UN official warns against poll-related violence in Kenya

Saturday February 16 2013

By FRED OLUOCH Special Correspondent

The international community will intervene in Kenya should violence break out before or after the March 4 elections and the government is unable to contain the situation, a UN official has said.

Speaking in Nairobi on Friday, the United Nations Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng, said it was the duty of the Kenyan government to ensure the safety of its citizens by preventing violence.

“While Kenya has experienced election-related violence since the early 1990s, the 2008 post-poll violence remains etched on the minds of the international community and we shall do all we can to stop a repeat of the same,” said Mr Dieng.

The rising inter-ethnic tension in the run up to the March 4 elections, coupled with the recent clashes in Tana River and Samburu in the Coast Province have raised anxiety among Kenya’s development partners and the entire region that there could be a repeat of the 2008 violence.

He said targeted sanctions would be the first intervention, explaining that the travel bans imposed on individuals and their families by the US soon after the outbreak of violence in 2008 was effective because it prompted leaders to start thinking of dialogue.

The second intervention will be strengthening the capacity of Kenya to deal with the violence. Military intervention will be the third option should the situation get out of hand.

Mr Dieng’s office, in partnership with the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) were in the country on a five-day visit to support the Kenya National Committee on the Prevention of Genocide.

They held consultations with senior government officials and other actors with the view of preventing inter-communal tensions.

In the coastal town of Mombasa, the group held a workshop to highlight the state’s responsibility to protect its citizens and the importance of peace-building in preventing inter-communal violence in the country.

They also held discussions with community leaders in all the six counties in Coast province — Kwale, Tana River, Kilifi, Mombasa, Malindi and Taita Taveta.

ICGLR executive secretary Prof Ntumba Luaba, said his organisation has been active in pushing for African intervention in eastern DR Congo, providing support in the fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and helping out in South Sudan.

He said the committee is following closely events in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

In Kenya, Mr Dieng emphasised that any intervention in the country will have to first be carried out by the African Union (AU), which is obliged to arbitrate in such situations on the continent.

Africa’s failure

“The continent failed Rwanda in the 1994 genocide and it was the first to accept responsibility before the world joined in. That is why Africa has said it should not happen again and hence the focus on Kenya,” he said.

He was, however, optimistic that Kenya has made progress by adopting a progressive constitution and putting in place other measures like the National Cohesion and Integration Commission to check hate speech because “the Rwanda experience showed that hate speech is more lethal than bullets.”

Mr Dieng said land issues in Kenya and Africa in general have been the single most important cause of inter-ethnic strife. That is why his office is advising African governments to come up with ways to comprehensively address the matter.

While he noted that Kenyan presidential aspirants assured the world at the historic presidential debate held recently in Nairobi and broadcast across all local radio and TV stations, that they will concede if they lose the election, he maintained that they must come out clearly to shun hate speech.

“Kenya has enormous resources and manpower, but if leaders tell the public that they will have peace and economic prosperity without committing themselves to eradicating ethnicity, then they are not telling the truth,” he said.