Human Rights Watch that, “Some ODM politicians would say, ‘we have a snake we have to get rid of.’ It was a clear metaphor for the Kikuyu. They did not see the repercussions of this.”

Largely as a result of this ethnic rhetoric, many Kalenjin supporters believed that once elected, the ODM would find a way to redistribute most or all land owned by Kikuyu to them. Human Rights Watch interviewed several Kalenjin involved in anti-Kikuyu violence who said they were merely doing by force what they had been denied a chance to do through the ballot box.

KASS FM, Eldoret’s popular Kalenjin-language radio station, was on several occasions used as another platform for inflammatory ethnic rhetoric. There is no clear evidence that the station actively sought to disseminate hate speech but it did not prevent guests from using the airwaves to do so. As one local Kalenjin politician explained, “What was on the radio depended on who was in the studio at any given moment.” Language was usually highly idiomatic but its meaning was clear to the audience. One report says that KASS broadcast an appeal for “people of the milk” [the Kalenjin] to “cut grass” [clear the land, i.e. of Kikuyu], and called for the Kalenjin to “reclaim our land.”

According to many Kalenjin community leaders in Eldoret North, for instance, the organization of violence in communities there was openly spearheaded by a venerable Kalenjin politician, an elected ODM councillor named Jackson Kibor. Kibor advocated the right of Kalenjin to kill Kikuyu in a BBC interview. [sic]

Direct Incitement and Organization
Divisive campaigning did not by itself cause existing ethnic tensions to boil over into violence. But in the days prior to the election, local elders and ODM organizers in many communities around Eldoret called meetings where they declared that electoral victory for Kibaki would be the signal for “war” against local Kikuyu. They told community members a PNU victory should be seen as conclusive proof of electoral fraud and that all Kikuyu were complicit in it.

Human Rights Watch interviewed Kalenjin residents of several rural communities who attended such meetings. The term “war” was widely used in urging a violent reaction to disappointment at the polls. One man from a rural community near Turbo told Human Rights Watch that a few days before the election he attended a community meeting chaired by a local ODM campaigner where:

He [and local elders] said that if there is any sign that Kibaki is winning, then the war should break…They said the first step is to burn the Kikuyu homes in the village, then we will go to Turbo town, [and] after finishing Turbo then we organize to go to Eldoret…They were coaching the young people how to go on the war[sic].

Human Rights Watch gathered similar testimonies from other communities around Turbo. On two occasions witnesses described police interventions that prevented militias from reaching Turbo town and Eldoret town, but in those communities, and in Turbo town itself, almost all Kikuyu homes and business were ultimately destroyed. One local Kalenjin resident said this had all gone “according to plan.”

One man from a village called Kiplombe told Human Rights Watch that he was forced to pay 1,000 Kenyan shillings (US$15) and a bag of maize to elders in his community to help cover the costs of anti-Kikuyu violence. “I am old,” he said. “They know I will not go to violence so I should sponsor the youths. Their aim was to clear the area. They say they do not want to see other people, other tribes, in these areas.” In other communities similar levies were raised, in some cases to try and purchase firearms and ammunition.

Many of the people who relayed the details of these meetings to Human Rights Watch said that they did not want to attend them but were coerced into doing so. In several communities people who did not attend the meetings were threatened with the destruction of their own homes. And at the meetings, an atmosphere of intimidation made it very difficult to speak out in opposition to the planned violence. “It is hard to disagree with 300 youths who are advocating violence,” said one elderly Kalenjin man from a village outside Turbo. At least one prominent Kalenjin activist was forced to flee Eldoret after receiving threats because he consistently denounced the violence.

In many cases the chief architects of post-election violence were prominent and well-known individuals. According to many Kalenjin community leaders in Eldoret North, for instance, the organization of violence in communities there was openly spearheaded by a venerable Kalenjin politician, an elected ODM councillor named Jackson Kibor. Kibor advocated the right of Kalenjin to kill Kikuyu in a BBC interview. He was arrested by the Kenyan police in February 2008, charged with incitement, but released on bond. In many communities, however, prominent local leaders who were openly involved in organizing and inciting violence have yet to be held to account in any way.

Human Rights Watch found no evidence directly implicating ODM’s national leadership in these events. However, all the Kikuyu victims Human Rights Watch spoke to blamed William Ruto, a member of Parliament, for the attacks because of his strong anti-Kikuyu rhetoric prior to the election, and in mid to late January nearly all the Kalenjin elders and youth that we spoke to said, “if Ruto says stop, it will stop.” William Ruto, who represents Eldoret North constituency, is a member of the Pentagon, ODM’s governing body. He denied any involvement in the violence, and explained the allegations against him by saying that, “In Western Kenya, all people of status and substance would be ODM by default, the majority of opinion leaders are ODM. Whether it is an ODM agenda or a village agenda those same people would be leading it.”


If we met a Kikuyu, we just beat him. I saw five people die that day personally. They attacked using all forms [of weapons]—arrows, pangas [machetes] and even beating with any crude tool. It was mob justice. The first killing…they approached him politely and asked him to produce his ID card. The one who got the card announced the name very loudly—it was a Kikuyu name. And the mob just attacked him. Those who produced IDs with Kalenjin or Luo names, they let them go.

Organized Violence in the Rift Valley
Even before Mwai Kibaki was officially declared the winner of Kenya’s presidential vote, parts of Kenya’s Rift Valley erupted into widespread inter-ethnic violence. The delays in the counting of votes and rampant rumors about the imminent rigging of the election sparked attacks primarily directed at members of Kibaki’s Kikuyu ethnic group. That violence in turn spawned a series of ethnic-based reprisal attacks in other parts of the country, with Kikuyu militias attacking other ethnic communities seen as broadly supportive of the opposition. Up to 500,000 people have been displaced in this violence and over 1,000 killed.

Human Rights Watch did not interview any victims of sexual violence, in part because victims may have been reluctant to report cases of sexual violence. Indeed, during January, according to medical staff in the hospitals of Nyanza, Eldoret, and clinics in the slums in Nairobi, reported rape cases were far lower than average. During February however, the true scale of sexual violence in the context of the ongoing instability began to emerge, with Nairobi women’s hospital reporting cases examined in its mobile clinics across the country up to February 24.107

Post-Election Violence around Eldoret
The inter-ethnic violence that swept across many communities in the aftermath of the December polls began in the Rift Valley. The epicenter of the first wave of Rift Valley violence was in and around the town of Eldoret, a highland town 125 kilometers east of Kenya’s border with Uganda.

As discussed above, tensions over land ownership and other issues have long been a source of mistrust and violence between the majority Kalenjin population around Eldoret and the area’s Kikuyu minority. Those tensions were exacerbated by the sharp ethnic lines drawn between opposing camps during the 2007 electoral campaign. Locally, support for the ODM was overwhelming among the Kalenjin while support for Kibaki’s PNU was equally prevalent among the Kikuyu population.

The Scale and Impact of Post-Election Violence
In many areas violence erupted immediately on the heels of the Kenyan government’s announcement that Kibaki had won the presidential polls. Elsewhere, it began one or more days later, but within the space of a week dozens of communities, including Eldoret town, had seen most of their Kikuyu population driven away. Hundreds lay dead, many left rotting in the fields of scattered hillside farms, and thousands of homes had been put to the torch.

Human Rights Watch interviewed Kikuyu and Kisii victims of this violence from more than 20 different communities. Some had warnings of the impending violence. One Kikuyu merchant from a community near Turbo told Human Rights Watch that on December 30, “My children came home and told me that [they] were told by other [Kalenjin] children that they had to go away from there. They reported this to me. They were not upset–they just wondered why their friends were telling them that.” He reported this to the police in Turbo, who assured him there was nothing to worry about. Hours later a mob burned his home and business to the ground.

The violence that followed Kibaki’s claim of victory followed the same pattern in many areas. Kikuyu residents of several rural communities made up of widely scattered homesteads told Human Rights Watch that on the night of December 30 they saw neighbors’ homes ablaze in the distance. Most immediately fled to larger towns or into nearby forests and returned the next day to find their own homes destroyed and looted.

In several communities witnesses told Human Rights Watch that attackers came in three or four separate groups, each playing different roles. In many cases, children were among the attackers. A Kisii victim, one of over 10,000 chased from the town of Gata near Kitale by Marakwet (Kalenjin) attackers described how hundreds of men swept through the town in different units. A Kalenjin man from a community near Turbo told Human Rights Watch: “We divided into groups, managed by the elders, in groups of not less than 15, and each group went to particular homesteads. They looted maize and belongings. The young people went, the old remained…the majority [of young people] went along.”

A Kalenjin man recounted to Human Rights Watch his participation in a mob that murdered several Kikuyu people in Eldoret town the evening after the election result was announced. The mob had emerged from a community meeting in the Kapsoya area of Eldoret where speakers urged those present to drive all Kikuyu out of Eldoret town. As the group set off down a road:
If we met a Kikuyu, we just beat him. I saw five people die that day personally. They attacked using all forms [of weapons]—arrows, pangas [machetes] and even beating with any crude tool. It was mob justice. The first killing…they approached him politely and asked him to produce his ID card. The one who got the card announced the name very loudly—it was a Kikuyu name. And the mob just attacked him. Those who produced IDs with Kalenjin or Luo names, they let them go.

The man was remorseful about the killings. “It was an act of brutality,” he said.
One of the most horrifying and well-publicized scenes of post-election bloodshed occurred in rural Kiambaa, a settlement scheme (land made available by the government to encourage settlement in the Rift Valley to relieve pressure on other areas) south of Eldoret. On January 1, a mob set fire to a church where terrified Kikuyu residents were seeking refuge, soaking mattresses the victims had brought with them with petrol and stacking them against the building. At least 30 people were burned alive, including a handicapped woman who died in her wheelchair.

Human Rights Watch interviewed several victims of the church attack at Kiambaa. One man’s five-year-old nephew was killed when a flaming mattress fell on top of him: “I saw my nephew on fire. He said, ‘uncle, uncle!’ but then he fell on his face because the petrol-soaked mattress was on his back and the fire took him.” Many of the survivors said many of the attackers were people they knew well. “They are our neighbors,” one man said, adding that he recognized “a young boy who sells milk, and the son of the man who owns the farm that borders mine.”

In several communities anti-Kikuyu violence was expanded to also include known Kalenjin supporters of Kibaki’s Party of National Unity. In several communities such as Turbo, Kurinet, and Soy, Kalenjin PNU supporters were forced to flee in fear for their lives alongside local Kikuyu. In other communities mobs threatened to torch the homes of local Kalenjin PNU supporters unless they agreed to provide a goat or cow as compensation for failing to support the ODM.

