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ICC Chief Concludes Kenya Visit to Probe 2008 Violence


The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo has concluded a visit to Kenya, where he is investigating allegations that some top level government officials were involved in the country's deadly 2008 post-election ethnic violence. There are fresh reports of Kenyan ethnic groups arming themselves ahead of the next presidential election in 2012.

The post-election mayhem that engulfed Kenya in the aftermath of the disputed presidential elections in early 2008 killed more than 1,300 people and displaced 300,000 others. Hatred turned mixed-ethnic towns into killing fields, as neighbors cut each other down with machetes and bows and arrows.

But Kenyan human rights activist, Ken Wafula, says he fears the next presidential election may be far more deadly. The director of the Center for Human Rights and Democracy says two of the country's largest ethnic communities - the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin - are rapidly increasing their stockpiles of firearms, including handguns and AK-47 assault rifles.

"Communities are not willing to wait until they are attacked again. Communities are arming themselves," Wafula said. "They feel that the government is unable to protect them."

Some of the worst violence in 2008 took place in the country's fertile Rift Valley, which the Kalenjin people claim as their traditional homeland but is also home to a large number of Kikuyus.

Tribal rivalries that have plagued the country since independence from Britain in 1963 boiled over in the Rift Valley after Kenya's incumbent President Mwai Kibaki - a Kikuyu - was declared the winner over the candidate supported by the Kalenjin, Raila Odinga.

The ensuing violence prompted the International Criminal Court to investigate allegations of crimes against humanity. Chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo has submitted a list of suspects to the court, which is widely believed to include the names of cabinet ministers, politicians, and businessmen.

Last year, Ken Wafula was arrested and charged with inciting violence after reporting that communities in the Rift Valley had begun to re-arm. He says he is speaking out again because the situation is becoming worse, despite pledges by Kenya's coalition government of President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga to rid the country of illegal firearms.

In recent months, Kenyan security forces have been dispatched to the Rift Valley and other areas to collect guns from nomadic tribes, who are increasingly using firearms, smuggled in from neighboring Sudan, Somalia, and Uganda, to steal livestock and to settle personal scores.

Wafula says there is growing suspicion that many of those confiscated weapons are being re-distributed among ethnic communities by senior officials.

"The disarmament that is happening is actually covering up the real arms deals that are going on in various communities," Wafula said. "Top officials are involved in the arms trade."

Politicians in Kenya have long used election periods to entrench tribal loyalties and to whip up ethnic animosity to gain an advantage over their rivals. Since multi-party elections were introduced in 1992, political violence has marred each election.

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