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Rights Group Describes Planned Post-Election Violence in Kenya

The international organization Human Rights Watch says in a new report that much of the political and ethnic violence that followed Kenya's disputed presidential elections was methodically organized. The organization says the planning was done at the local level, but that the role of national leaders must be investigated further. For VOA, Derek Kilner reports from Nairobi.

The report attempts to provide new evidence to support the claim that post-election violence that killed over one-thousand people and displaced hundreds of thousands was largely organized.

Human Rights Watch Africa researcher Ben Rawlence, addressing reporters in Nairobi, said coordination by local leaders was seen throughout the country, among supporters of both President Mwai Kibaki and his challenger Raila Odinga.

"It was more or less organized at the local level by local leaders, by elected councilors, by mobilizers for political parties and also funded by local businessmen. Now the extent of links between those local leaders and the people at the national level is something that needs further investigation. But there is a lot of circumstantial evidence that suggests they were well aware of what was going on," he said.

The report also charges Kenya's police with unlawful killings and with an inconsistent response to violence in different areas. The organization suggested that the police response was much more severe, for example, in the opposition stronghold of Kisumu than in other parts of the country that experienced similar levels of unrest.

During negotiations that led to a power-sharing agreement between Kibaki and Odinga, the two sides agreed to form a commission to investigate the post-election violence, as well as a Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Committee to examine longer-standing grievances. Rawlence voiced support for the mandates of these bodies but suggested the formation of the groups alone would achieve little.

"The Kenyan government in the past has been very good at organizing commissions listing names of people who were involved, collecting an awful lot of evidence but then it's very good at ignoring the recommendations and not bringing the people to justice," he added.

Another commission has been established to investigate the conduct of the election itself. The commission, headed by the former head of South Africa's electoral commission, Johann Kriegler, is expected to complete its work within three to six months. Odinga charges that the presidential election was rigged and international observers have said the results were not credible.

The Human Rights Watch report also faults Western donors for continuing to support the Kenyan government in the years before the elections while largely ignoring charges of widespread corruption and impunity