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Amnesty International Urges Protection Against Kikuyu Death Threats

The human rights group Amnesty International has spoken out against what it calls serious death threats made against nine Kenyan human rights activists. In a statement yesterday, Amnesty International said some of the country’s most involved civic servants have received written threats and phone calls relating to their ethnicity and outspokenness about the government’s handling of election irregularities and the post-election violence. In Washington, Amnesty’s Kenya country specialist Ann Corbett says that all but one of the recent threats were made against members of a single ethnic group – the Kikuyus, the tribe of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki.

“These latest threats are a bit different from the other violence that we’ve seen in that they seem to be directed by Kikuyu groups against fellow Kikuyus who are not associated with the regime. Many of the human rights defenders have spoken out in recent weeks about what they believe are irregularities in the election results and about human rights abuses committed by the police and armed gangs throughout the country. Basically, a lot of the human rights defenders have been very vocal about trying to protect the rights of all Kenyans, and not based on ethnicity,” she said.

In its statement issued on Wednesday, Amnesty International called on the Kibaki government to ensure the safety and protection of the human rights defenders, many of whom, it said, were being singled out as traitors in an anonymously authored leaflet being circulated within the Kikuyu community. Corbett says her organization takes the threats very seriously.

“We’ve seen an anonymously authored pamphlet that’s been circulating within the Kikuyu community by print and email, and this pamphlet has threatened more than 25 people who are Kikuyus in Kenya. And they are referred to as traitors ‘who live among us in peace and they are the veiled threat, that these people should be killed’,” she quoted the leaflet as stating.

As leaders of 40 African states open a summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Thursday, Amnesty International’s Ann Corbett says her organization is urging the assembly to address the escalating Kenyan violence and facilitate the prosecution of those responsible.

“Today, Amnesty International has requested that the African Union ask the Kenyan government to open a commission of inquiry into unlawful killings in Kenya and the grave human rights abuses that have occurred in the wake of the election and that people found responsible must be brought to justice under a fair trial,” Corbett noted.