Archive for the 'Sexual Violence' 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?

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Kenya’s Tin Man

Vigilante Journalist

Photo: The Vigilante Journalist


Observing Mwai Kibaki in Addis Ababa during the African Union Heads of State summit meeting I was reminded of the Wizard of Oz’s Tin Man. Every time Kibaki moves I hear the horrible sound of metal grinding on rusting metal, when he speaks he sounds corrosive.

If you recall, the Tin Man explains to Dorothy that a wicked witch placed a curse on his axe. With every swing of the enchanted axe he managed to chop off a piece of his body. A tinsmith refashioned each part with artificial limbs of tin until at last his entire body had been replaced by tin but alas the tinsmith forgot to provide him with a heart. It is a fitting metaphor for Kibaki’s legacy which will always be associated with the images of youths taking machetes to one another, throughout which he has shown himself to be bereft of a heart and incapable of feeling the pain or connecting with the trauma that Kenyans are undergoing. But like the Straw Man he might also need a brain.

Kibaki in need of a heart and a brain

Kibaki needs fixing

Attending the AU summit gave Kibaki an opportunity to stand before African leaders creaking as “the duly elected leader of Kenya” and to stubbornly claim that his re-election represents the “will of the majority” of Kenyans, a position rejected by ODM and the reason for Kofi Annan’s mediation efforts. How can he continue to insist on saying this when Electoral Commission of Kenya’s chairman, Samuel Kivuite, declared that he is not sure who won the election?

He was quick to take a swipe at Raila Odinga, head of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement accusing him of genocide and blaming him for the violence that is sweeping through the country, saying “the ongoing crisis erupted after the opposition … went ahead to instigate a campaign of civil unrest and violence. There is overwhelming evidence to indicate that the violence was premeditated, and systematically directed at particular communities (ethnic groups).”

Somebody ought to remind him that ODM did not start the fire. Kibaki lit a match and set fire to the ballot box on December 30th while subsequently extinguishing the hopes of many disenfranchised Kenyans. Is it clearer now what Kibaki’s game is?

He has simply allowed the violence and bloodshed to reach fever pitch and blamed the ODM for it. Odinga is hostage to this strategy. As long as Kibaki refuses to meet Odinga and talk seriously about where the country goes from here and while he also continues to exhibit his characteristic lack of humility he will continue to fan the flames of the fires searing Kenya. Odinga can do little to put those flames out now. Kibaki is increasingly portrayed as the lesser of two evils in the eyes of the International Community.

Kibaki has kept very quiet throughout The Terror nor has he dared to leave State House while people have been slaughtered and burnt. At the same time he has denied Raila the use of Kenya’s airwaves. He has also sent the Administrative Police into the slums of Nairobi and Kisumu where hundreds of Luos have been killed indiscriminately leading to further outrage. Now the Mungiki gang are said to be terrorising the Luos of Kibera. Some are saying that politicians are funding them.

In Addis Kibaki also said, “Arrangements are also under way to resettle the displaced victims even as we search for a lasting solution to the current political crisis.” Those arrangements include government directives to close down IDP camps such as the A.S.K. show ground and Jamhuri Park where some 75,000 people, mainly women and children are sheltering.

“I am not leaving this place if I don’t have a secure place to relocate to,” Catherine Simba, an IDP from the western Kenyan town of Kakamega, told IRIN on 22 January at Jamhuri Park, the temporary home for at least 3,000 people displaced by post-election violence in parts of the country.

Simba was reacting to a government directive to have the camp closed. District Commissioner Evans Ogwankwa visited the camp on 21 January and said the government’s position was that the IDPs must leave.

“I’m not happy staying here, but I would also not want to go back to my looted and destroyed home near Kakamega town; I want to be relocated to a secure area,” she said.

“How can you take us back to the lion’s mouth, it will swallow us!” Simba exclaimed.

Kibaki also informed the AU summit that “the security situation in the country is under control.”

This statement following hot on the heels of the killing of two Orange Democratic legislators which have been described as political assassinations by the opposition. Three police stations have since been targeted by Kenyans and policemen have been lynched in response to the killing of the MPs. Kenyans continue to be attacked and killed. Vigilante gangs threaten to take the law into their hands and lynch robbers because the police are not doing anything to stop crime.

I found this slideshow extremely harrowing. It’s posted on Paris Match and depicts a lynching that took place on 16th January, in Mathare, Nairobi. Photographer, Enrico Dangnino and his colleague saved a Kamba man from being killed by a crowd of Luos. Nod to Vigilante Journalist a.k.a Anne Holmes.

