Kenyan government must meet reforms to avoid violence: Rights group


Nairobi : Kenya’s coalition government must move to reconcile the nation after a frightening wave of post-election violence or else face a reign of chaos that gripped the country after December polls, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Monday.

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In a report detailing what HRW called “organised” violence in the post-election period, the New York-based group called on the newly forged coalition government to move fast to create a truth and reconciliation commission and hold those responsible for the violence accountable.

“Kenyans need to see some consequences, some process of justice happen soon. Otherwise they are going to resort to other measures,” said Ben Rawlence, a researcher for the rights group who presented the report.

Chaos erupted when President Mwai Kibaki was declared winner of the disputed polls. The HRW report describes an “unofficial shoot-to-kill policy” in the police force and local leaders in the Rift Valley province, the epicentre of the conflict, promising war should Kibaki win.

“If people don’t have faith that the coalition government is going to resolve these long-term issues, then it makes it easier for these militias to continue to operate,” Rawlence said, referring to the ethnic-based gangs that fought using machetes, clubs and bows and arrows after the polls.

Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga agreed last month to a power-sharing deal that would see Odinga, who said the presidential win was stolen from him, become prime minister.

But analysts say the hard work begins now, with former enemies in parliament who are now being forced to work together to bring reforms to land ownership, the electoral body and the judicial system.

Rawlence said holding those who stoked the violence accountable would prove challenging, as many of Kenya’s current legislators may have been involved in the deaths of more than 1,000 people.

The unrest has tarnished Kenya’s reputation as a beacon of stability in a troubled region.