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Has Kenya learned from the 2007/2008 post-election violence?

By Isaac Esipisu

Kenya is set to hold in December of this year its first elections since the 2007 vote that was marred by deadly violence. The east African country’s election will come under intense scrutiny because it will be the first under a new constitution and the first since the 2007 poll in which more than 1,220 people were killed, mostly in post-election violence.

The bloodshed and property destruction were unprecedented. Many Kenyans were rendered homeless as well; many as I write are still leaving as internally displaced persons (IDPs)

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor later named six people suspected of bearing the greatest responsibility for the post-election violence in 2007. The ICC’s move was viewed by optimists as the end of the country’s culture of impunity, but pessimists feared it could spark a new round of ethnic blood-letting.

Proponents of the Hague process see it as the only way of achieving justice in a country where those in high office have never been brought to account for their actions

Must we see rape in Britain to understand rape in Congo?

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I was left somewhat traumatised after going to see a screening of a controversial new Hollywood-backed short released this week, aimed at highlighting the link between minerals mined for British mobile phones and the use of rape and murder as weapons of war in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The highly graphic campaign video – appropriately called Unwatchable – starts with a little English girl picking flowers in the garden of her family’s multi-million pound mansion in a picturesque Cotswolds village.

Zuma’s time to deliver?

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Poor South Africans have called upon newly elected president Jacob Zuma to keep his election promises on service delivery. The past week has seen a number of protests flaring up across South Africa against what protesters called poor service delivery.

In one township in the country’s Mpumalanga province residents barricaded the entire township, burning tyres, throwing stones at policemen and calling for the head of the local mayor, whom they described as “good for nothing”. “There is no development. You can see for yourself,” one resident told journalists. He spoke of alleged neglect and apparent self enrichment from local government officials.

Will Niger Delta amnesty work?

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Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua has laid out the details of a 60-day amnesty programme for militants and criminals in the Niger Delta. Under the deal, all gunmen who lay down their weapons during a 60-day period ending in October will be immune from prosecution. The offer extends to those currently being prosecuted for militant-related activities, meaning Henry Okah – the suspected leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) – could also walk free if he agrees to renounce the notion of armed struggle.

Several factional leaders – including Ateke Tom, Farah Dagogo, Soboma George and Boyloaf – have said they accept the idea of amnesty in principle but want talks with President Yar’Adua to hammer out the details.

Sign of change in Zimbabwe?

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President Robert Mugabe joined the mourning for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s wife on Tuesday and called on Zimbabweans to end violence and support his old rival to help rebuild the country.

The death of Susan Tsvangirai in a road crash in which her husband was also injured has, at least on the surface, brought about a show of unity between Zimbabwe’s bitterest foes that might never have looked possible.

Will Kenyan police be brought to book?

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A U.N. investigator has castigated Kenya’s police force for hundreds of alleged extra-judicial killings and called for both its chief and the Attorney General to be fired immediately.
 
In a scathing indictment of the east African country’s security forces, Philip Alston, the U.N. rapporteur on extradicial executions, said he had received overwhelming evidence during a 10-day tour of systematic, widespread regular and carefully planned killings by the police. He said they were “free to kill at will” and did so with impunity for motives ranging from private disputes to extortion, to shooting a suspect instead of making an arrest. “The Kenyan police are a law unto themselves and they kill often and with impunity, ” said Alston, a law professor from Australia. In a statement laced with angry sarcasm, he accused the police of failing to provide him with virtually any of the information he sought, including the number of officers in the force. He supported allegations that police had killed 500 suspected members of the notorious Mungiki crime gang in 2007 in an attempt to exterminate it and 400, mostly opposition, demonstrators during a post election crisis last year — as reported by an official inquiry. Army and police are also accused of torturing and killing at least 200 people in an offensive to suppress a rebel movement in western Kenya.
 