Kenya’s slum residents are disillusioned with the police who have shot and killed people indiscriminately and refuse to patrol the slums at night when gangs are out in force. One gang member said

“The head officer said, ‘Let them fight each other. We will come in the morning to pick up the bodies’.

He said he called police to report the murder of a Luo friend in the Mathare slum by a group of Kikuyus. “When they didn’t come, we had to go out to protect ourselves.”

The country is lawless and gangs of young emboldened by the breakdown of law and order set up road blocks to demand money and kill people for belonging to the wrong tribe.

My sister, Rozi, called me yesterday trembling with fear. She lives in Western Kenya, on the Eldoret/Kakamega border. They had taken a patient to Moi Referral Hospital Eldoret. On their way back, the ambulance was stopped by youths bearing all forms of crude weapons. They demanded to know which tribes everyone in the ambulance belonged to. The driver was of the local tribe, so he was told to step aside. As the others showed their National Identity cards, my sister realized that all around them were corpses of human beings freshly chopped to death. Her turn came and she said she was Luhya. They told her to speak in Luhya, but my Sister doesn’t know Luhya. “I really can’t speak it because my mother is a Taita!” she pleaded. She had to desperately show a photocopy of my mother’s National Identity card which she had in her purse, a photocopy my mother had given to her the previous week to use as a referee for the bank account she was switching to. That photocopy saved my sister. The only language my sister can speak, apart from English and the National Swahili, is Gikuyu. The tribe the youths were targeting.

In the meantime the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs has said women and children are being raped in displacement camps, where sexual violence was being used to threaten and intimidate, as reported here.

Many law-abiding citizens are turning to gangs for protection because of the breakdown in law and order.

800 people are dead, 300,000 have been displaced by violence and the security situation is under control! It might look that way on the short journey from State House to Embakasi that Kibaki made under security escort to catch his flight to Addis.

Kofi Annan said that he had suggested to Kibaki on Tuesday that the military might need to be deployed to restore order. While British Foreign Office Minister Mark Malloch Brown agreed that deploying Kenya’s army might be a solution, saying police “at this stage seem to be seen as no longer neutral and behind some of the killings.”

Kumekucha calls the military option “a poisoned chalice.” pointing out emphatically that Kenya’s military barracks are bristling with ethnic competition. He says:

In addition to disenfranchising Kenyan voters forever, it will trash all our democratic credentials and history. And worst or it will be a perpetuation of the present day slavery to HELL-FOR-LEATHER rulership and absolutely no leadership. Two wrongs never made a right.

Kenya is crying for politico-economic justice which the military CANNOT deliver. It is therefore not only suicidal but also reckless and STUPID to entrust such an audacious quest to gun wielders while still smarting from fractures and amputations from machetes. We cannot afford to engage is such an expensive and FATAL gamble.

Kenyan anti-corruption campaigner Richard Leakey said

“I think Kibaki is getting very poor advice. He’s showing no personal leadership in this crisis; I’m not quite sure who around him is making the decisions.

“I think that’s a large part of the problem — the country feels at sea without a captain. But ODM has made some pretty outrageous statements too. Everybody is playing bad guy on this and nobody is trying to play good guy.”

In Addis the 53 member nations of the AU appeared toothless and at first tried to steer clear of addressing the violence that erupted following Kibaki’s private inauguration on the lawns of State House.

“There are divisions between one group who see themselves in Kibaki’s situation and another that has told him in no uncertain terms that this is not acceptable,” said one Western diplomat, adding that South Africa was in the latter group.

In Nairobi the mediation team set up by Kofi Annan had made breakthroughs and come up with a Four Point Plan to resolve the political crisis. Back in Addis Kibaki was describing Annan’s efforts as a “facilitation” mission rather than mediation!

Mr Annan said: “We believe within seven to 15 days, we should be able to tackle the first three agenda items. The first is to take immediate action to stop the violence.

“The second is immediate measures to address the humanitarian crisis, the third is how to overcome the current political crisis.” The fourth point concerned long-term issues such as unemployment, poverty and land reforms.

A document signed by both sides said an agreement might require “adjustments” to the constitution — suggesting a power-sharing arrangement that would give opposition leader Raila Odinga a new position of prime minister.

