'Kibaki must condemn mayhem'

Newly re-elected Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki is coming under increased criticism for the manner in which he has handled the growing post-election mayhem in the country.

The barrage of criticism intensified following a public statement by the chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK), Samuel Kivuitu, in which he indicated that the government had forced him to prematurely declare Kibaki the winner of the December 27 poll. The verdict precipitated nationwide violence that has so far claimed 300 lives and displaced nearly 100 000 people.

Njoki Ndungu, the secretary general of Safina, a party affiliated with Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU), criticised the president’s insensitivity to violence in which members of his Kikuyu tribe have been targeted.

“The president is insensitive to the political situation in the country. We all know that the ECK chairman was under pressure to declare Kibaki the winner. We want the president to sit down with the opposition and agree to re-tally the votes. Otherwise

the blame-game can last forever as people die,” Ndungu, a lawyer and former nominated member of parliament, told the Mail & Guardian.

He added: “The opposition have genuine concerns that must be addressed by the president. Only the president and Raila [Odinga, the leader of the Orange Democratic Movement] can save this country from plunging into civil strife.” .

The violence has also created rifts in Kibaki’s party, which is expected to form a new government this week after the electoral commission declared Kibaki the winner with 4 584 721 votes against Odinga’s 4 352 393.

Four members of the electoral commission have said a day that the results were doctored in favour of the incumbent.

Francis Atwoli, chief of the powerful Central Organisation of Trade Unions, has also taken issue with Kibaki, accusing him of being responsible for the bloodbath in the country.

The criticism follows the killing in the town of Eldoret, 300km west of Nairobi, on Sunday of 40 people who had sought refuge in a cathedral.

Western Kenya and the coastal region, where ODM draws the bulk of its support, have experienced the most horrific violence, about which Kibaki has yet to make a statement.

Since he was declared the winner he has opted to communicate through proxies.

Seventy people have so far been killed in Nairobi, while 95 were killed in Kisumu and Kakamega in western Kenya. Police reported that at least 30 people were killed in Coast province.

The violence has affected public transport throughout the country and cut off supply lines for essential goods such as food, fuel and medicine to landlocked Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Southern Sudan.

Commenting on the state’s silence on the violence, a senior official of the Muslim Human Rights Forum in Kenya, Al Amin Kimathi, said the president has acted irresponsibly.

“He has abdicated his responsibility and is sending a message of guilt,” he said.

The Muslim cleric also called for a re-tallying of the votes.

“We want a practical demonstration that he is in charge, if indeed he did not steal the election … the longer he remains holed up at State House, the more fears grow that he manipulated the presidential poll outcome,” Kimathi said.

As an uneasy calm returned to some parts of the country late this week, there were reports of growing unrest in the army and police force, which are reportedly dismayed by Kibaki’s's lackadaisical response to a crisis that is threatening to turn into massive ethnic-cleansing. 

Reports from across the country said the police and the crack paramilitary General Service Unit are reluctant to stop the mayhem unless the president steps aside.

Anne Fandi, a resident of Dandora estate, a sprawling slum of more than 400 000 people in Nairobi, told the M&G this week that the paramilitary and police forces deployed in

the neighbourhood had openly expressed support for the opposition.

“The police said they are reluctant to quell the mayhem because they do not want Kibaki’s government,” she said.

The remarks were corroborated by a senior police officer who told M&G that there was concern in the force that it is being used to “legitimise an illegality”.

“It is true. What the country is experiencing is a political crisis, not security. We have been misused and this cannot be allowed to go on,” the officer, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

Several senior army and police officials have reportedly resigned in protest against the outcome of the elections, although the reports have been denied by government officials.

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