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Kenya politicians faulted in deaths

Activists say they directed, paid militias

A member of the Kikuyu criminal gang, the Mungiki, tried to control the fighting over food at a Red Cross distribution point in Nairobi last week. The Kenyan Human Rights Commission says violence in Kenya appears to involve politicians from both sides. A member of the Kikuyu criminal gang, the Mungiki, tried to control the fighting over food at a Red Cross distribution point in Nairobi last week. The Kenyan Human Rights Commission says violence in Kenya appears to involve politicians from both sides. (Karel Prinsloo/associated press)
Email|Print| Text size + By Michelle Faul
Associated Press / January 13, 2008

NAIROBI - The price for burning down a home: 500 shillings, or about $8. Double that to have someone hacked to death.

The price list comes from a leading Kenyan human rights group that says some of the worst violence in the country's deadly disputed presidential election is the work of militias paid and directed by politicians.

The government of President Mwai Kibaki and the opposition have traded blame for the killing and arson that followed Kibaki's victory in the Dec. 27 election that international observers say was followed by a rigged count.

Some of the attacks took on an ugly ethnic twist, with other tribes turning on Kibaki's Kikuyu people. But the independent Kenyan Human Rights Commission says that there is more to it, and that it appears to involve politicians from both sides.

It "was portrayed as some primal irate rising up of [ethnic] communities against each other," commission chairwoman Muthoni Wanyeki said. "But our investigations indicate it seems to be very organized militia activity . . . [the violence] very much seems to be directed and well organized."

She cited the torching of a church sheltering Kikuyu, dozens of whom burned to death.

"One group was watching the church, and then another took over," Wanyeki said. "We say it's organized because they are working in groups of 10 to 15 people and in shifts."

"Their training areas have been identified, some of the people from whom they get money have been identified," she said. "They are being paid 500 per burning and 1,000 per death."

The information, she said, comes from about 100 monitors and a network including prominent individuals and community-based organizations who were given pre-election training in researching human rights violations.

She said information is being compiled in a report to be published this week and given to another body, the state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, for investigation by appropriate authorities.

The state-funded commission, as well as a bishop and a police superintendent, agree that a lot of the violence seemed orchestrated. However, they stop short of claiming money changed hands, and both camps vying for the presidency strongly deny it.

Gangs wielding bows and arrows, machetes and stones killed scores of people in the central Rift Valley. They set ablaze hundreds of buildings, forcing more than 100,000 people, mainly Kikuyus, from their homes and farmlands. Victims have identified their attackers as ethnic Kalenjin and members of opposition leader Raila Odinga's Luo tribe.

Odinga's spokesman, Salim Lone, said the charges of payment were "wild propaganda."

"I cannot categorically say that no politician" is paying militias, he said, but bristled at the suggestion that his party, having denounced the violence, could at the same time be fomenting it.

Odinga says Kibaki must take the blame because the violence was ignited by his alleged theft of the election.

Maina Kiai, chairman of the state-funded human rights body, said that in response to attacks on Kikuyu, government politicians have recruited the Mungiki, a Kikuyu gang blamed for a string of beheadings carried out in Nairobi's slums this year.

Government spokesman Alfred Mutua said Kiai's charge was "preposterous. There is no truth to it." He accused Kiai of being partisan and challenged him to produce evidence.

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