Finally, Kibaki tells Odinga to allow Kenya’s High Court to arbitrate. Nobody takes this option seriously. Kibaki appointed new judges only a month before the elections were held, further proof if any were needed that the theft was planned in advance. Kenyan Jurist elucidates the problems with the court option clearly:

As I have stated previously, this insistence on challenging the results in court is just a ruse and it ignores the fact that we are dealing with an issue not of legality but legitimacy and justice. How can anyone expect the court to be fair when in Kivuitu states, “I arrived at State House to take the certificate and I found the Chief Justice there, ready to swear-in Kibaki.” What can Kenyans expect from the court?

Hon Martha Karua also repeats the legal redress meme. If the government was bold enough to interfere with the tallying of votes. Just consider what the following;

  • Do we know where the Returning Officers of the disputed polling areas are. Is their security guaranteed? Will they be able to testify without intimidation and inteference? Remember the case sad case of DAVID MUNYAKEI. Is any of these people willing to risk their lives for the greater good of Kenyans.
  • Has the official ECK tally of votes been published in the Kenya Gazette or other media? Will it be interfered with? The longer this takes the greater the risk.
  • Have all the election materials been secured. Remember, in law, the petitioner has the burden of proving that the election was rigged. If the election materials have not been secured or tampered with then this would render the case moot.
  • Now that the Commonwealth Observers, European Union Observers, the Electoral Commissioners and many other have cast doubt on the election result, can Kenyans accept a court verdict that say the Election was proper?
  • Would politicians please spare us the legal mumbo jumbo and go right to resolving the political dispute at hand.

    By now it must be obvious that Kibaki is resistant to any kind of negotiations and neither is he going to step down. It is time for the international community to censure him more forcefully. What can be done? Robert Calderisi writing in the Globe and Mail says that the military coup d’etat option that is gaining currency among some commentators might be too draconian. He suggests the international community can respond by

    “[seizing] the assets of senior officials who, until now, have salted away their loot in Western banks with total impunity.

    “The world can continue to provide direct support to community groups, human rights activists, democratic reformers, and those promoting a free press.

    “And, in a number of cases, the answer may be to make foreign assistance more openly political..

    “Making aid more political does not mean using it as a convenient instrument of foreign policy. But if the goal is to fight poverty, the way a government treats its citizens — including its journalists, entrepreneurs and small farmers — should be central to the level of aid it receives.”

    Eye-witness account of violence and displacement

    Here is a moving account of life at an IDP camp in Nakuru which is posted at Pambazuka.org.

    The heart of the Kenya Violence and peace

    Karambu Ringera (2008-01-30)

    Karambu Ringera, one of the few women to run for electoral office in the Kenya elections, gives a powerful vivid eye-witness account of the violence and the displacement.

    Issues

    When I left Nairobi for Nakuru to visit the internally displaced people’s (IDP) camp, my aim was to be there for 2 days only. I arrived there on Wednesday January 23, little knowing that the events of that night would lock me in Nakuru for five days! On the night of January 23, all hell broke loose in Nakuru town. It was sad, scary and out of this world. I hardly recognized my country anymore. For three days, Kikuyus living in the Rift Valley were being evicted from their homes. The Nakuru violence was a spill over from Eldoret where many Kikuyus amng other ethnic groups had been evicted from their homes and their homes and property burnt. The week before, there had been similar clashes in Kisumu, once again targeting people from the Mount Kenya Region. The violence spread to Kericho, Burnt Forest, Elburgon, and areas surrounding Nakuru town. It was believed that Kalejins were in the forefront of these latter (Rift Valley) evictions and so, when loadfuls of Kikuyus landed into the Nakuru Show Ground (NSG) where these IDP were settled and attended to by the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), Kikuyus in Nakuru felt they needed to do something about it. To see lorry after lorry of people being dropped at the NSG left many angry.

    What was more devastating were the stories of anarchy – burnt homes, slaughtered loved family members, raped mothers and daughters, as destroyed property. The Kikuyus organized themselves and on the night of 23rd they struck at Ponda Mali a few blocks from where I spent that first night. In the morning, a few dead bodies were found but more fundamentally, houses were burnt – this time mainly Luo and Kalejin houses. By Thursday, these attacks were spread to more residential areas around Nakuru town such as Ronda, Mwariki, Kaptembwa, Githima, Freearea, Lakeview, Lanet, Karatina, Kiti, pangani, Flamingo, and Mawanga) – a second IDP’s camp was opened at the Nakuru Stadium for Luos and Kalejins. A 7pm to 7am curfew was also set up – the speed with which this curfew was set up saved Nakuru from more blood shed than had already been spilt. On Friday, a friend and I walked to the areas surrounded Langalanga residential area to see what had transpired the night before because we heard was a lot of gunshot sounds. We hardly slept that night because we did not want to be attacked or for the block to be set a fire while we were asleep. The newspapers said that 5 people had been killed but that day we found at least 12 bodies lying uncollected – some had been eaten by dogs overnight. Most bodies had deep cuts – some on the head, some with throats slashed, others with cut off limbs – it was ghastly!! Later in the day, a police Landrover was loaded full of bodies of dead people.