Attempts at Self-Defense and Reprisal Attacks
In most of the communities surveyed by Human Rights Watch around Eldoret, Kikuyu residents fled without a fight from the mobs arrayed against them. But in some areas residents attempted to make a stand and defend their homes. These attempts were mostly unsuccessful. In most cases, groups of Kalenjin attackers were large and organized and easily overwhelmed the small number of Kikuyu farmers who sought to resist them. One Kikuyu farmer from a community called Kilao told Human Rights Watch,

We were about ten, we threw stones at them but they had bows and arrows, pangas. We realized we could not beat them. They shot one old man called Mwangi with an arrow. When he fell they cut him and opened his stomach. I was running away and I watched him being cut.

A Kalenjin pastor from a community outside of Turbo told Human Rights Watch that in the area around his home he knew of 20 Kikuyu men who were killed trying to defend their homes, along with ten of the Kalenjin attackers, during three days of fighting.

In at least one case, groups of Kikuyu men carried out brutal reprisal attacks during the initial bout of post-election chaos. On the evening of December 31 in Langas, an Eldoret neighborhood populated primarily by Kikuyu, Kikuyu mobs killed and beheaded several ethnic Luo residents and left their severed heads lying on the road.

Kikuyu Reprisals and Mungiki
As displaced people fled south from Eldoret towards the towns of Molo, Nakuru, and Naivasha in the Southern Rift Valley and into Central Province, the traditional territory of the Kikuyu, they brought with them brutal stories of burning, looting, rape and murder. Their stories helped to stoke tensions among Kikuyu residents in these other towns. Local leaders and Kikuyu elite there and in Nairobi reacted by organizing to contribute money for ‘self-defence’ forces.

From January 23 to 30 Kikuyu militias in the Rift Valley towns of Molo, Naivasha and Nakuru led pogroms targeting local communities of Luo, Luhya, Kalenjin, and other minority groups seen as being associated with the ODM and, by extension, with violence against Kikuyu elsewhere in the country. During that week, hundreds more died, thousands were displaced and the army was called in to disperse violent gangs in Naivasha and Nakuru. Several serious atrocities were committed such as the burning of 19 people, including at least two babies, locked in a house in the Kabati area of Naivasha.

There have been many reports that the feared criminal gang, Mungiki, is behind the reprisal attacks and even allegations that it has infiltrated the Kenya police. The Mungiki are a brutal criminal gang that promotes a violent brand of Kikuyu chauvinism. They emerged in the late eighties as a principally cultural and spiritual movement promoting Kikuyu heritage and culture, but increasingly became involved in organized crime in the slums of Nairobi in the 1990s. By 2002 they were a well-established group with large numbers of followers and alleged ties to leading politicians. Since then the government has cracked down on them. In 2007 the group was driven underground and badly weakened through a violent government campaign aimed at its suppression. The Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights alleges that Kenya’s police summarily executed at least five hundred suspected Mungiki members in the process.

There are many rumors that individuals close to the Kibaki government have been involved in re-activating the Mungiki. But some leaders of the gang told Human Rights Watch that they remain opposed to the government and would not work with the Kibaki administration. The police apparently also believe that, “Mungiki high command are not involved,” in recent attacks, but that the violence has, “all the hallmarks of Mungiki operations”. The leadership claims that former Mungiki leader Ndura Wariunge is recruiting “defectors” to a “fake Mungiki” and mobilizing youth to order for politicians and businessmen in the Rift Valley.

The distinction between the various Mungiki factions will be an important one for a court to determine when identifying those behind the recent violence, but as far as the victims are concerned, it makes little difference who wielded the machete or threw the match. Victims commonly refer to any group of marauding Kikuyu youth as ‘Mungiki’. In fact the over-use and mis-use of the label serves the attackers well since the very name instils terror.

Whether or not the young men involved were genuine members of Mungiki or not, the Kikuyu militias who struck in late January were organized, paid, and directed by local leaders, businessmen, and, in some cases, PNU councillors and mobilizers. The extent to which the local organizers were in touch with senior PNU politicians or members of the government is unclear. But circumstantial evidence suggests that senior members of the government may have been aware of what was going on. Mungiki leaders told Human Rights Watch that they had described the activities of their renegade colleague, Wariunge, in detail to the police and the government. We were unable to corroborate this claim. Other reports cited by the BBC describe contacts between the renegade Mungiki leader and State House, and police complicity in the ferrying of Mungiki fighters to Naivasha and Nakuru. Several newspaper articles also describe the involvement of unnamed government ministers in raising funds for self-defense units.


“On Sunday morning the mob went up to Kabati [an area of Naivasha town]. They split into groups. Some of them I recognised, some of them not. They blocked all the roads, even cars were not getting in or out.” He claimed he joined in to avoid discrimination, but nevertheless witnessed the burning and killing of Luo residents:
I went along just to pretend that I was with them. I saw a man cut, and a house burned, the one with all the people in. It was around twelve in the afternoon. The house was surrounded by a mob. You can’t tell who lit the fire, there were too many people surrounding the place and watching. But I saw boys go in and take the kids out of the house before the place was set on fire with the man left in there. But they did not know that in the back room were hiding more people.”

Revenge in Naivasha
Revenge attacks for the killing and chasing of Kikuyus from Western, Nyanza, and Northern Rift Valley provinces began in Nakuru and Molo on January 24 and reached Naivasha on January 27. In Naivasha, Kikuyu militias met little resistance, but in Nakuru the attacks sparked a succession of Kalenjin counter-attacks. In Molo, clashes have been ongoing for many months even before the elections.

Non-Kikuyu residents in different parts of Naivasha town were targeted in the attacks. According to some of the young men that took part, several who were self-proclaimed Mungiki members and several who were not, there had been a meeting earlier in the week, on Wednesday, January 23, in a local hotel:

This was not done by ordinary citizens, it was arranged by people with money, they bought the jobless like me. We need something to eat each day. The big people at the [bus] stage, the ones who run the matatu [minibus] business, they called us [the jobless who hang around there] to a meeting around 2 p.m. They said there was a plan to push out the Luos because they were planning to attack us. They said we should be ready on Saturday. I recognised the leaders, they are the owners of businesses in town, they did not hide their faces. We were paid 200 shillings for going to the meeting, and we were told we would get the rest after the job, it was like a business.

According to the youth, there was then another meeting on Saturday, January 26 in the afternoon. The organizers present at the meeting were well known local businessmen who had campaigned for a PNU candidate and former MP during the election. The youth who attended the meeting recalled: “We were told that only Luo houses should be burnt and that the mission starts in the morning. Every person was given 100 or 200 shillings.”

Luo victims in Kedong IDP camp claimed that Kikuyu friends of theirs had told them of similar plans. One man described seeing three trucks with armed men arriving on the night of Saturday, January 26 in the Merera/Karacta area in the company of a local businessman: “My Kikuyu friends told me what was planned,” he said. “It was not a secret.”

Violence started across the town on Sunday morning, January 27. One of the young men who participated in the attacks said, “On Sunday morning the mob went up to Kabati [an area of Naivasha town]. They split into groups. Some of them I recognised, some of them not. They blocked all the roads, even cars were not getting in or out.” He claimed he joined in to avoid discrimination, but nevertheless witnessed the burning and killing of Luo residents:

I went along just to pretend that I was with them. I saw a man cut, and a house burned, the one with all the people in. It was around twelve in the afternoon. The house was surrounded by a mob. You can’t tell who lit the fire, there were too many people surrounding the place and watching. But I saw boys go in and take the kids out of the house before the place was set on fire with the man left in there. But they did not know that in the back room were hiding more people.

In fact 19 people were hiding in the back room including women and children and two infants under two years old. They all burned to death.

Other young boys living in Kabati also claimed that when the mob came they were forced to join in. A witness told Human Rights Watch, “On that day when the Kikuyu boys came, it was war. They forced us to go with them, I did not know them.” Another resident, a Kisii boy in secondary school whose home was burned by mistake, added, “Their plan was to destroy, they were looking for Luo houses, only Luo. They just asked people who was living in each house, they had some local boys who knew which houses to burn.”

Some Kikuyu residents of Kabati estate tried to claim that the Luo set their own houses on fire because they were afraid of the Mungiki. But a woman who had been chased by Kalenjin fighters away from her home in Kitale, in Northern Rift Valley, and had come to stay with relatives in Kabati said, “I’d rather be in Kitale being attacked by Kalenjin than have to witness again what they did to the Luos here; rather Kitale.” Another female resident said she had received several threats to keep quiet because of what she had seen and because she knew some of those responsible:

I know them, these jobless boys. I saw two or three people being cut and killed. One old man, Luo, was beaten, but he refused to die like that so they took turns chopping. Then the one who finished him off licked the blood from the blade, then they moved to the next plot.

In the center of town, a Kikuyu resident who was sheltering Luo children in her home described watching local businessmen and PNU mobilizers, the same individuals mentioned by the youth at the meeting, directing militias on the street in blocking roads, telling them “good job” and arguing with policemen on Sunday afternoon. Later, she said, a Kikuyu mob led by one well-dressed man whom she did not recognize came to her building with a list of three Luo names. They wanted to know which apartments belonged to the Luos.

Out of town, in the settlements where Luo migrant workers from the large commercial flower farms reside, the pattern was distressingly familiar with mobs burning houses, killing men, and, in one case, throwing an old man into a burning house.

Young men interviewed by Human Rights Watch claimed that they were offered 7,000 shillings ($100) for taking part and 10-15,000 ($200) for each Luo man beheaded. Luo victims and local human rights activists also mention similar figures.

The official total killed as a result of the clashes in Naivasha was 41. Twenty-three were burned, including 13 children, seven were shot dead by police and the rest killed with machetes. There were four victims of forced male circumcision treated at the hospital, all of whom survived.

Official Response
The police, with a woefully inadequate 60 officers in Naivasha, were not able to control the violence. Indeed, by their own admission they were only able to rescue those threatened with attack. The Officer Commanding Police District (OCPD), Naivasha, told Human Rights Watch, “We went to rescue people, that was our priority, so we didn’t chase the perpetrators.”

