For Immediate Release: January 23, 2008
New York, January 22, 2008: Widespread and systematic violence in Kenya has claimed at least 650 lives and displaced more than 200,000 people from their homes since the disputed December 27, 2007 elections. Human Rights First supports the international efforts that are being made to mediate the political conflict in Kenya, including the current visit to the country by former United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.
Human Rights First is deeply concerned by the exploitation of inter-ethnic tensions by both sides of the political divide that has fueled some of the most horrific violence, including burning people alive and attacks by groups wielding machetes, clubs and spears in which scores of women and children have been killed.
“There is an urgent need for an impartial investigation into the post-election violence,” said Maureen Byrnes, Executive Director of Human Rights First. “Those responsible for inciting killings or for taking part in attacks should be put on notice that they will be held accountable for their crimes.”
Kenya has a history of inter-ethnic tensions that have been exacerbated by political leaders to increase their own power. This latest escalation in inter-ethnic conflict shows the dangers inherent in the exploitation of ethnic differences for political gain.
Human Rights First calls on President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to denounce any attempts by their supporters to denigrate particular ethnic groups or to exploit ethnic identity for political gain. They should unreservedly condemn all incidents of inter-ethnic violence.