    It came for a second round – we estimated over 40 people killed in just…… On Saturday, Nakuru town was a no go zone both day and night. Police and army personnel were all over the town. A helicopter was being use to comb the area and spot trouble points and dispatch soldiers there speedily. The roads were blocked and some people were attacking certain groups of people as early as 5pm. We all were advised to stay indoors. Sunday was more calm were I was although we kept hearing gunshots in the surrounding estates. I had to do what I had initially set out to do in Nakuru – visit the IDP’s camp at the Nakuru Show Ground. I went there on Wednesday to arrange to go and hold peace talks with the people at the camp. I intended to work with the counseling groups as my entry point. When the coordinator of the counseling program asked me to explain my approach, I explained that I used a participatory approach where people speak from their experiences. I planned on using the circle model and three statements guide the dialogue. The three statements are: Peace for me is; Peace for me would be; and In the name of peace I commit to… (participants state a concrete action they will undertake) .

    The women were asked to use these statements to guide their sharing. We used a talking piece (a piece of stick). Initially I had asked for about 20-25 people. I got 30 women. However about 15 of them had come the day before and had not been debriefed – so they had to leave the circle. Women who had not been debriefed were required to do so before doing any other form of talking to people about their experiences. We held the circle with the 15 or so women left. The main concerns for the women were their children’s education; lack of enough food; and where they would go since they did not want to go back to their old places.

    The camp

    While waiting for the women to gather, I heard a child crying outside. He was crying with a lot of emotion – a child of about 6 years old. I walked over to him and started coaxing him to stop crying while at the same time asking him why he was crying. He was standing alone and I thought he had lost his mother or whoever was with him. After some time, he stopped crying – almost – and then I was approached by a pregnant woman who had stood at a distance watching us. She told me that she had pinched the child for running away from school. The school was across the main road outside the camp. The mother was angry with the boy for crossing the dangerous road (cars were driving by all the time) alone. She also wanted him to stay in school because other kids were there. I told the mother to be patient with the child for after all he had seen, he may have been afraid that when he comes from school he might fond the mother gone. The kid never told us why he ran away for school, even though I tried to ask him. All he did was cry. We tried to get his older brother to take him to school and stay with him there the rest of the day. I do not know whether the mother was able to enforce this because soon after, a KRCS personnel came and took away the mother and the child to talk to them.

    The women we visited with started telling us what life was like at the camp. They said that they had a mug of porridge in the morning, no lunch, and very little dinner. The food at dinner was so little – “it is meant to keep the soul alive” – one old lady told me. The food is so little that even children do not get satisfied – so mothers normally shared out their own food to the children. Girls were known to exchange food for sex too. There was lots of sexual activity as evidenced by the number of used condoms found lying around the camp every morning – the KRCS medical team dishes out condoms at the camps. The disturbing part was the rapes that were happening at the camps. The women told us that at night men would scream to make people start running away in panic. Then they would time women and girls, catch them and rape them. So, women were being told to watch over their girls. Women were also being advised not to go to the toilets at night.

    On Friday we were sitting in circle sharing when we heard gunshots. The women panicked and one of them worriedly asked “have they come for us here?” This made me realize how scared these people really were. Their fear was deep. I was sad that I could not be of any help in trying to alleviate it. We ourselves from the outside were sitting on edge not knowing whether we would be safe or not going back home. All I could do was encourage them, hope with them that things would change, and assure them that they were safe in the camp because it was guarded. This sense of security was short lived. On Saturday afternoon there was a panic stampede that took place because a run-away prisoner jumped in to the camp in white underwear, the dress code of the attackers of the people in their farms. The IDP thought the attackers had come for them right in the camp. The person who was the man screamed that the attackers had followed them into the camp and there was a stampede that caused the breaking of the NSG periphery fence – fracturing the delicate sense of security they may have felt in this place.

    A lot of food and clothes had been donated to the KRCS for these IDP in the camps around Kenya. We saw many lorries loaded with stuff come to the camp. The KRCS also had an office in Nakuru town where they stored these things. The surprising thing was that the people told us they never received any good clothes. They got third rate stuff – the KRCS staff in the store selected clothes for themselves before letting the IDP get into the store to select – the women informed us.