For reasons which are unclear, the police did not request assistance from the army or the prison service (which had 1,000 armed prison guards stationed in the town and available to help). Instead, the prison commander took the decision to deploy his men himself, as he explained to Human Rights Watch, “My people came on Sunday, but the public started protesting, saying they didn’t want us there. So we withdrew, and that’s when all the mayhem started.” Worse than that, the police actually fought their prison service colleagues. According to prison guards, there was a “misunderstanding” with the police resulting in one of their colleagues being shot in the leg by police.

Tit for Tat in Nakuru
Before the revenge attacks by Kikuyu militia, the town of Nakuru had escaped the violence that had engulfed much of the Rift Valley. Although the surrounding countryside was deeply affected, especially by the long-running conflicts in Kuresoi and around Molo, Nakuru town had been quiet. That changed on January 24.

Mungiki leaders told how local businessmen and politicians met at a local hotel on January 24 to organize themselves. A businessman who was present confirmed to a local journalist that the meeting, one of several, did take place Many rumors exist in Nakuru town about who was at the meetings and who was actually behind the co-ordinated attacks of January 24-26. The testimony provided to Human Rights Watch does not substantiate allegations against specific individuals, but from the pattern of attacks it was clearly an organized operation and sympathetic Kikuyus warned their non-Kikuyu friends and neighbors to leave ahead of time. For example, a journalist was told by someone present at the organizing meetings: “get as far away as you can.” Non-Kikuyu residents of ‘Free Area’, a suburb of Nakuru, described being warned by Kikuyu friends, “there’s going to be an operation.”

On January 25, large numbers of armed Kikuyu men carrying pangas, knives, and petrol bombs attacked non-Kikuyu homes in several different areas of Nakuru town.

In the ‘Free Area’ suburb, many Kalenjin and Luos sought safety in the compound of a local leader. Here, at least, the police, in the face of large crowds, appear to have done what they could to fulfil their responsibility to protect members of the public. One man described seeing police chasing groups of armed men coming out of a neighboring house belonging to a former MP. “They came out from [his place] and they all had new pangas, shining in the sun.” That same morning a woman who attempted to leave the compound where police were protecting non-Kikuyu, was hacked to death by the mob in front of those sheltering there. “We watched through the fence,” explained one witness.

The Kikuyu militias were also forcibly circumcising Luo men. One Luhya witness was spared because he was already circumcised but he was forced to accompany the group:

Our group was about 50 people—spread along the road. The Kikuyus then started checking everybody, and circumcising Luos right there. I saw two of these. They grabbed one man, about 30 years old, and told him to remove his pants. He just kept saying, ‘What?! What?’ Then they forcibly removed his pants. One was holding his penis, and another one was cutting his foreskin with a piece of a broken Fanta bottle. Others were cheering, chanting ‘Ohe, ohe’ and saying, ‘Kill him.’ They were saying all Luos should go back to Nyanza… The other man was 50 or 60 years old. They saw him on the road, and started yelling, ‘Luo, Luo.’ They seized him, and first removed all his clothes. Then several people lifted him up, and one men grabbed his penis, and another one circumcised him with his panga. They then dropped the old man on the ground and started hacking him, and then cut his head off. Nobody dared to help him.

Kalenjin Reprisals
Most of the displaced Luos interviewed by Human Rights Watch were temporarily living in the Furaha Stadium, waiting to leave to their “ancestral areas” of Nyanza and Western province. However, the Kalenjin communities within and around Nakuru town struck back on subsequent days. They attacked and burnt Githima estate, a majority Kikuyu area. They also attacked the Mwareke area on the southern side of the town.

According to one Kikuyu youth who was called to help defend against the Kalenjin in Mwareke, the Kalenjin men and boys were also organized and paid to fight, echoing earlier reports
We cornered one of them. He confessed and said, ‘Actually I was just pushed and paid to fight.’ He was asking for forgiveness, although in fact we just killed him anyway. He said he was a Standard Eight pupil, this year he was supposed to go to Form One [first year of secondary school]. The Nakuru Provincial hospital confirmed that the victims of the clashes were from all ethnic groups. A medical official at the hospital told Human Rights Watch, “The majority were men, no children. Kikuyus, Kalenjin, Luos, and Luhyas. At the beginning, mostly Kikuyus, then others. Those from Nakuru town were mostly Luos; those from the district – Kalenjins and Kikuyus.”

The hospital morgue reported 56 deaths, while the municipal morgue recorded 105 separate deaths since the beginning of the revenge attacks on January 25, an official total of 161 for Nakuru district alone. In addition, hundreds of houses belonging to people on all sides were burned and thousands of people were displaced.

Police Response
Several witnesses describe the police protecting the house of the local leader in ‘Free Area’ and firing in the air to disperse mobs in various areas in Nakuru town and Phodamali in Nakuru district. From the witness descriptions it appears that the police were hopelessly outnumbered. Numerous people describe the compound being surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands of armed Kikuyu men, shaking the fence and threatening those inside while GSU police struggled to scare them away.

The senior police officer for Nakuru, the Officer Commanding Police District, was transferred immediately after the clashes. His successor, who began work on February 3, claimed no knowledge of arrests prior to that date, nor when meeting Human Rights Watch did he know if any investigations were underway in connection with the organization of the attacks. Between February 3 and 18 he had made approximately 30 arrests in connection with the attacks, but all of those suspects were released on bail. The police spokesman in Nairobi claims that vigorous investigations into the organization of the attacks in Nakuru are underway. However, this is not the view from the ground.

An Endless Cycle of Violence in Molo
Molo town and district have been the site of ethnic clashes for many years, dating back to the last wave of state-sponsored violence in the early 1990s. Violence flared again in 2003, 2005, and 2006. In the run up to the election of December 2007 politicians incited militias to attack supporters of rivals and populations unlikely to vote for them In nearly all of these incidents, the Kikuyu population were the victims of violence and not the perpetrators. Immediately following the announcement of the presidential election result, attacks against Kikuyus and their property began again. But now Kikuyu are also beginning to perpetrate revenge attacks.

In previous bouts of violence in Molo, including prior to the 2007 election, MPs and former MPs have been implicated. Human Rights Watch heard testimony describing the organization or facilitation of violence since the December 2007 election by both opposition ODM and ruling party PNU representatives.

A former councillor in Sirikwa, where an ODM MP has a house, described how, beginning on December 31 armed Kalenjin fighters gathered in the MP’s property and launched attacks on neighboring Kikuyu houses from there. A Kikuyu neighbor of the MP described a similar scene: “[The MP] was away but a local Kalenjin leader who I know had boys there under orders, he told me to get out of my house and they looted everything….Three days later more fighters came from Bomet, they were all staying at [his] place.” Many houses were burnt and most Kikuyu residents fled to Molo town. Killings and arson took place in many other villages in Kuresoi and Molo districts.

Later in January, Kikuyu leaders organized a counterattack at a farm, the home of a Kalenjin businessmen alleged to be involved in funding Kalenjin militia. One of the Kikuyu youth who went along to the meeting and took part in the subsequent attack explained what happened:

On January 22, we were called to a meeting by one of our elected [PNU] councillors at a school–word went around to all the youth. We were told they have work for us, just go and follow orders, everyone should bring their weapon. They said there would be food and, if we did a good job, money. At that time war was all around the town, there was no secret about the meeting. We went to get our weapons and then immediately went to [the] farm, we thought we would be able to keep whatever there was at the farm to loot, sheep, cattle etc. Someone had tipped off the Kalenjin, we met warriors waiting for us. We did nothing, they killed those who were unable to run away, mostly the older ones. Thirteen were killed. Then the Kalenjin started burning houses on the edge of town. I went home to sleep. I said I’ll never try it again!

Other youth who took part together with local human rights activists confirmed the numbers of dead and the account of the incident, including naming those who had organized it. The episode seems not to have deterred other groups of Kikuyu from attacking Kalenjin communities and burning Kalenjin businesses in neighboring towns. In Mau Summit, 15 kilometers from Molo, Kalenjin men showed Human Rights Watch where Kikuyu militias had burned Kalenjin businesses and homes and explained that, “they burned ours so we burned theirs.” They proceeded to show us the many more Kikuyu properties that had been razed to the ground. As of March 1, further attacks were continuing.

Chased from Central Province
Following the rigged election, there was tension in Central Province, a traditional Kikuyu area, among people from different ethnic groups, but few incidents of violence. As displaced people returned from the Rift Valley and news spread of the killings in Eldoret and elsewhere, the temperature rose and animosity against non-Kikuyu populations associated with the opposition grew. By mid to late January those feelings were beginning to boil over.

Verbal warnings and leaflets started circulating giving non-Kikuyu residents in Thika, Juja, Nyeri, and other towns in Central Province a deadline for leaving. Some said a week, others, like this eerily poetic leaflet seen by Human Rights Watch, said, “No more clashes but war. Luo, Luya and Nandi we give you 24 hrs you pack and go – failure to that we need 200 heads b4 peace hold once more.”

Those on the receiving end of such threats said that they reported the matter to the police. Nevertheless, they did not feel safe and on January 31 many people from those communities moved to police stations for protection. Those who did not leave or move to the police stations received a visit from masked men who threatened to behead them if they did not move. According to one man who fled, the masked men said: “Are you Luos? So what are you still doing here?! Get out or tonight we’ll come for your heads.”

Police Response
The police did in fact arrest some of the perpetrators and brought them to Thika police station where displaced persons were gathered on Friday, February 1. According to witnesses at the police station, an angry Kikuyu mob surrounded the police station on the following morning and the local MP, George Thuo, persuaded the police to release the arrested persons “for the sake of peace.”

The Potential Long-Term Impact of Violence: Ethnic Engineering
The events of the first months of 2008 have dramatically altered the ethnic makeup of many parts of Kenya. Scores of communities across the Rift Valley, including most of Eldoret itself, are no longer home to any Kikuyu residents. The rural areas outside of Naivasha, Nakuru, and Molo are similarly emptying of Kikuyu while Kalenjin and Luo are leaving the urban areas. In Central Province, few non-Kikuyu remain. The slums of Mathare, Kibera and others in Nairobi have been carved into enclaves where vigilantes from one ethnic group or another patrol ‘their’ areas.

Many have moved to different parts of the country where their ethnic group is in the majority, sometimes referred to as ‘ancestral’ areas. But displaced persons’ camps all over the country are still full of people who have nowhere to go. Some displaced residents would like to return home. As one farmer forced to seek shelter at the displaced persons camp in Eldoret put it, “My house has been burnt three times: in 1992, 1997 and now. I return each time because I have nowhere else to go.” But others are stuck between a rock and a hard place, with nowhere to move to and yet unwilling to risk return to their property.

