Amnesty International today strongly condemned the increasing number of politically-motivated killings of civilians by groups of armed youths in different parts of Kenya during the last few days and expressed particular concern at the developing ethnic-related nature of the violence.
Amnesty International called on the Kenyan government and political party leaders to take all possible measures to ensure an immediate halt to the violence and to commit themselves publicly to the respect and protection of the human rights of all citizens.
“Political leaders must not explicitly or implicitly condone violence against supposed supporters of their rivals,” said Erwin van der Borght, Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme.
Amnesty International is also concerned at continuing reports of killings by police. One individual was reportedly shot dead today during skirmishes between police and demonstrators in Mombasa. Amnesty International had earlier on 31 December criticised killings of anti-government demonstrators as a result of excessive use of force by police.
To date, over 300 individuals are reported to have been killed as a result of the violence prompted by the disputed presidential election result, including over 30 people — mostly women and children fleeing from armed youths — who were deliberately burned to death after they sought refuge in a church in Eldoret town in the Rift Valley on 1 January.
Medical staff at the Women’s Hospital in Nairobi have also reported a sharp increase in the number of rapes of women and girls being committed by gangs and individuals as part of the post-election violence.
Some of the more recent violence in some areas with a history of ethnic conflict appears to have been perpetrated by anti-government mobs against members of President Kibaki’s Kikuyu ethnic group, in apparent retaliation for suspected election rigging.
More than 75,000 people have been internally displaced in the country as a result of the violence.
“The Kenyan government must arrange rapid humanitarian assistance to the internally displaced and to provide all necessary security for humanitarian relief workers,” said van der Borght.
Informal roadblocks have been set up across the country by violent youth gangs, some of them armed with machetes, sticks and stones. Some of the displaced have been evacuated by the Kenyan government under military escort or by airplanes to safer locations, including from Eldoret to Nairobi and to other parts of Kenya. Thousands are reported to be fleeing to neighbouring countries, particularly Uganda.
Background information: On 27 December presidential and parliamentary elections were held in Kenya. On 30 December the official Electoral Commission of Kenya announced that President Mwai Kibaki had won the presidential election over opposition candidate Raila Odinga. Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) won a large majority of parliamentary seats over Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) and other parties, but disputed the announced loss of the presidential election.
Mwai Kibaki was quickly sworn in as the new president on 30 December. Election observers have questioned the credibility of the counting and tallying of the presidential vote, about which even the Chair of the Electoral Commission of Kenya has lately expressed doubts. As political tension mounted, the government banned live broadcasting by the Kenyan media about the election results but this ban is in practice widely ignored by the media. The government has deployed security forces to many areas. Police and troops began to protect people from violent mobs in some areas and dispersed violent protesters in others. The government banned a major ODM demonstration planned for 3 January in Nairobi and other towns, preventing demonstrators from gathering, using tear-gas and water-cannon.
Diplomatic efforts at the international and regional level, including by the African Union and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and initiatives by Kenyan NGOs, are seeking a solution for the political impasse and to stem the violence.
Click here to see also Amnesty International’s press release of 31 December 2007.