    The people also said that the store people let about 30 people to get into the small store and they gave the people only few minutes to select clothes. This meant that one had no time to select good stuff – so they ended up with old t-shirts and skirts. One woman who had brought in a selection of very good clothes found someone selling one of her dresses in the local market! In view of this, when the women told me that they need underwear and pads, I decided not to hand these to the KRCS office as I had done on Wednesday when I first went to the camp. Counseling is being done in the camps by many people. However when I asked whether there were any people talking about peacebuilding I was told “no one had thought of that.”

    I found my niche. So, I set up to come on Thursday January 24 to start the peace dialogue. Lack of information on where women can get help for educational needs of their children or for material needs is alarmingly much in the camp. At Nakuru many women came to ask me for assistance – where to take their kids for schooling; how they can leave the camp and reach their relatives; how they could earn a living – several girls were looking for househelp jobs (to be employed in people’s homes) – and so on. One man approached me with a letter which had a female handwriting seeking assistance for relocation. Since I am from far (Meru – Nakuru is about 9 hours by car from Meru) and did not have the capacity to help, I told the women that they have to speak with the KRCS personnel in their camp so they can ask the questions they were putting to me. I know that the organization is meant to assist people the camps in various ways. So, I insisted that they talk to these people.

    The Peace Circle Dialogue

    We sat in a circle and I introduced myself, asked someone to open with prayers, after which I asked everyone to introduce themselves and say where they were from. We started off with 30 women, 15 eventually went for debriefing (they had arrived at the camp the night before), two of 15 were called to go to the hospital to check on one of them who had given birth to a baby (they said to me smiling: “we have been blessed with a new life even here”), and two others left for other business. In the end, we had about 10 women who stayed throughout the 2 and a half hour session. I introduced the peace dialogue idea and why we were doing it. I gave the three statements that were going to guide our dialogue, looked for a talking piece and then I began the process.

    What emerged was very interesting. Each woman gave her story – most spoke about their history. Some gave incidents before the clashes (current displacement) as what gave them no peace, incidents that were exacerbated by the violence. Most were painful family issues – including wives being told to go where they came from because they were from a different ethnic group – being forced to leave with ones children because the children had the blood of the unwanted ethnic group. On the second day, the women were less personal and our discussions were more on what others had suffered. I was told of an elderly lady who was gang raped and then ripped open because the gangsters wanted to “see where they had been.” The woman died. One woman came to me for assistance for her son who is beginning high school. She said to me, “one of the children has been taken to an orphanage. Now I need a place for my son who is attending a day school, but see where he is coming back every end of day. Please take him with you and help him get into a boarding school.” At that moment I wished the community home we are building for AIDS orphans and other children in crisis was complete.

    I would have taken this boy to stay there while we looked for a boarding school for him. I took the lady’s contact so that when I got a school for the boy, I would call them. I have already asked the IPI Program Director to check out a school for this child whose name is Isaac Geita. His mom’s name is Margaret Wambui. The women who followed the three statements guiding our peace dialogue had this to say about their view of peaceful being or otherwise and what they committed to do for peace. (i) I have peace when: Peaceful moments cited by these women included when they pray, read the Bible, and when they are able to provide food, shelter and health to their families, including being able to educate their children. (ii) Peace for me is: Some of the answers I got include: End of conflict and violence; all the children in this camp going back to school. Help for those infected by HIV/AIDS, widows, single mothers, and orphans. The women said that education is the only hope for their children considering all their property was gone and the parents were in no position to support them now that they had lost everything. (iii) In the name of peace I commit to: The women committed to praying for peace; supporting those who were in need like orphans; encourages each other to keep hope in God. The women felt that if they kept their hope in God, He would deliver them and prosper them wherever they are.

    Conclusion

    Before people massacre others, they dehumanize and demonize the enemy. While walking around Ponda Mali, area in Nakuru to see the results of the violence, we came across many bodies of dead people that lay all over the place. Two young people were walking past one body and they said “it is fat!!” They did not see this as a person – he had become an object, hence “IT.”. Down the path we found another body and this time, a woman sold her tomatoes unbothered by the presence of a dead body near where she was selling. I wondered at this lack of … fear, respect… what did I expect them to feel for these departed ones – perceived as ‘the enemy’ by them?

    It was sad to witness the disgrace we have come to as a nation – we have become so removed from our humanity – we have failed to see we were the ‘other’ we were butchering. To fail to ‘see’ that our humanity is inescapably intertwined with that of those whose lives we have cut short, is to fail to ‘recognize’ how inhuman we have become. I desire to participate in healing the broken cord that joins me to my sister and brother, no matter their ethnic origin; reconcile the severed human spirit broken by our fractured humanity.