All the displaced Luo from Central Province interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that they would not go back there. And a large majority of the displaced Kikuyu interviewed said that they would not consider returning home because they could not feel safe either.

Human Rights Watch interviewed many Kalenjin residents of affected communities who either participated in or supported the violence against local Kikuyu. Most were emphatic in declaring that they would never allow their former neighbors to return. Young men in several different communities said that they had not originally sought to kill Kikuyu residents but would do so if they tried to reclaim their land. As one Kalenjin elder near Burnt Forest put it, “if they come back, it will be war again.” Then he drew his index finger across his throat. Kikuyu elders in Naivasha meanwhile explained that the Luos chased from there should never return.

As displaced people move to communities where their ethnic group is in the majority, there is a real risk that ethnic jingoism will increase and tensions rise as victims share their stories. For a country with 42 ethnic groups, such a situation is a social, economic, and moral disaster. Essential health and education services are already under strain as staff from the ‘wrong’ ethnic group seek transfers or simply desert their posts.

In order to forestall further deleterious effect of this social re-engineering, a national plan should be agreed by the parties to the coalition government and civil society for the safe return or re-location of displaced populations. Both the ODM and PNU mediation teams have discussed the formation of joint teams to assist re-settlement of displaced populations, but rushing to provide transport for destitute people to go to ancestral areas that they may not even recognize, risks encouraging the ethnic fragmentation of the country.

Options for safe and voluntary return and local reconciliation must be a part of such discussions. The government’s approach to resolving the many questions around the rights of IDPs should be informed by the United Nations Guiding Principles on internally displaced persons. Article 12 of the Pact for Security, Stability, and Development in the Great Lakes Region, which Kenya has ratified, commits states to implementation of national legislation for the protection of internally displaced persons.

Given the history of displacement in Kenya, both due to previous political violence and the arbitrary seizure of land, there must be a comprehensive solution guaranteeing the rights of all internally displaced persons.

Africa’s Deadly Merry-go-round

Following the arrest of the notorious gun-runner Victor Bout I decided to look into his connections with the Kenyan Sanjivan Ruprah more closely and the following is what was thrown up. It’s only a partial description of the viper’s nest at the heart of the African mining and arms trade and it’s not pretty.

“you find the gap in which … less well-developed governments and military forces, require some military expertise and support … the Sandline idea was to be able to provide that … I mean obviously, in our business we keep a fairly good database of conflict or potential conflicts …” Tim Spicer, Sandline International

It’s a complex spider’s web of international companies that all have one interest – to get their hands on Africa’s mining rights. It’s naked neo-colonialism but this time carried out by a comprador class of corrupt African elite who sell off resources belonging to their people to mercernary firms in exchange for great riches and power. The vast majority of Africa’s people remain poor despite being heirs to the most minerally rich part of the world and not only that, their lives have become expendable in the rush to accumulate even greater wealth. In Angola 500,000 people died while Angola’s diamonds were used to fund both sides of the civil war and in Sierra Leone 50,000 people were massacred. In the Democratic Republic of Congo the figure is estimated to be 5,000,000.

At the heart of Africa’s conflicts over oil and gems was a South African mercenary outfit called Executive Outcomes. It remains one of the more visible mercenary companies to be employed by weakened regimes or rebel groups in regions of Africa where western mining interests were threatened.

One of the company’s first ventures was into Angola where it was tasked with recapturing Chevron and Sonangol’s oil facilities from Jonas Savimbi’s Unita rebels.

The now defunct EO was founded by Eeben Barlow a former commander of the South African Buffalo Battalion following the end of apartheid. Fellow directors of the company included Simon Mann an ex-SAS officer, and British financier Tony Buckingham. EO employed soldiers from the infamous South African Buffalo Battalion and Koevoet whose function was to assassinate anti-apartheid activists in the era of apartheid and whose motto was “Shoot to kill”.

Simon Mann is currently languishing behind bars following a botched attempt at trying to overthrow the president of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, in March 2004.

Mann was caught red-handed after his $3 million 727 landed on the tarmac of Harare Airport with 68 mercenaries on board in order to pick up $200,000 worth of arms bound for Equatorial Guinnea. Mann was held at Chikurubi maximum security prison in Zimbabwe for four years until his recent secret extradition to Equatorial Guinnea where he is expected to face further charges.

Mann initially pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted coup instead claiming that the weapons were intended for use in protecting a diamond mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He now admits, “I was the manager, not the architect, not the main man.”
Simon Mann and friends
Mann shackled.

Mann places ex-premier Margaret Thatcher’s son, Sir Mark (“Scratcher”) at the heart of the coup attempt claiming Thatcher was obsessed with how best to exploit the country’s oil riches after deposing of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema. He also accuses London-based oil dealer Eli Calil of setting him up. These allegations were due to be broadcast by Channel 4 just recently but his wife, Amanda Mann, obtained a last minute High Court injunction preventing the programme from being aired. Amanda Mann claims that his allegations have been made “under duress”. Mann’s lawyer Anthony Kerman states:

“We believe that Mr Mann’s interests could be irreparably harmed if the broadcast takes place. I haven’t seen the piece but we do believe that there may be admissions which he makes against his own interests and there may be allegations in the piece, too. [Channel 4] says that he talks frankly about the events leading up to his arrest. I’m told by other people that he may have said very considerably more than that, but that is sufficient for me to be very concerned.” The injunction prohibits the channel from broadcasting its interview because “it is not apparent he could properly consent to the interview taking place”.

Anthony Kerman is a friend of Calil and it is more likely that Mann’s revelations would land Calil in it than compromise Mann’s defence any further. Mann was surprised to learn that the lawyer his wife appointed to represent him is connected to Calil. Some of Mann’s claims implicate members of the establishment (Would hearing that one Lord Archer. “JH Archer”, that’s Jeffrey Howard Archer, was involved surprise you? But now Mann feigns bewilderment that Archer’s name and that of EU commissioner Peter Mandelson were ever raised in connection with the coup.)

Both were friends of Calil. Asked if they had any involvement Mann said, “They’ve got none at all. God knows where that came from.” So clearly frank discussions on the failed coup and it’s backers would not be welcome right now in certain quarters. South Africa and Spain are also implicated, Mann states that they encouraged him to overthrow Obiang.

Spain, the former colonial power of Equatorial Guinnea, which sought oil contracts in EQ and which has given refuge to Guinnea opposition leader, Severo Moto, says that Mann’s claims are “completely baseless”.

While I can only imagine that the likes of Buckingham and his network will be spitting blood at the thought. It is puzzling that Amanda Mann is helping to facilitate suppressing her husband’s attempts to clear his name.

The Channel 4 interview was however broadcast on 11th March 2008 following the collapse of the case in the High Court. Channel 4 reporter, Jonathan Miller, says that it was indeed the wish of Mann that the interview be broadcast. Watch here. Speaking from Black Beach Mann sings “like a canary.”

Mann has a long and colourful history involving conflicts across the African continent. He was one of Executive Outcomes movers and shakers.

Executive Outcomes becomes the first corporate army to set foot in Africa since the 19th century

Executive Outcomes was described as the military wing of Branch Energy. It is ‘arguably the world’s first corporate army… the advance guard for major business interests engaged in a scramble for the mineral wealth of Africa.’

“Mercenary companies are increasingly being hired to play a direct role in controlling or changing the balance of power in Africa. Corporations provide the funds for cash strapped client governments or rebel armies and in return they are rewarded with access to strategic mineral and energy resources.”

Mann, through Executive Outcomes, is deeply implicated in the Sierra Leone civil war. But it was a Kenyan businessman, Sanjiyvan Ruprah, that first introduced Executive Outcomes to the Sierra Leone government of Valentine Strasser in 1995. EO was tasked with driving away the Revolutionary United Front. Executive Outcomes also owned Branch Energy, Ruprah managed its Kenyan subsidiary. Branch Energy was promised diamond concessions in the Koidu mines in exchange for their services. On 22 July 1995 a 25-year mining lease over the diamond field was granted to Branch Energy.The RUF were defeated in 1996 and Ahmed Tehan Kabbah came to power following elections. Kabbah promptly cancelled EO’s contract with the government. A subsidiary of Executive Outcomes named Lifeguard stayed behind to guard Branch Energy’s diamond concessions and UN facilities in Freetown.

Branch Energy was shortly afterwards bought out by “Toxic” Bob Friedland’s Canadian based DiamondWorks (DW) company, originally known as Carson Gold. Friedland is a major shareholder in DiamondWorks through his control of Madras Holdings which holds a 21.2 percent interest. Naturally, DW became sole beneficiary of the Koidu diamond leases. A fact Friedland prefers to play down.

Tony Buckingham formerly the chairman of Branch Energy holds 125,000 share options in DW through two of his other companies, Hansard Management Services Ltd. and Hansard Trust, making him the biggest potential shareholder in Diamondworks. And yes, you guessed it! Simon Mann was right in the thick of it too, acting as DW’s chief operations officer.

In 1997 President Kabbah was overthrown by Johnny Paul Koroma’s Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and Kabbah fled to Conakry, Guinea where he remained in exile temporarily. The AFRC quickly sided with the RUF. It was at this point that the international community placed an arms embargo on Sierra Leone.

British officials then plotted with Kabbah to take back the government. As the contract with Executive Outcomes had ended the job was given to Sandline International. Unfortunately there are no prizes for taking an educated guess at who owned Sandline International. Sandline’s mission was to provide security for western business interests in Africa by propping up governments that supported their interests and overthrowing those that got in their way.

While Koroma was in power none of the mines could operate properly. The UK government under Tony Blair used Sandline to smuggle weapons into Sierre Leone in direct contravention of the UN arms embargo in what became known as the “African Arms to Africa” affair. Thirty tons of Bulgarian arms were shipped to forces backing Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, the Sierre Leonian president in exile. Sandline sub-contracted EO mercenaries to Kabbah in exchange for diamond mining rights.

In Kenya, DW had interests in the country’s gold and diamonds. Their man in Kenya was initially Raymond Moi who partnered up with Ruprah in the failed aviation company Simba Air owned by it’s associate Ibis Air (registered in Kenya and Angola) which in turn was owned by Executive Outcomes. Ibis Air’s fleet was impressive and included two MI-17 helicopters, two Hind M24 gunships, two jet fighters, several Boeing 727 transports together with a number of other small aircraft. A potent force for any embattled ruler or rebel group.

