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Kenya Crisis: Police Overstreched


In Kenya, riots are continuing in the towns of Naivasha and Nakuru. Dozens of people have been killed there in five days of ethnic violence. Police are struggling to restore order amid a recent wave of violence linked to disputed elections. Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, who is trying to mediate in the crisis, has called for the army to be deployed.

David Ohito is a senior political reporter for the Kenyan Standard newspaper. He told VOA English to Africa reporter Douglas Mpuga that the police are overstretched and the government is reluctant to bring in the army to restore order because of its composition. “The only alternative available to the government is to use the military, but the military has its own internal problems. The composition of the Kenyan military is overpopulated with members of a community that support ODM (Orange Democratic Movement), other than those who support the party (PNU) in government. So they (the government) fear that if they call in the army, the army might side with the people.”

Ohito expressed doubt that the mediation efforts by former UN chief Kofi Annan would bear fruit. “It does not matter how much mediation he will do. This is a Kenyan problem. It’s a question of historical injustice, it’s a question of [landlessness], it’s a question of poverty, and it’s a question of ethnic differences.” He said, “The trigger was pulled on the day the election was disputed, and now the situation has gotten out of hand. We need action; no amount of mediation will solve this problem.”

He added, “Kenyans want security, and if the government cannot cope with the situation and restore peace and order, “then we need to fly in troops (foreign peacekeepers) to support this country.”

He dismissed calls for a government for national unity, saying it may be [too] late now. “If (President) Kibaki is confident that he won the election, why doesn’t he accept a re-run, he asked. “If Kibaki had not made a mistake of naming cabinet ministers, then maybe we would be talking of a government of national unity. If there is to be a government of national unity, then President Kibaki must first dissolve his government and then meet Raila Odinga to discuss how to share power.”

Ohito said as long as there is mistrust and suspicion between the two sides, a government of national unity is out of the question. “Even then, a government of national unity would be viable only if it sets a calendar for a presidential poll or a fresh way of resolving the problem and finding a lasting solution.” He also expressed the fear that the violence might escalate out of control and lead to a civil war.