    Way Forward

    Part of my reason for being in Kenya is to work for peace in Africa. Little did I know I would be doing this for my beloved country. I have already put in place a peace training program under Institute for Nonviolence and Peace (INPEACE) (INPEACE was launched in 2005 at the Women’s Congress held in Nairobi that year). I intend to continue the peace dialogues in the IDP’s camps that I started in Nakuru. I also intend to do a training for leaders, who will hopefully share what they learn with their constituents. Then I will start systematic trainings for civil society, with a focus to women and youth. I am already meeting with people and organizations willing to partner with IPI’s INPEACE to run the trainings. The plan is to begin with trainings for women and youth in the camps and leaders and follow up with longer term programs for civil society and learning institutions. I also hope to continue helping with material and informational assistance to women and young girls in camps.

    For those interested in supporting women and girls materially, IPI has been collecting clothes and food stuffs and taking to various collection points in Meru. However, from the experience of what the women in Nakuru told me, IPI will be distributing the stuff directly to women in their tents within the camps like we did the last time we donated underwear and pads to women and girls at Nakuru.

    Dr. Karambu Ringera is a human rights activist who ran for electoral office in the recent elections. She describes the experience of being the only woman to run against 15 men in this enlightening article here.

    Opposition Officials Helped Plan Rift Valley Violence

    Human Rights Watch report on the (sotto voce) ethnic cleansing that has been taking place in Kenya. This report has some new information about how the violence against Kikuyus, Kisii and Luya was incited by elders and opposition Party officials after the election results were announced but it does not address the campaign to marginalise Kikuyu by certain ODM leaders. It is however a positive sign that these crimes against humanity can not and will not be swept under the carpet.

    Opposition leaders are right to challenge Kenya’s rigged presidential poll, but they can’t use it as an excuse for targeting ethnic groups.

    Georgette Gagnon, acting Africa director at Human Rights Watch

    Opposition Officials Helped Plan Rift Valley Violence

    Police Should Protect Displaced Persons Camps

    (Eldoret, January 24, 2008) – Human Rights Watch investigations indicate that, after Kenya’s disputed elections, opposition party officials and local elders planned and organized ethnic-based violence in the Rift Valley, Human Rights Watch said today. The attacks, targeting mostly Kikuyu and Kisii people in and around the town of Eldoret, could continue unless the government and opposition act to stop the violence, Human Rights Watch said.

    Human Rights Watch called on the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leadership to take immediate steps to stop its supporters from committing further attacks. At the same time, Human Rights Watch said the Kenyan police should urgently deploy extra officers to the region to protect displaced people and resident Kikuyu communities.

    “Opposition leaders are right to challenge Kenya’s rigged presidential poll, but they can’t use it as an excuse for targeting ethnic groups,” said Georgette Gagnon, acting Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “We have evidence that ODM politicians and local leaders actively fomented some post-election violence, and the authorities should investigate and make sure it stops now.”

    Research by Human Rights Watch in and around the town of Eldoret, which has borne the brunt of the Rift Valley violence, indicates that attacks by several ethnic communities against others, especially local Kikuyu populations, were planned soon after the elections. In some cases, local elders and opposition politicians appear to have incited and organized the violence. Since December 27, 2007, clashes between members of the Kalenjin and Luya communities and their Kikuyu and Kisii neighbors in the Rift Valley have left more than 400 people dead and have displaced thousands more.

    Human Rights Watch interviewed members of several pro-ODM Kalenjin communities who described the ways in which local leaders and ODM party agents actively fomented violence against Kikuyu communities. A Kalenjin preacher in a village in Eldoret North constituency told Human Rights Watch that on the morning of December 29, 2007, a local ODM party mobilizer “called a meeting and said that war had broken in Eldoret town, so the elders organized the youth into groups of not less than 15, and they went to loot [Kikuyu] homes and burn them down.”

    The following day, the village held another meeting and the youth marched to the nearby town of Turbo. They were turned away by police. But they returned early the next morning, catching the police off guard, “and burnt almost half of the Kikuyu shops in town, including the petrol station,” according to the preacher. Human Rights Watch visited Turbo and found that most Kikuyu-owned buildings had been laid to ruin by the attackers. Displaced Kikuyu seeking shelter at the police station in Turbo confirmed to Human Rights Watch that their homes and businesses were destroyed by groups of Kalenjin youth.

