Dear IDEA members, friends and colleagues
I am sure you are seeing heart-rending reports of the ethnic violence that is tearing Kenya apart and claiming hundreds of lives, following last week’s election results. Some of the worst violence has erupted in Kisumu – the city that hosted IDEA 98, a unique landmark in IDEA’s history – as well as in Nairobi where our international congress committee met in 1997. We have just heard from IDEA members in Nairobi of unbearable atrocities being committed in their neighborhoods:
Let me start with yesterday. It was my birthday and instead of celebrating it with candles and fire crackers, I was reeling with tears from teargas thrown to scatter protestors from outside my gate! I have been holed up in my house for many days. I was able to at least leave for one day amid all the fear and insecurity as I had to source for food for my family and the horde of displaced people in my house. As we talk now, so many people are displaced with no food or shelter. At my own house I am housing some who have no hope of getting back to their homes. Their homes and property have been burnt down! I am running short of funds but I will never leave my people to die!
The president’s community has been targeted for the massacre. Kikuyu people have been thrown out of their homes and called foreigners….how can you be a foreigner in your own country. Many have been killed and others maimed. In retaliation, the Kikuyus in Nairobi took up arms and started fighting Luos and Kalenjins. The place is in a mayhem, seriously. Children have lost their parents and are all over knocking at our gates for food. MAY GOD HEAR US AND SOON!
Our morgues are full now. Bodies litter estates. Brother has turned against brother in the so called political skirmishes. They are not skirmishes but ethnic cleansing. Nobody knows what will happen the next minute. Two people were hacked to death using machetes outside my gate…..a site I will never forget…
You will be relieved to know that Catherine Kariuki, our Kenyan Secretary of our Executive Committee, is safe, but living in hourly fear of her life. Please read the international petition (below) that has been prepared by diaspora Kenyans, friends of Professors Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Penina Mlama, two Kenyan keynoters who contributed to our recent world congress. If you agree with it, please sign it by clicking on the following site:
Many thanks. All the best
Dan Baron Cohen
President of IDEA
Call For Urgent Resolution of Kenya Electoral Crisis
We the undersigned call on the ODM and PNU leaders to urgently seek a resolution to the current electoral crisis in the country and restore peace and harmony in the country through leadership.
We express our concern at the deteriorating situation in Kenya following what has been widely acknowledged as an impressive election turn-out. We commend the Kenyan people for their dignity and courage but also express our condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives and to the many who have been injured in the course of needless violence over the last few days. This is a time for Kenyans to be patient, dignified and to look for solutions that are in the best interest o f the majority.
We regret the chaos which has caused loss of life, destruction of property and general unrest in the country. The contested outcome has marred the prospects of democracy and peace not only in Kenya but also in Africa. The cloud which hangs over the conclusion of one of the most fiercely-fought elections in Kenya’s history is regrettable. We believe that peace should be regained as a matter of urgency so that a free and fair outcome can be reached.
We believe that this is not the time for provocative actions, but a time for demonstrating leadership through bringing the contending partners to the table. This crisis can be resolved by the players in disagreement using conciliation and arbitration mechanisms as a matter of urgency to plan a peaceful resolution of the crisis. If necessary, this could be done with the involvement of others such as the African Union and others, such as those who acted as election observers. We urge the contending leaders to act within the spirit of democracy and seek to heal the wounds that have been opened by recent events and to do so in transparent ways.
We are aware of the betrayal that many may feel in what they consider to be an electoral injustice. We ask them to engage in the process by seeking explanation and accountability and to be guided by their own sense of civic responsibility.
We call on the PNU and ODM leaders to seek conciliation and resolution of the current crisis for the sake of the country.
We call for mechanisms for mediation and conciliation to be put in place urgently to give voice to all grievances that have arisen from the present situation in which there can be no winners, only losers. We welcome the mediation processes that have been initiated
We call for an immediate ending of viol ence by the security forces and all other parties. Whilst we recognize that the security forces have a role to play in maintaining peace and order, we condemn the disproportionate and excessive use of force by the security forces against unarmed civilians that has been manifest over the last few days.
We call for an independent transparent review of the whole electoral process and its outcomes so as to resolve any differences between contesting parties. This should include reviewing the results of the election and all reported irregularities, especially those related to the disparities in the tallying of the final results.
We call for a swift formation of an independent and credible Judicial Commission of Enquiry by endorsing the call by the Electoral Commissioners who have called for one.
We urge the international community to be patient pending the outcome of such a proposed review process. As it is Kenyans who have to live with the consequences of a Mwai Kibaki or Raila Odinga government, the international community can only follow the recommendations of an independent review before declaring the elections free and fair.
We call on those who wish to see a peaceful democratic Kenya, especially in the African Union, to support initiatives that can bring this crisis to a swift conclusion by facilitating dialogue and reconciliation.
We are deeply concerned by the gagging of the media, especially as this has only fueled suspicion and encouraged speculation in an already highly volatile situation. Freedom of expression has been one of our greatest democratic prizes won by Kenyans during the last few years and we cannot afford to go backwards.
We call for an immediate and unconditional lifting of the reporting ban so as to ensure that Kenyans are able to keep abreast of what is happening. We commend the Kenyan press for the work they have done to keep information flowing. It is precisely in the time of crisis that a free and independent media is essential to ensure a democracy that is based on information not speculation.
We urge the international media community to support the Kenyan press during this time and continue promoting the right for a free and independent press especially during such a period.
We call on all peace loving people to join us in calling for a swift conclusion to the crisis so that Kenya can return to normality and people can continue their lives without fear and anxiety.
The following photos are from IDEA1998 in Kisumu.