Ruprah was also a business partner of Victor Bout. It could only have been Victor Bout who flew illegal weapons into Sierra Leone under the UN arms embargo. Only Victor Bout enjoyed close relations with the Bulgarian government and had the capacity to carry those weapons. Further damning proof comes from the Bulgarian government who informed the UN that with only one exception Victor Bout’s company Air Cess was the main transporter of Bulgarian weapons to Africa. See here.

Ruprah’s tentacles prior to his Belgian arrest stretched into the Democratic Republic of Congo and reveal some further interesting connections. Ruprah had controlling shares in Little Rock Mining, Tenfield Holdings, Colliers Ventures, Sapora Mining and Intermarket which were engaged in mining around North Kivu and the diamond mining town of Kisangani. It is therefore no surprise to learn that the military chief of Congolese rebels, James Kabare, and Rwanda president Paul Kagame also had interests in those mining operations. I’ve written about Kagame and this business here.

DiamondWorks was dissolved after facing near bankruptcy in 2001 and became Energem Resources. Energem has just launched itself on the London stock market as a renewable-energy business.

Tony Teixeira is the deputy executive chairman of Energem. Teixeira you may recall was dubbed the “merchant of death” by Labour mp Peter Hain who accused him in 2000 of being involved in the illegal movement of diamonds and fuel in Angola. Interestingly, Energem have recently denied that Buckingham is or has ever been a director, actually they say it is not known whether he was ever a director! Teixeira has also challenged Peter Hain to make his allegations against him outside of Parliament. Hain was recently forced to step down after some irregularities concerning undeclared contributions

Energem owns the Kisumu Ethanol Plant which belonged to the Odinga’s. The Odinga’s company Spectre International acquired the Kisumu Ethanol Plant five days after Kanu and Odinga’s National Development Party entered into a partnership that eventually led to a merger of the two parties under Kenya’s second president Daniel Arap Moi.

Former Commissioner of Lands Mr Sammy Mwaita sold the plant to the Odinga’s for a paltry $55,000 in 2001. By June that year Odinga was minister for Energy. Odinga then struck a deal with Energem in 2003 who acquired a 55% stake in the family firm Spectre International for $2 million. The Odinga’s claim that Spectre International is wholly ownded by Energem. However, Raila’s elder brother Dr Oburu Odinga and his sister Ruth presently sit on the board of Energem and the molasses plant is now being used to produce ethanol. The firm today is valued at $100 million.

All these companies, Executive Outcomes (now trading as Aegis Defence Systems), Sandline Interational, Branch Energy, Energem (previously DiamondWorks) all these firms under their various guises are controlled by a shadowy trading group called Plaza 107 which has a suite in Chelsea, London on the King’s Road, which it shares with Heritage Oil and Gas. Energem claim that they merely rent office space on the King’s Road and have nothing to do with Plaza 107 belying the fact that much of the work is sub-contracted out to affiliates and subsidiaries of these companies. Plaza 107′s sister company in South Africa is Strategic Resources Corporation Africa.

EO was employed to protect the mining interests of Heritage Oil and Gas, a firm listed on the Canadian stock exchange and currently involved with drilling oil and gas in the Great Lakes region. Heritage’s president was one Tony Buckingham. And so it goes on and on.

Poverty is central to Africa’s conflicts. It is therefore imperative that Africa’s resources be used to develop the continent, until that happens conflicts will continue to tear the continent apart. Furthermore, what is worrying about the trend to increasingly privatise conflicts as we have seen in Angola, Sierre Leone and DRC is that as private mercenary companies become ever richer and more powerful they will be able to use this power to prop up unfavourable military juntas and despots for access to Africa’s oil and mineral resources.

Whole chunks of Africa are being handed to these private mercernaries and it’s time their activities are addressed by international bodies. A recent intelligence report states that EO gained a reputation for efficiency particularly with rulers of smaller African countries who saw the UN as slow and cumbersome with it often getting bogged down in operations that maintained the status quo rather than allowing one side to resolve the issue.

Time is running out for Africa and if nothing is done to squash private mercenary companies now Africa will continue to remain a prisoner to the greed of an elite, that sadly contains Africans who are more than happy to employ these companies to further their own interests. I have steadfastedly avoided describing these mercenary companies as “private military companies,” the new acceptable face of neo-colonialism because the new expression hides the fact that they are “dogs of war.”

Check what Jack Straw, UK foreign secretary of the time said about the PMCs “…[a] reputable private military sector might have a role in enabling the UN to respond more rapidly and effectively to crises” or “Today’s world is a far cry from the 1960s when private military activity usually meant mercenaries of the rather unsavoury kind involved in post-colonial or neo-colonial conflicts.”

Limbs hacked. Children soldiers. Failed regimes. Who would have thought that a Labour government could betray so many beyond our shores?

Just as “collateral damage” hides the dead bodies, PMCs also hides the truth that a new scramble for Africa is on.

P.S. Sandline has now gone on to acquire a new identity as Aegis Defence Systems and is currently working in Iraq where it was given a $293 million security contract. A few years ago it was involved in criminal actions involving its contractors who were shown in a “trophy” video spraying Iraqi civilian vehicles with bullets.

Toxic Chemicals Dumped in Mombasa Cause Health Hazard

Hundreds of people living near the Mombasa port have been treated for illnesses after containers of leaking chemicals were dumped nearby.
Mombasa - KCCL container toxic leak
The two containers which belonged to Uganda’s Kasese Cobalt Company Limited (KCCL) were dumped in Kipevu about a month ago after a driver noticed a leak. KCCL admitted ownership of the chemical cargo but denied responsibility for the leak. “That is our cargo. Until it is in Kasese we are not responsible for what happens to it along the way,” said Mr Gupta Pradeep, the Finance and Administration Manager of Kasese Cobalt Company Limited. The toxic cargo had been shipped from Mumbai, India.

According to local sources up to 1500 residents of Mombasa’s Kalahari slum were worst affected when forty tons of chemicals containing 37% nitric acid began to leak causing breathing difficulties, stomach upsets, chest pains and two miscarriages. The toxic cargo seeped into the ground and the latrine system affecting residents. According to the Kenya’s Daily Nation one woman was seriously scalded when she slipped and fell in the sludge. Another resident miscarried after using the latrines.

Ms Kibibi, whose house was near the chemical spill, alleges she miscarried as a result. “It was a three-month-old pregnancy. I had gone to the toilet, while there I was hit by a strong fume,” she told BBC. “I quickly gathered myself up and ran towards my room but couldnt manage – I fell down and started bleeding immediately.”

It is believed that many other people have been affected by the leak but have not yet sought medical attention.

The chemicals also corroded the metal sheets used to build houses and melted anything made of plastic. Animals were also affected with residents reporting that some animals had died.

KCCL’s Gupta Pradeep blamed the Ugandan shipping company Southern Enterprise. KCCL general manager Bob Jennings told the BBC that the leak was reported by Southern Enterprise at least one month ago but Kenya’s National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) says the problem was reported less than two weeks ago after the containers had already been dumped in the residential area.

NEMA claim that the area has been cleaned up now but the BBC’s Joseph Odhiambo visited the area and reported that yellow fumes could still be seen leaking from the containers and the ground was covered in black sludge.

Mombasa Municipal Council chief health officer Josephant Maithya told the BBC that the area is still not safe. While Mr Nassir Rashid, the director of environment at the Mombasa Municipal Council said samples of the chemicals have been sent to the government chemist for identification. Rashid says the chemicals are extremely toxic and so far more than 1,500 villagers have been treated for various illnesses caused by the chemicals.

The containers were on their way to Uganda when they were dumped. Mombasa Municipal Council has ordered KCCL to appear in court and residents are now demanding compensation.

Kasese Cobalt Company Limited is involved with extracting and refining cobalt near the town of Kasese in Uganda. It is 75% owned by Blue Earth Refineries Inc, a Canadian company which was registered as a corporate entity in the Virgin Islands in 2004. The remaining 25% stake in KCCL is held by the Ugandan government.

Blue Earth sprang from MFC Bancorp which is an Austrian financial services group owned by MFC Merchant Bank S.A., a fully licensed Swiss bank in Herisau, Switzerland.

Blue Earth’s refinery, located at Kasese, Uganda, restarted operations in May, 2004, and has operated continuously since that time. During the 2004 calendar year, it produced 962,000 pounds of 99.8 percent pure cobalt, generating gross revenues of US$15.2 million. In 2005, the company will have a full year of operations, with sales revenue anticipated at approximately US$22 million, generating estimated surplus cash of approximately US$8.5 million. These projections are based on an estimated average market price of US$17.50 per pound for the balance of 2005, with cash flow increasing by US$1.5 million (or approximately US$0.10 per issued share) for every US$1.00 per pound increase in the estimated average market price of cobalt.

Support for the Bushmen of Kalahari

WHERE? Chatham House, 10 St James square, LONDON, SW1Y
WHEN? Wednesday 12th March, 10.30-11.15

YOUR HELP IS DESPERATELY NEEDED – JOIN SURVIVAL TO DEMONSTRATE YOUR SUPPORT FOR THE BUSHMEN

You will recall that The Bushmen of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) won in court the landmark right to return to their homes in 2006; a Pyrrhic victory because the Botswana government is refusing to allow the Bushmen to operate their own water borehole within the CKGR: without water the Bushmen cannot, of course, return home. In the meantime, a diamond mine is planned on the Bushmen’s land. It will be allowed to use as much water as it needs.

Please join our vigil to demand that the Botswana government allows the Bushmen to operate a borehole within the CKGR.

Please join us and help make our protest a powerful statement. For directions, please see the following link: Map

Russian Lord of War Arrested

While Victor Bout might be running arms to your opposition, you know he’ll also ferry arms against a U.N. embargo for you.

Oh happy day! One of the world’s biggest arms dealers was arrested in Thailand on Thursday. His name – Viktor Anatoliyevich Bout. Age: 41. Thai authorities were acting on a warrant for his arrest issued by the US who accuse him of supplying arms to Colombia, the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Al Jazeera’s Riz Khan interviews Douglas Farah an intelligence consultant and former journalist who wrote “Merchant of Death”, a book based on Bout.

Russia’s RSI Novosti reports

Moscow may request the extradition of Russian businessman Viktor Bout, arrested in Thailand at the request of U.S. authorities on charges of illegal arms trading, a Russian law enforcement source said on Thursday.

“At this time, Russia is awaiting investigation materials from Thailand…After that, a decision to request extradition may be taken,” the source said.

