Violence and tension are still rife in parts of Kenya's Rift Valley Province, despite ongoing mediation efforts to resolve the political crisis, the secretary-general of the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), Abbas Gullet, said on 25 January.
"We all support the peace process and commend the efforts being made to resolve the crisis and to assist the thousands of Kenyans who have been displaced but the violence continuing in parts of the country today needs urgent attention," Gullet said at a news conference at the KRCS headquarters in the capital, Nairobi.
Gullet said violence and tension had escalated since 23 January in the volatile district of Molo, Rift Valley Province, where 60 percent of a town known as Total had been burned down.
"What we saw in Molo - Total and Mau Summit areas - is worrying; senseless ethnic fighting has led to deaths and wanton destruction of property; we won't go into the reasons as to why the attacks and counter-attacks are continuing as we are mainly concerned with alleviating the suffering of the people," Gullet said.
He added that KRCS staff had reports that the Total violence had resulted in three deaths and at least 50 civilians injured. Some of the injured received first aid from the KRCS before being taken to local hospitals nearby.
Gullet said KRCS was also concerned about the security situation in Nakuru, the provincial capital, where violence erupted in the night of 24 January into the morning of 25 January, with reports of three dead, tens of people injured and several houses burnt.
"Since the start of the post-election violence, KRCS has had access to all the affected areas; it was only this morning in Nakuru that our staff have reported that road blocks erected by the warring groups had prevented them from reaching Total and Mau Summit areas of Molo," he said. "However, we have learnt that the government's security forces have managed to dismantle the road blocks and our staff are making their way into the places affected by this latest wave of violence."
So far, according to government figures, the violence has claimed at least 680 lives countrywide and displaced more than 255,000. The government and humanitarian agencies have been providing relief aid to the displaced living in camps in various towns and relocation efforts are under way for many of the internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Photo: Boniface Mwangi/IRIN
|President Mwai Kibaki shakes hands with opposition leader Raila Odinga during peace talks in Nairobi, led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan|
African Union-mandated efforts to resolve the crisis resulted in the first face-to-face meeting, since the elections on 27 December 2007, between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga on 24 January. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is leading a team of eminent Africans in the mediation efforts.
At the same time, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) announced on 25 January that it was embarking on the documentation and investigation of serious violations of human rights in the post-election violence that has rocked parts of the country. The commission said an initial report would be available in two months.
"Serious human rights violations have taken place in Kenya immediately before and following the announcement of the disputed 2007 presidential elections," Winfred Lichuma, a KNCHR commissioner, told reporters in Nairobi. "The violations have taken place particularly in Western Kenya, Nyanza Province, Rift Valley Province, Nairobi and the Coast regions. Hundreds have lost their lives, and even more have been displaced, by this violence that has taken ethnic dimensions."
She said the commission was mandated by law to "investigate, on its own initiative or upon a complaint made by any person or group of persons, the violations of any human rights".
The commission, she said, was sending a strong message to those behind the violence that it would be pursuing the agenda for justice and hold them accountable.
The commission has enlisted the expertise of an international not-for-profit organisation, No Peace Without Justice, to assist it in the documentation and investigations. The organisation is providing training and expert support to teams of investigators the commission will dispatch to various parts of the country.
"There cannot be true peace without justice and no justice without accountability," Lichuma said in a statement. "Parallel to the ongoing search for a political settlement among the main political actors, the search for justice and accountability must begin in earnest.
"The search for justice and accountability must be blind to political positions, or ethnic identities," she said. "A violator is a violator."