    Human Rights Watch spoke to numerous members of Kalenjin commmunities around Eldoret who provided similar accounts. In many communities, local leaders and ODM mobilizers arranged frequent meetings following the election to organize, direct and facilitate the violence unleashed by gangs of local youth. In one case, an ODM councillor candidate is said to have provided a lorry to ferry youth to burn the homes of Kikuyu families in a neighboring community.

    Many Kalenjin community leaders told Human Rights Watch that if the area’s ODM leadership or the local Kalenjin radio station KASS FM told people unequivically to stop attacks on Kikuyu homes, then they believe the violence would stop. “If the leaders say stop, it will stop immediately,” said one Kalenjin elder.

    Human Rights Watch also collected accounts from several Kalenjin men present at community meetings where local elders and ODM mobilizers urged Kalenjin residents to contribute money toward the purchase of automatic weapons. Some communities have reportedly managed to obtain such weapons already. The same sources confirmed that plans have already been made to attack camps of displaced Kikuyu and the two remaining neighborhoods in Eldoret town where many Kikuyu homes remain intact – Langas and Munyaka.

    The Kenyan police are already investigating responsibility for the violence in the Rift Valley, but its forces are overstretched by the nationwide electoral crisis. In the light of apparent plans by some groups to attack camps for internally displaced persons, Human Rights Watch called on the Kenyan police to ensure that all locations of displaced people are adequately protected against attack. Fourteen displaced Kikuyu and Kisii people sheltering in a monastery in Kipkelion were killed last week in an attack by Kalenjin warriors. The sprawling tent camp in Eldoret is now home to more than 10,000 displaced persons, with only a light police presence to protect them. Any attack on the camp would likely prove disastrous. Other equally vulnerable camps have been set up in other areas.

    “The murder of people sheltering at a monastery in Kipkelion illustrates the need for better police protection of displaced people,” said Gagnon. “Protecting the thousands of vulnerable people chased from their homes across the Rift Valley from further attack should be a priority for the Kenyan police.”

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    Call For Volunteers to help with Rape Crisis

    If haven’t already visited Sara Nics’ quality site please take the opportunity to do so now. Here she interviews Sam Thenya, CEO of the Nairobi Women’s Hospital which has been treating women and children following the sharp increase in sexual violence. He is calling for volunteers who can help with counselling and medical volunteer work at the camps that are being set up for women and children victims.

    We’ve seen a lot of post-election violence. One of the most disheartening issues that we have been handling are gang rapes that are occurring in the areas where the skirmished are taking place. We are seeing women, girls, even boys sodomized in front of their families. People are breaking into their houses and gang raping these women and children. The women who have come to us are telling us that there are many other people who are unable to come to the hospital.

    Currently, we have teamed up with the Kenya Red Cross and the Kenya Association of Psychologists to give psycho-social trauma counselling to these survivors who have been displaced.

    The Red Cross is providing the food and all the other things that they need. St. John’s Ambulance is providing transport. We are providing counselling services.

    We have set up camps within Nairobi. We have sent two people to rift valley to assess the situation and we will be setting up camps in Rift Valley and Western Province.

    How many people do you have in your hospital?

    Yesterday we saw at least nine survivors of gang rapes. We are providing emergency care and then we send them back, unfortunately, to the camps. We are also following them up for counselling.

    I don’t think we have anybody physically admitted. We only admit those who have severe unjuries that need hospitalization. And, of course, children. They get severe injuries and they need to be reconstructed. It’s only in extreme cases, because we don’t want to crowd the hospital.

    What are the patterns you are seeing in the people who are coming in?

    They seem to be targeted, but I don’t want to give the details of who is targeting who, because I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. They are happening both during the day and during the night. These people are gang raping with impunity. They are not worried about anything. It’s really really bad out there.

    What do you think needs to happen for that part of this conflict to ease?

    The first thing, of course, the political crisis needs to be sorted out. And of course the violence has to stop. That is the only way we will be able to stop the gang rapes. It is very clear that the gang rapes are occurring because of the lawlessness that is already existing on the ground.

    What are some of the long-term impacts that you would expect in communities and for individual women and children from this kind of violence?

    When we went down to provide this psycho-social support, we discovered that women and even men who have been displaced, some of them are HIV-positive. They don’t have their anti-retoviral drugs.

    We also discovered that in the places where they are camping, in showground and other places, there are no formal structures. The next thing you are going to find, there is also rape and a lot of HIV-transmission amongst those who are displaced.

    The gains made in the country in terms of HIV control is going to be lost. The other thing we are going to have is resistance, because these people are discontinuing their treatment. So you are going to have resistance to anti-retroviral drugs. It’s a big problem.