If this happens Bout might walk free as the present US administration is anxious to please the new Russian regime and is not fully committed to acting on the US extradition request.

He flew frozen chickens from South Africa to Nigeria and Belgian peace keepers to Somalia.

His planes delivered French soldiers to Rwanda after the genocide and United Nations food aid to some of the crises his weapons had helped to create.

In 1997 his planes flew Mobutu Sese Seko, the dictator of the Congo, to safety as rebels closed in on him. Bout had armed the rebels.

He’s conducted business with both the US and UK governments. “In an age when the U.S. president has divided the world into those who are with the United States and those who are against it, Bout is both“, supplying arms to both sides of a given conflict which has earned him the moniker ‘the merchant of death’.

Bout’s real money came when he realized he could fly lucrative commercial cargo on the flights back from the weapons deliveries. His most profitable enterprise was flying gladiolas purchased for $2 in Johannesburg and resold for $100 in Dubai.

He has links to every conflict going on in Africa – Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Uganda and Kenya – to name but a few countries.

Bout was formerly a Soviet military office who built his fortune in the chaos following the breakdown of the USSR by buying up old Soviet military aircraft and weaponry from desperate arms suppliers. The main supplier being Ukraine. Desperate for hard currency the Ukraine sold off Soviet weaponry to whoever would buy. Viktor Bout helped to move and sell the product and soon the world was awash in weapons.

United Nations investigations placed him at the centre of an elaborate network of logistics and aviation companies delivering weapons to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among other countries.

Johan Peleman, an arms trade expert who works for the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, said many of Mr Bout’s aircraft were operating in Africa but in some cases “he has either sold them or sub-leased them for longer periods of time”, making it more difficult to link him to operations.

“Planes landing in Somalia look familiar. Some of his front-men remain active in the Great Lakes region. I still see a number of aircraft registered in Sao Tome and some in Angola that used to be his,” Mr Peleman said.

Most recently, he added, law enforcement agencies had been investigating possible ties between companies associated with Mr Bout and militant groups in Nigeria, whose sophisticated weaponry has made it difficult for the federal government to re-establish control over the oil-producing Niger delta.

One Russian arms trade expert speaking on condition of anonymity said Mr Bout had been free to live in Moscow because “there were a lot of accusations but no proof. He is a transporter. He is like a taxi driver. A taxi driver can drive someone carrying suitcases. It’s not his duty to know what’s in the suitcases.”

Viktor Bout - merchant of death
“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

The photo above is one of the rare photos of Bout in circulation prior to his recent arrest and was taken for a NYT article written by Peter Landesman. Bout agreed to be interviewed by Landesman because he had things he wanted to get off his chest.

One night Landesman got a call at his hotel from an anonymous source asking him to meet at a McDonald’s in Pushkin Square, Moscow. The source put to him the idea that Bout had become the fall guy for a conspiracy involving Russia and the newly independent Soviet republic – Ukraine.

The source encouraged Landeman to view Bout from the following perspective:

He said to imagine the structure of arms trafficking in Russia like a mushroom. Bout was among those in the mushroom’s cap, which we can see. The stalk is made up of the men who are really running things in Russia and making decisions. Looking from above, he said, you never see the stalk. (Landesman)

Among those in the metaphorical mushroom cap was a Kenyan Asian who was arrested in Belgium in connection with supplying arms to Liberia in 2002. Sanjivan Ruprah described as a diamond dealer (who profited from Sierre Leone’s blood diamonds) was on a US list of most wanted men and and one of the world’s most notorious arms dealers. Ruprah was also the partner of Viktor Bout. According to Belgian researcher Tim Raemaekers they both held a substantial stake in a diamond business in Kisangani, DRC, and enjoyed diamond concessions in Banalia, DRC

Both he and Bout also enjoyed a covert relationship with US Feds since long before 9/11. According to a report submitted to the UN Security Council in 2002 his interests also included mining interests in Kenya.

Damien Hirst Diamond Skull worth £50 million
Conspicuous Consumption – Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God

Damien Hirst said in a recent documentary on the making of this grotesque diamond skull that he was careful to source conflict-free diamonds, an impossibility due to the fact that most diamonds coming on the market are coming from places like DRC. The construction of the skull also caused a shortage on the diamond market in 2006 which inevitably created demand. “Ladies and gentlemen, it would be irresponsible to circumvent the fact that it is highly problematic, if not unfeasible, to work out a system in order to control the flow of rough diamonds around the world. The reality is that once diamonds are mined there is almost nothing one can do in order to prevent them from reaching the market. No certification scheme can truly be reliable, not only because war-torn areas are by definition disorganized, but mainly because it is intrinsically impossible to distinguish between good and bad diamonds. Misguiding traders and consumers with untrustworthy guarantees would inevitably be demystified over time.”

Continued… The UN reports states:

A Kenyan national named Sanjivan Ruprah plays a key role in Liberia’s airline registry and in the arms trade. Before his involvement in Liberia, Sanjivan Ruprah had mining interests in Kenya, and was associated with Branch Energy (Kenya). Branch Energy owned diamond mining rights in Sierra Leone, and introduced the private military company, Executive Outcomes to the government there in 1995. Ruprah is also known as an arms broker. He has worked in South Africa with Roelf van Heerden, a former colleague from Executive Outcomes, and together they have done business in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere. Ruprah was once in charge of an airline in Kenya, Simba Airlines, until investigations into financial irregularities forced the company’s closure.

If this wasn’t interesting enough, Branch Energy is a sister company of Energem Resources previously known as DiamondWorks. Both are companies that Odinga has ties to. As Minister for Energy, Odinga handed contracts to Energem to import oil for Kenya and pushed Kenya into rapacious oil deals with Sudan.

Energem Resources is presently owned by a couple of arms-dealers. One Tony Teixeira, a South African arms dealer of Portuguese descent who coincidentally has links to the molasses factory in Kisumu originally owned by the Odinga’s firm Spectre International. These are glaring irregularities which have not been fully explained by the Odinga’s.

It is significant that the Odinga family business, Spectre International Ltd, acquired the then state-owned Kisumu Molasses Plant soon after Raila started politically cooperating with Moi.

[Spectre - a ghost. something unpleasant or dangerous imagined or expected: the spectre of nuclear holocaust Concise Oxford English Dictionary]

Raila has consistently argued that the acquisition of the molasses plant was a pure business deal which had nothing to do with politics, but his critics point out at the coincidence between the time his family acquired the parastatal and Raila’s shift of political alliance. It is highly unlikely – indeed one may even say impossible – that the Moi government would have sanctioned the Kisumu Molasses Plant deal at the time if Raila had not become an ally of Moi’s.

[...]Soon after taking over the plant from the government, Raila struck a lucrative deal with Energem whereby the Canadian firm bought 55 per cent of the Kisumu Molasses plant. Sources say that the Odinga family was paid over US$ 5 million (about Kshs 420 million) to relinquish the control of the molasses plant. The Odinga family had paid only Kshs 3.6 million for the property.

The sale of the plant to Teixeira’s Energem was made shortly before Odinga’s National Development Party entered into a partnership with then ruling party, Kanu. Teixeira now also owns a controlling stake in Spectre. Two members of the Odinga family sit on its board of directors. Spectre International is also a major funder of the Orange Democratic Movement.

It will be very interesting to see how much more the world is going to learn about the men who have helped to destabilise countries across Africa if Viktor Bout remains behind bars. This article is the bomb and lists the activities of USAID and US corporations who are engaged in extracting resources from the Democratic Republic of Congo resources. More to follow no doubt…

Revealed: The trap that lured the merchant of death

BLOWBACK

[...]While Bout’s exploits as an arms dealer of choice to a host of unsavoury regimes and groups appears largely beyond dispute, what is more puzzling is how he got away with it for so long. The answer, according to many long-time Bout experts, intelligence officials and US government sources, is that there exists a strong circumstantial case that his ability to get into the world’s most troubled regions and deliver exactly what he promised on time and at the promised cost made him an invaluable ally to more powerful interests than African warlords and diamond smugglers.

Alex Yearsley of the London-based Global Witness, the organisation that led the charge against both Bout and his partners for trading weapons throughout Africa, often in exchange for contracts for natural resources, believes his ability to evade arrest reflected not simply a lack of will by certain nations but a crass exercise in realpolitik.

‘Due to the complicity of members of the [five permanent members on the United Nations] Security Council in the conflicts that Bout armed, on both sides, there were always politically expedient excuses not to arrest [him] earlier,’ he says. ‘He ran an operation that always had plausible deniability. If his planes got caught delivering weapons to rebel movements or sanctioned regimes, they could always claim he was a rogue businessman. On several occasions when he was about to be arrested by one government another government would find a use for him.’

Bout’s activities fell under increased scrutiny over the past five years, particularly after the revelations that he had been given contracts to serve the Iraqi occupation. UN travel sanctions and moves by the US Department of Treasury to freeze his assets and complicate his business operations limited his business, according to US government documents. But based in Moscow, Bout was able to continue operations until his arrest. Yearsley echoes many observers when he says it appeared he was under the protection of the Russian government.

‘He seemed to have a very high level of protection in Russia, living there a happy and a free man despite Interpol ‘red’ notices and Belgian arrest warrants. [This protection] makes a mockery of Russia’s justice system. He was used by [Vladimir Putin] to wind up the Western liberals and make some Russian generals rich,’ he said.

In a meeting last autumn, one European intelligence official who had worked on a long-running investigation into Bout’s activities in Africa was openly cynical that he would ever be caught. ‘Arrest Bout? Nobody wants to. Even my own government eventually shut us down. There’s been a decision to hassle him with sanctions to keep him in line but everyone needs him at some point, or might [need him]. Plus he’d just be replaced by someone else and they could be worse,’ the official said.

‘As long as he stays quiet and remains useful, he can do this indefinitely.’

In the end it was an agency of one of those states suspected of turning a blind eye to Bout’s activities that was the engine behind his capture. According to a source with close ties to the DEA, the operation was so sensitive it was kept secret from other members of the US intelligence community, including high-ranking members of the Justice Department, precisely because of the fear that Bout might be tipped off by elements that the DEA agents feared had protected him in the past. A special unit was set up to run the operation due to ‘war on drugs’ legislation and guidelines, allowed to operate outside the normal protocols that require US government-wide notification.

Few people, even in the closed world of US intelligence, knew the DEA was tracking Bout, let alone setting him up for an arrest. ‘[The DEA] was laughing at the CIA in their offices,’ because they had arrested someone that was perceived to be working for the agency, said one witness.

