Kenya: people need protection from ethnic and political violence

Amnesty International today called on the Kenyan government to take all appropriate steps to protect people in Kenya from ongoing human rights abuses caused by politically-motivated and ethnic attacks in the aftermath of December’s disputed presidential elections.

Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Director Erwin van der Borght said:

“The government has an obligation to protect its citizens from politically-motivated and ethnic attacks - but in doing so must only use force that is both necessary and proportional.”

International standards on law enforcement stipulate that firearms should not be used except to defend people against an imminent threat of death or serious injury and only where less extreme means are insufficient.

Mr Van der Borght added:

“Kenyan politicians must not implicitly or explicitly encourage politically-motivated or ethnic violence. They should particularly avoid making any statements that may constitute or, in the current climate, be construed as advocating ethnic hatred or incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, as such statements are prohibited by international human rights law.”

Politically-motivated and ethnic killings by armed gangs continue in several parts of Kenya. Most of the violence has targeted members of communities from which President Kibaki was perceived to have drawn his support, particularly members of the Kikuyu community.

Recent cases of violence have been both spontaneous and organised, particularly in parts of the Rift Valley.

On 22 January, seven people from the Kikuyu and Kisii communities were killed in Kipkelion and 70 houses were burned in the Aldai area of Rift Valley province by armed gangs.

Organised attacks have also taken place targeting internally displaced persons (IDPs) who were seeking refuge in places close to the homes they had fled as a result of the violence. On 19 January, at least five IDPs who had sought shelter in an IDP camp near a monastery were killed in an attack by a group of youth armed with bows, arrows and spears in Kipkelion district in the Rift Valley.

There have also been organised attacks against members of communities perceived to have supported opposition candidate Raila Odinga in the disputed December elections. Such attacks have been reported in parts of Nairobi, particularly in informal settlements of Mathare and Kibera and in Molo in the Rift Valley province.

Amnesty International calls on the Kenyan government to establish an independent and impartial public inquiry into the violence. Those responsible for killings or other human rights abuses should be brought to justice in proceedings that comply with international fair trial standards. Victims and their families must benefit from the right to redress and reparation, including compensation.

Background information
According to official government statistics, about 680 people have been killed since 30 December - although other sources indicate that the figure could be much higher. Those killed include dozens who were shot dead by the police, who were deployed to quell the violence or break up mass protests called by the opposition against the election results.

The UN estimates that over 255,000 people have become internally displaced as a result of the violence and that more than 6,000 others have fled to Uganda as refugees.

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