Talks to end violence launched amid continued tension in Kenya

By staff writers
February 4, 2008

Talks aimed at resolving Kenya’s post-election violence have resumed in the capital Nairobi, amid fears among church and other groups that ethnic and political tensions are seriously worsening, in spite of efforts towards peace.

Cyril Ramaphosa, who played a key role in the negotiations between the ANC and South Africa’s last minority while government, had been mooted as a possible facilitator at the talks. But objections from some Kenyans blocked the idea.

Nobel Peace Laureate and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has again appealed for an end to the killing, urging Kenyans to back the talks and turn away from violence.

Shalini Gidoomal, a member of Concerned Kenyan Writers, says that civil society action is vital to hold political leaders to their rhetoric of justice and reconciliation.

She wrote in the East African magazine: "Some of this is already happening. These groups have been working through public forums; with facilitated mediation (such as encouraging the visits to Kenya by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and various former African presidents), through committees focused on peace action at community level, through initiatives by women, on sms and blog sites, through Youth for Peace, and with the mass media."

Added Gidoomal: "The networks are spreading, but the process needs to be faster, quicker, more decisive if we are to save Kenya from the brutalising violence that is destroying our once great nation."

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan brokered a deal between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga last week, setting up a framework for further negotiations.

Political discussions are due to last a month and they are aimed at halting the bloodshed within two weeks. The two sides are due to discuss key allegations of electoral fraud this week.

Other issues that the two parties agreed to address are the humanitarian situation, the political crisis, and land and historical injustices. Mr Odinga yesterday called for foreign peace keepers, saying he does not trust national security forces.

Weeks of political and ethnic violence have left hundreds dead and have driven many thousands of people from their homes. Kabaki claimed victory in the presidential vote on 27 December 2007. But the opposition says the vote was rigged.

Some 800 people have died and over half-a-million have been turned into refugees in the post-election killings.

According to a worker for evangelical organisation Youth for Christ in Kenya, in one of a series of reports seen by Ekklesia, a shooting in Eldoret last week was carried out by an identified police officer who has been arrested.

"But that did not stem the eruption of fresh and scattered violence across the country which has in turn resulting in further protests, killings and burning of houses in Kisumu, Kisi and Kakamega, and even in the outskirts of Nairobi," said the agency worker.

"Among buildings burnt down in the fresh outburst of hostilities is yet another church in the city of Eldoret, where about 3 weeks ago 30 people, mostly women and children were burnt to death in another Church. With this past week's renewed violence and killings... Today Refugee Camps which had begun closing for people to return to their communities, have again been reopened to receive more displaced people."

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