The strong suspicion that elements in US and other Western intelligence services supposed to be pursuing Bout were occasionally protecting him – no evidence suggests an official policy to protect Bout – is supported by an American diplomat who had tracked Bout as part of investigations into the trade in Russia’s post-Cold War arms stockpiles.

The diplomat described how efforts to track or harass Bout in the late 1990s and early 2000 by small-arms control experts at the State Department would eventually draw the ire of certain CIA officials, resulting in angry phone calls to the diplomat’s superiors demanding that they back off. But the diplomat was emphatic that he did not believe the agency actively or officially worked alongside Bout, but rather traded information with him, making him a useful, if unappealing, occasional asset.

‘I sense they were just as shocked as the rest of us when the bastard was found flying into Baghdad [on behalf of the US government],’ he said of the CIA.

Farah, meanwhile, believes that Bout’s willingness to work with Islamic organisations such as Hizbollah and the Islamic Courts in Somalia, considered an al-Qaeda ally by American officials, probably helped speed his demise.

‘I think Bout was arrested now for several reasons: he was no longer useful to the United States and was an embarrassment … he had shown a willingness to work with those directly opposed to US vital interests,’ Farah says. ‘This, in the end, moved at least a portion of the US law enforcement and intelligence community to make him a high priority target, something he had not been for many years.’

Afterword: Going back to mushroom metaphors; it might be great news to hear that Bout is behind bars finally but the arms trade is not going away as the structure remains – the Antonov planes, the arms pipelines and the organisation are still in place, like mushroom mycelium ever present underground even when the mushroom is dead.

Related: On Kagame and other disinterested observers

Oh and by the way – Nicholas Cage’s character in the film Lord of War was based on him.

SLDF Militia Shot Dead

“The SLDF is now the most powerful and best-armed militia group operating in the west,” ICG said. “Its hit-and-run attacks from the Mt Elgon forest are a major challenge for the authorities, who appear incapable of quelling the rebellion.

“The group is officially headed by a man called Wycliffe Matakwei Kirui Komon, but there is speculation the real leader is a newly elected ODM parliamentarian from the region, though he has denied any links.” From Irin “Kenya armed and dangerous”

Police have considered calling in the military to crack down on the Saboat Land Defense Forces who are blamed for a horrifying attack on a village which left 12 people dead including four children on 3rd March.

Choppers Pursue Mt Elgon Militia

5 March 2008
Posted to the web 4 March 2008

Robert Wanyonyi,Nairobi

The Government has launched the long-awaited ground-to-air operation against the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) militiamen in Mt Elgon and Trans-Nzoia West districts.

It was a rare spectacle as two military choppers circled Mt Elgon forests in pursuit of the militiamen.

The fighting sparked off by the militia over the controversial Chebyuk settlement scheme, has, according to the Western Kenya Human Rights Watch, claimed 534 lives and displaced more than 40,000 people in the last one and a half years.

Yesterday, residents who have been living in fear, cheered as the choppers flew above Embakasi and Kisawai, the scene of a bloody attack that left 12 people, among them a two-month-old infant, dead.

The Rift Valley PPO, Mr Japheth Ashimallah, Trans-Nzoia West DC, Mr Francis Mutie, and senior provincial and district security officers were on the ground to co-ordinate the exercise.

The Rapid Deployment Unit, a special unit that had been dispatched to contain the SLDF militia, is given back up in the operation by regular and Administration Police.

“We will definitely record some progress in making sure that criminals do not continue visiting havoc on law-abiding citizens.

The security team is on the ground to ensure residents settle back on their farms,” Ashimallah assured Saboti MP, Mr Eugene Wamalwa, who was at the scene.

The PPO said he was co-ordinating the operation against the militiamen in liaison with his Western Province counterpart, Mr Francis Munyambu, to ensure that all porous points used by the militia to escape previous operations were sealed.

Though Ashimallah did not specify the progress made, confidential sources told The Standard two SLDF militias had been shot dead and several arrested only hours after the start of the operation.

Mutie announced that the Government had crucial information and names of some politicians believed to be funding the activities of the SLDF.

“We will not allow politicians to continue enjoying peace while at the same time cause innocent residents to suffer. Soon they will be arrested and arraigned in court,” warned Mutie.

He claimed that some school children were being lured into joining the militia group, which he said use traditional charms and magic to bind their members to their criminal activities.

He said some militiamen were involved in extorting money from residents in the name of protection fee and were the ones who turned around to kill and burn down houses of those who refused to yield to their demands.

Wamalwa said the Government ought to do enough to convince displaced people that security had been beefed up.

“While I welcome the commencement of the security operation, I still feel the Government has a lot of ground to cover before normal life resumes. The criminals have to be dealt with first,” said Wamalwa.

However, leaders from the local Anglican Church of Kenya opposed the police operation, saying innocent people might suffer.

Led by Mr Leonard Ndiema, the leaders claimed the security officers were torching houses and beating up women and children in the name of hunting down the SLDF.

Ndiema claimed the militia group that attacked Embakasi might have been part of the youths that were being given military training at the farm of former Saboti MP, Mr Davies Nakitare, who is now in the US.

“We are not against efforts to restore law and order in this region. But we don’t want to see the police apply the law selectively. Let all those arrested in connection with the training at the former MP’s farm be charged,” said Ndiema.

They further warned politicians against taking the matter lightly by calling for the release of the 205 youths who were arrested at Nakitare’s farm.

Ford-Kenya Chairman, Mr Musikari Kombo, and former Kanduyi MP, Mr Wafula Wamunyinyi, last weekend called for the release of the suspects, saying they were to be used as game rangers at Nakitare’s expansive Delta Crescent farm, known worldwide as a tourism attraction site.

Police have issued a warrant for the arrest of Davies Nakitare who it is claimed lives in the US. Will the US rescind his visa I wonder…

State Sanctioned Kenyan Clashes

The BBC has learnt of allegations of state-sanctioned violence in Kenya during the turmoil that followed last December’s disputed presidential poll.

Watch video here

Sources allege that meetings were hosted at the official residence of the president between the banned Mungiki militia and senior government figures.

The aim was to hire them as a defence force in the Rift Valley to protect the president’s Kikuyu community.

The government denied the allegations, calling them “preposterous”.

“No such meetings took place at State House or any government office,” the government said in a statement posted on its website.

Such “unfounded lies” are “injurious to the president, government and the people of Kenya”, the statement said.

We were ordered not to stop the vehicles to allow them to go -Rift Valley policeman

The allegations come as parliament is due to open on Thursday preparing the way for a new coalition government.

Although parliament’s focus will be on healing ethnic divisions and creating a coalition government – allegations of state involvement with a banned Kikuyu militia, known as Mungiki, will not go ignored, the BBC’s Karen Allen in Nairobi says.

She says there is of growing suspicion that some of the violence that led to 1,500 people being killed and hundreds of thousands displaced was orchestrated by both sides of the political divide.

Gangs with machetes

The BBC source, who is a member of the Kikuyu tribe and who is now in hiding after receiving death threats, alleged: “Three members of the gang met at State House… and after the elections and the violence the militias were called again and they were given a duty to defend the Kikuyu in Rift Valley and we know they were there in numbers.”

Groups of Kikuyu groups roam the streets of a neighbourhood of Naivasha as fires burn
Non-Kikuyu homes in Naivasha were ransacked and set alight

On the weekend of 25 January, the Rift Valley towns of Nakuru and then Naivasha were the focus of the some of the worst post-election violence.

Eyewitnesses spoke of non-Kikuyu homes being marked, then gangs with machetes – who they claim were Mungiki – attacked people who were from other ethnic groups.

Sources inside the Mungiki have told the BBC that it was a renegade branch of the outfit that was responsible for violence, not them.

A policeman who was on duty at the time, who has spoken to the BBC on condition of anonymity, has also pointed to clear signs of state complicity.

He alleges that in the hours before the violence in Nakuru, police officers had orders not to stop a convoy of minibus taxis, called “matatus”, packed with men when they arrived at police checkpoints.

“When we were there… I saw about 12 of them [matatus] packed with men,” he said.

“There were no females… I could see they were armed.

“We were ordered not to stop the vehicles to allow them to go.”

The current and previous minister for internal security have both been invited to respond to the allegations. So far they have declined to do so.

The allegations come at a time of growing concern that there was pre-planned violence on both sides of the political fence, in the aftermath of Kenya’s disputed election result.

The international crisis group has already raised such concerns and Human Rights Watch is expected to publish its report making similar claims shortly.

There are plans to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the coming weeks to examine claims of election violence.

The allegations are likely to be among the themes investigated by a commission created to address the issue of post-election skirmishes.

MUNGIKI SECT
Banned in 2002
Thought to be ethnic Kikuyu militants
Mungiki means multitude in Kikuyu
Inspired by the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s
Claim to have more than 1m followers
Promote female circumcision and oath-taking
Believed to be linked to high-profile politicians
Control public transport routes, demanding levies
Blamed for revenge murders in the central region

Maina Kiai warned that Mungiki were being activated by the government in January.

An earlier report by Kenyan Corruption and Warlords here.

Newsnight Video here – the Dr Alfred Mutua govt spokesman gets Paxmanned at 22.30 mins in. Mutua claims that the BBC report is fabricated and finds the allegations are shocking. He also says that people are not happy for Kenyans to have found a solution to the crisis and ends asking what the reason for the allegations are “…Is it racism?”

Dr Alfred Mutua’s response to BBC report

BBC STORY BASELESS AND MEANT TO INCITE KENYANS INTO VIOLENCE

The Government of Kenya has been shocked by a story appearing on the BBC that alledges that members of the banned group Mungiki held meetings at Statehouse, Nairobi, the Official Office of the President.

This story is preposterous, baseless and at best defamatory. No such meetings took place at Statehouse or any Government Office. It is injurious to the President, Government and the People of Kenya for BBC to run such unfounded lies. What credible sources do the BBC have and what is the motivation of the BBC in running untruths and manufacturing such allegations? Why didn’t the BBC seek comment from the Government of Kenya before airing the story? The Government of Kenya will write to demand an apology, a retraction and an inquiry into the motive of the producers of the story.

The Government of Kenya takes great exception to the story, which is coming days after signing of a peace agreement, and can only conclude that the producers of the story are trying to dent the hopes of Kenyans and incite Kenyans into violence.

Kenyans should not believe the dangerous lies on the BBC story and should nurture the peace we enjoy with the knowledge that not everyone is happy that we are a stable country and that an African solution to the Kenyan crisis has been found.

