Kenya: Nobel Peace Prize winner receives death threats

The winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, Professor Wangari Maathai, has received death threats following her plea to Kenyan political leaders to reach a peaceful agreement.

On 19 February, Professor Maathai was sent three death threats by text message which read, "Because of your opposing the government at all times, Prof Wangari Maathai, we have decided to look for your head very soon, you are number three after Were, take care of your life."

Two people working for her received similar threats on 19 and 21 February. The threats were signed "Mungiki", the name of an outlawed gang mainly of Kikuyu ethnicity, that has claimed responsibility for beheadings and other murders involving mutilation.

Prof Wangari Maathai is a former Member of Parliament. "Number three after Were" refers to MP Melitus Mugabe Were, who was killed outside his home in Nairobi on 29 January. A second MP, David Kimutai Too, was killed in Eldoret town on 31 January.

Prof Wangari Maathai believes the threats were a response to her call for increased pressure on both President Kibaki and the opposition Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga to reach an agreement to deal with the political crisis in Kenya, and for her criticisms of politicians allied to the ruling Party of National Unity.

This is the latest in a series of death threats made against several human rights defenders since the start of the post-election dispute. Pamphlets have been circulated calling some activists traitors, at least one of them has been attacked as a result and forced to flee the country.

The Kenyan national press has reported Police Commissioner Major General Hussein Ali as saying that the Kenyan police are investigating the threats. The police recently removed the police bodyguard they had been providing to Prof Wangari Maathai after she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

Amnesty International members are urgently appealing to Kenyan authorities to make every effort to protect Professor Wangari Maatha, and also to investigate these threats and to bring those responsible to justice.

On Wednesday 27 February, hundreds of Amnesty International supporters across the globe – including the UK – will join in solidarity with the people in Kenya in an international Day of Action.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

· In the early 1990s Amnesty International adopted Wangari Maathai as a prisoner of conscience when her life was threatened because of her human rights and environmental work.

· More than 1,000 people have died in Kenya’s post-election violence, many as a result of attacks by armed ethnic militia while others have been killed by the police deployed to quell the violence and break up mass protests.

· More than 300,000 men, Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights have been forced to flee their homes, and over 10,000 have fled as refugees into neighbouring Uganda.

· Since early February, the violence has reduced and largely stopped, as negotiations led by Kofi Annan have made progress towards a political settlement and possible power-sharing agreement.

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