Alston demanded the immediate dismissal of Police Commissioner Hussein Ali but did not stop there. He said long-serving Attorney General Amos Wako, who he accused of consistently obstructing attempts to prosecute those in high positions for extrajudicial executions, must also go, calling him the embodiment of a system of impunity. Alston added that Kenya’s judicial system was bankrupt and another obstacle to achieving justice.  And he even attacked President Mwai Kibaki for remaining completely silent about impunity.
 
Alston’s condemnation was perhaps the most high profile and powerful in recent years but it follows numerous reports by human rights groups about extrajudicial killings by the police. Ali, an army general who has led the force for five years, has survived numerous other controversies.
 
The government spokesman, Alfred Mutua, who as a sideline produces a popular television cop squad drama, immediately rubbished Alston’s statement, saying he had not been in the country long enough to draw accurate conclusions. But Kenya’s biggest newspaper, the Daily Nation, noted in an editorial that this was a routine response from the government and the U.N. official’s report could not be dismissed so lightly, an opinion shared by the other big daily, the Standard. But the government appears set to ignore even such high profile criticism, as it has done with allegations against the police in the past.
 
The case also underlines the divisions within Kenya’s unwieldy Grand Coalition government, set up almost a year ago to end ethnic bloodletting after the disputed election that killed around 1,300 people. Alston was invited to carry out his investigation by this very government, although it is not clear who did so. He said Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Justice Minister Martha Karua had expressed concern about his report. Odinga was quoted in the Nation as saying: “We must act on the report. No one will be spared. I am not willing to compromise on this one.” He doesn’t seem to have spoken to Mutua.  
 
But whatever Odinga says, nobody is holding their breath for a radical overhaul of the police despite wide public disgust over their tactics. A recent opinion poll showed that 70 percent of Kenyans surveyed felt the coalition government had achieved nothing since it was formed last April. Only 33 percent thought any political or business leader guilty of organising the election violence would ever be convicted. Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who led mediation to end the crisis, warned that political manoeuvres delaying the establishment of a tribunal on the violence threatened the country’s stability.
 
Will Kenya ever tackle these fundamental problems? Will violent police ever be brought to book?

Niger delta: Resource war or racket?

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Nigeria’s main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), has not so far carried out any major attacks on the country’s oil and gas industry since announcing last month it was ending a five-month-old ceasefire. But the level of insecurity in the vast wetlands region is so great that the industry is feeling the pinch nonetheless. Royal Dutch Shell, Nigeria’s longest-standing foreign oil partner, has warned that “logistical challenges” caused by the insecurity mean it may not meet all of its oil export obligations for this month and next from its key Bonny export facility. Shipping agents and industry sources say security measures at loading platforms mean shipments of crude are being delayed, while some smaller oil services firms have started openly questioning whether to scale back their presence in Nigeria because of high levels of piracy.

On Tuesday, gunmen loyal to militant leader “Kitikata” opened fire on Shell facilities in Bayelsa state. They delivered a letter to the security guards at the site demanding they be given a contract to guard facilities at Nembe Creek, a hotspot for criminal raids, or else they would carry out further attacks.

Which way will Somalia go?

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The withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia has left a nation beset by conflict for nearly two decades at a crossroads.

Ethiopia invaded to oust Islamists from the capital, but insurgents still control much of southern Somalia and more hardline groups that worry Washington have flourished during the two-year intervention.

from Photographers' Blog:

Death all around

A Congolese refugee in a tattered baseball cap, worn clothes and blue flip-flops begged me for a cigarette at Kibati, a camp for 65,000 people displaced by fighting in eastern Congo.

I scolded him, saying smoking was bad for his health, as if anything could be worse for your health than living in this conflict-racked corner of Democratic Republic of Congo.

Are talks going Mugabe’s way?

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Mugabe at rally in HarareIs it just me, or is Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe starting to look more confident again? At the start of power sharing talks a few weeks back he appeared distinctly grim when he and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai had their historic handshake.

Mugabe shakes hands with Tsvangirai

In the past few days he has been much more his old self, lambasting the West at a speech to commemorate the dead in the liberation war, giving a national honour to George Chiweshe, who organised elections that were condemned by much of the world, and generally upbeat during three days of talks that in the end delivered no result.

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