The Mungiki sect is a criminal organization that has been banned by President Mwai Kibaki’s Government. Last year, the Government embarked on a special operation to wipe out the banned group and arrested its key leaders. The Government of Kenya has never worked or engaged banned criminal organizations for any work.

Dr. Alfred N. Mutua,
EBS PUBLIC COMMUNICATIONS SECRETARY &
GOVERNMENT SPOKESPERSON

What is happening to the Ogiek?

One of the first communities to be affected by Kenya’s post-election violence were the Ogiek. They have valiantly put up a struggle against enforced evictions from their ancestral lands by the government but this latest debacle saw them being chased from their homes by government forces. They have reported police killing and raping their people and death threats against their leaders and all because they supported Raila Odinga, the opposition leader.

Timsales, a Kenyan timber company in which the Kenyatta family have a substantial stake, immediately tried to take advantage of the situation.
Mau loggersMau Loggers

…two lorries with timber-trailers, which rumbled through the area, carried not only the chainsaw wielding lumber-crew, but also 20 policemen with automatic weapons, who were hired to protect the alleged timber thieves.

Though Timsales, in which the Kenyatta Family and their most famous heir Uhuru Kenyatta have substantial stakes, had earlier – together with two other companies – been exempted by the former government from the general ban on hardwood felling, the Kenya Forest Service, a newly established parastatal entity, which has succeeded the corrupt governmental forest department, stated today, that since its takeover no licenses for hardwood harvesting had been issued. A representative of Timsales Ltd. could not be reached for comment.

Timsales, it is believed by the local people, just tried to utilize the present political turmoil and the general confusion to illegally cut hardwood trees from the forest.

But the swift response of the Ogiek guards stopped the operation and together with local elders and leaders the lorries and their team as well as the police-escort could be peacefully convinced to leave the area, whose people also are grievance-stricken due to most recent killings and atrocities committed by security personnel and invaders from neighboring communities.

Odinga has promised to make sure these people are not forced out of their land and was made an honorary leader by them recently. The Ogiek had wanted assurances that they would not be barred from living in the forests.

The Ogiek are hunter-gatherers who live in the Mau forests, their primary activity is keeping bees. Ogiek literally means “the caretaker of all plants and wild animals.” They are one of Kenya’s most marginalized people. The Ogiek lifestyle is intimately tied to the eco-system in which they live as they have done for centuries by gathering fruits, herbs and honey that they collect in the forests. These forests are being cut down by loggers for timber and forest is giving way to coffee growers and subsistence farmers who also destroy forest for charcoal. Much of the land is owned by government officials. Destruction of this eco-system will result in their way of life being destroyed too. The government claims that the Ogiek are responsible for environmental degradation of the forests which is not true. Their way of life makes them the most environmentally aware community in Kenya.

Conifers which are a poor substitute for Kenya’s diminishing forests are being planted but these are dead woodlands in which not much can exist, unlike Kenya’s original bio-diverse forests which are sadly disappearing at an alarming rate. The Mau forests play a central part in the ecology of the Rift Valley and are regarded by environmentalists as a major water tower. The deforestation of these forests is linked to the droughts Kenya has been experiencing. Some 2 million people live in this region and are dependent on the hills for water.
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“Globally, something like 62 percent of precipitation occurs over land as a result of evapo-transpiration from lakes and wetlands and dense vegetation, in particular forests pumping water held in the soils, into the air. In comparison only around 38 percent of precipitation is generated over oceans and seas.”

The honey and fruit which afforded the Ogiek a life in which they enjoyed freedom and happiness is becoming scarcer. Kenya’s post-election violence has seen the Saboat Liberation Defence Force (SLDF) attack and chase this community of some 20,000 people away. Death threats have been sent to it’s leaders. The SLDF are a sub-group of the Kalenjin. They are a militia armed with automatic rifles and seek greater control of the land through force. They have attacked not only the Ogiek but other ethnic groups in the region. Militias have been formed to counter the SLDF these include ‘Janjaweed Militia’, the ‘Moorland Defence Forces’ and the ‘Progressive Defence Force’ which are apparently linked to rival politicians.

Some reports allege that the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF), a shadowy militia group active in and around the Mt Elgon region of western Kenya, has joined with their Kalenjin cousins. It has been engaged in its own campaign against so-called non-indigenous tribes. Many Luhyas, Kikuyus and members of other tribes have been attacked, over 600 have died and 60,000 have reportedly been displaced in this two-year old conflict. The SLDF is now the most powerful and best-armed militia group operating in the west. Its hit-and-run attacks from the Mt Elgon forest are a major challenge for the authorities, who appear incapable of quelling the rebellion. The group is officially headed by a man called Wycliffe Matakwei Kirui Komon, but there is speculation the real leader is a newly elected ODM parliamentarian from the region, though he has denied any links.

The SLDF seeks to evict non-indigenous people because it considers the region belongs to them and the KAMATUSA (an abbreviation of the Kalenjin, Maasai, Turkana and Samburu tribes) – a coalition of largely pastoralist tribes of the Rift Valley that share a common linguistic and cultural heritage. The group is allegedly now arming and training the Kalenjin warriors and receives their support in an attempt to take control of the Luhya-dominated district of Trans Nzoia, which produces the bulk of Kenya’s maize. Sabaot militants believe a future Rift Valley state within federal Kenya is incomplete without Trans Nzoia. The SLDF’s main ambition is to carve the agriculturally important Trans Nzoia away from Western Province and annex it to the Rift Valley. Their violent campaign seeks to cause mass displacement of non-Sabaots and non-Kalenjins, in the hope that a friendly central government will eventually legitimise facts on the ground. Crisis Group interview, Kitale residents, January 2008 – pdf

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This pattern of displacement from the soil through violence is repeated across Africa and the so-called third world. Something like 80% of the worlds urban population now exist in urban slums. It would be a great tragedy if the Ogiek who have lived in the Mau Forests for over 20,000 years and have maintained this lifestyle as radical ecologists were forced to give up the immense knowledge of Kenya’s forests for life in Kenya’s slums.

What use are they as factory operatives, should they be so lucky to find such work, when their knowledge and wisdom is something that no other has?

An enlightened leadership would pick the brains of the Ogiek on what can be done to save Kenya’s forests. In fact any ecological measures taken to save the Mau forests must work with local people. Instead Kenya’s leadership turn a blind eye to their plight as the Ogiek flee the only life they have ever known. Kenyan elites see such disruptions to the social fabric of communities with roots to the land as merely a land buying opportunity.

We need to recognise the value of people like the Ogiek, they are Kenya’s medicine men with an intimate knowledge of the medicinal properties of the plants and trees of the Mau Forest, a knowledge that should not be lost for the sake of future generations and we need to treasure them. They can teach us so much in a world where environmental damage in pursuit of profit is carried out with no head to those it affects. Why are we we just bowing to a tiny elite throwing away finite resources forever?

Truly how many middle-class families can we create from a lifestyle based on the damage of the environment, community and families? Such limited aspirations have led to 80% of the world’s urban poor living in slums – is this really a price worth paying?

Support the Ogiek

If you would like to express your support for the Ogiek, here is a prepared letter you can use to do so. Send it to ogiek@ecoterra.net — in turn, it will be sent off to a number of Kenyan and International officials. If you’d rather send it to the officials yourself, here is a list of addresses.

[Date]

Your Excellency:

I am writing to express my concern about the continued harassment of the Ogiek, an indigenous plant- and honey-gathering and hunting people that have lived in Kenya’s Mau Forest for hundreds of years.

For decades, the Ogiek have fought with first the British colonial and then the Kenyan government over their rights to inhabit their traditional homelands (e.g. in East and South West Mau Forest, Mount Elgon Forest etc.). They have all along sought the recognition of this area as their ancestral land.

After years of dispute, authorities have continuously refused to recognize this heritage as Ogiek land and instead ordered the Ogiek to leave the forest, saying that they had been allocated separate land years ago but had abandoned it. The Ogiek know that they have a right to live in their ancestral homeland and that the former government wanted to give the land to private individuals rather than to conserve it for the benefit of the Ogiek and the entire nation. On February 16, 2001, the former government announced through the official Kenya gazette that some 147,000 acres of Mau Forest would be excised to settle the landless. This move effectively would remove approximately 70 percent of Mau Forest from the legal control of the Forest Act and leaves the Ogiek land vulnerable to invasion by land speculators and grabbers.

I am particularly concerned about the latest, brutal evictions in Feb./March 2005, which were only stopped by a court injunction on 02 March 2005 and the atrocities and eviction committed against the Ogiek by your armed forces in June 2005 despite two High Court injuctions. We ask that you do everything in your power to ensure that the parliamentary order is refined, spare the Ogiek and that similar intrusions into their traditional lives as conservators of the forests never can take place any more under your governance. The Ogiek are also concerned about the ongoing illegal logging by outsiders in the Mau Forest which is destroying their cultural and hunting grounds.

The Ogiek community does not pose an environmental threat to the forest or the wildlife. The real environmental threat to the Mau Forest came from the former Kenyan government, which was allowing logging companies to cut down trees in the Mau Forest. Still many of Kenya’s protected forests have been illegally sold or given to developers. The former government imposed a partial logging ban which exempts three big logging companies: Pan African Paper Mills, Raiply Timber, and Timsales Ltd. The three firms were exempted because Raiply and Timsales claim to employ over 30,000 Kenyans, while Pan African Paper Mills (a 50% Worldbank owned entity) was exempted because “the government has shares in it and it was said to be important to the economy.”

Thus, while the government allows powerful logging companies to cut down trees in the forest, it is persecuting an indigenous people who pose no environmental threat and lack political power. However, we are pleased that your government said on July 6, 2001 that it had banned logging in the forest, and we ask that you ensure that illegal logging in the Mau Forest stops.

Please do everything in Your Excellency’s power to guarantee that your government will respect the rights of this minority people by allowing them to retain their natural habitats and halting the de-gazettement and allocation of land in Mau Forest to outsiders in perpetuum. Also a suit the community has filed in the High Court still has not rendered a final decision, which under wise judges only can come out pro Ogiek.

In addition, I respectfully ask that you do all that is necessary to stop the wanton destruction of Mau and Mount Elgon Forests. Thank you for your time. I look forward to your response. Please keep me informed.

Sincerely,
[your name, affiliation, and country]

More on the Ogiek Land Question

Survival is currently helping the Ogiek fight for their land.



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