    Taking these people back to their homes later and resettling them is going to be a big, big problem. One of the things that they have told us on the ground, is that they are very, very worried. The hatred, they don’t know how to handle it.

    We have gone into teaching them about conflict resolution. They are very bitter. They need to know how to live harmoniously with their neighbors, even after all they have witnessed. It’s going to be a big big problem but we are doing the best we can do in the given circumstances.

    Who are you calling on to help you with your work right now?

    We are calling on the media to let people know where we have set up camps to help. That’s an immediate need. We are also calling upon anywhere which has counselors, medical personnel who can volunteer, especially to go outside Nairobi for at least a week. We are working closely with the Red Cross. Any help that can also go to the Red Cross, we’d be very happy.

    Appeal for help with Kenya’s Rape Crisis Centres

    From Shailja Patel, please distribute widely. Sharon from Justice4Kenya will be coordinating all the addresses of the organizations who are working in Kenya. If you are an Aid organization please send your contact details to her at admin at justice4kenya dot com.

    Urgent Action Fund-Africa has supported The Nairobi Women’s Hospital to set up 4 rape crisis response centres in Mathare, Huruma, Jamhuri Park and Kibera. They will provide shelter, security, and more importantly medical and psychological care to rape victims who are unable to access the services because the informal settlements have been sealed off by security personnel and violent protestors. Nairobi Women’s Hospital is now FULL , it has dealt with 19 cases in the last 24 hours. There are 75,000 displaced people in Jamhuri Park alone, majority of whom are women and children. The total numbers of displaced Kenyans exceeds 300,000 and is growing daily. Women and girls in these informal settlements shockingly vulnerable to sexual violence.

    Other contributors to this initiative include St Johns Ambulance and the Red Cross, who have provided an ambulance and tents respectively. The Red Cross is also providing food to the refugees. Kenya Shillings 5.8 million (USD 90,000)is needed to get these rape crisis centres up and operating. UAF-Africa is contributing $10,000.

    To Donate or help with fundraising, contact:

    Vicky Karimi or Betty Murungi at
    Urgent Action Fund-Africa
    Life Ministry Centre
    Jabavu Road, Kilimani
    PO BOX 53841-00200
    Nairobi Kenya
    Tel +254 20 2731095
    Fax +254 20 2731094
    info@urgentactionfund-africa.or.ke
    vicky@urgentactionfund-africa.or.ke

    Lucy Kiamaa at the Nairobi Women’s Hospital
    Gender Violence Recovery Centre
    Nairobi Women’s Hospital
    Argwings Kodhek Road , Hurlingham
    P.O. Box 10552 – 00100
    Tel: +254 20 2726821/4/6/7, +254 20 2736845
    Fax: +254 20 2716651
    Email: gvrc@nwch.co.ke
    lkiama@nwch.co.ke

    Rise in Rape Victims

    Rape and forced circumcisions are being reported in Nairobi.

    Amid the violence that engulfed several residential areas of the Kenyan capital following the declaration of controversial results of the presidential elections, women in particular have been targetted, with at least one hospital reporting a rise in the number of rape victims seeking treatment.

    The Nairobi Women’s Hospital said it had on 31 December received 19 rape cases, almost double the daily average.

    Violence erupted mostly in the slums of Nairobi and other areas soon after the Electoral Commission of Kenya announced that incumbent President Mwai Kibaki had won the poll, beating his opposition rival challenger Raila Odinga, who immediately rejected the result citing alleged rigging of the poll in Kibaki’s favour.

    “It looked like it was mainly systematic gang rapes,” said Sam Thenya, the chief executive officer of the hospital.

    “This is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said, adding that those who made it to the hospital had spoken of other rape survivors who could not seek treatment because the security situation prevented them from venturing out of the informal settlements or they lacked transport.

    The rape victims in Nairobi came mainly from the slums of Kibera, Korogocho, Mathare and Dandora, according to Thenya. Violence has pitted mainly Odinga’s supporters against communities perceived to have voted for Kibaki, with cases of reprisal attacks also being reported.

    Sexual violence has also been reported against men, with the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi on 2 January saying several men had been admitted after they were assaulted during the violence.

    “There are several men admitted in various wards after they were subjected to forced circumcision,” a source at the hospital said.

    Odinga’s core supporters come from the Luo ethnic group that does not practise circumcision, while Kibaki draws most of his following from the Kikuyu group, one of several tribes in which male circumcision is an essential rite of passage from adolescence to manhood.