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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Kibaki sanctioned post-election violence

According to the BBC website, they have learnt of allegations of state-sanctioned violence in Kenya during the turmoil that followed last December's disputed presidential poll. Sources allege that meetings were hosted at the official residence of the president between the banned Mungiki militia and senior government figures.

The aim was to hire them as a defence force in the Rift Valley to protect the Kikuyu. However, the government denied the allegations, calling them "preposterous". "No such meetings took place at State House or any government office," government spokesman Alfred Ng'ang'a Mutua said in a BBC televised interview. He said the government had been cracking down on the sect for the last year, arresting their leaders. "There's no way the president or any government official would meet openly or even in darkness with the Mungiki," he said.

The allegations come as parliament prepares to open today, laying the ground for the new coalition government. Although parliament's focus will be on healing ethnic divisions and creating a coalition government, allegations of state involvement with the banned Kikuyu militia Mungiki will not go ignored. There is growing suspicion that some of the violence that led to 1,500 people being killed and hundreds of thousands displaced was orchestrated by both sides of the political divide.

The BBC source, who is a Kikuyu and who is now in hiding after receiving death threats, alleged: "Three members of the gang met at State House... and after the elections and the violence the militias were called again and they were given a duty to defend the Kikuyu in Rift Valley and we know they were there in numbers." On the weekend of 25 January, Nakuru and Naivasha were the focus of the some of the worst post-election violence. Eyewitnesses spoke of non-Kikuyu homes being marked, then gangs with machetes - who they claim were Mungiki - attacked people who were from other ethnic groups.

Sources inside the Mungiki told the BBC that it was a renegade branch of the outfit that was responsible for violence, not them. A policeman who was on duty at the time, who has spoke on condition of anonymity, has also pointed to clear signs of state complicity. He alleges that in the hours before the violence in Nakuru, police officers had orders not to stop a convoy of matatus packed with men when they arrived at police checkpoints. "When we were there... I saw about 12 of them [matatus] packed with men," he said. "There were no females... I could see they were armed. We were ordered not to stop the vehicles to allow them to go." But Mutua said that the government deployed the military to deal with the Kikuyu youth who had tried to take the law into their own hands. "The Kenyan government... used helicopters to drive them away, arrested them and actually got to kill quite a few of them torching houses," he said. "The government stamped on them immediately."

The allegations come at a time of growing concern that there was pre-planned violence on both sides of the political fence, in the aftermath of Kenya's disputed election result. The International Crisis Group has already raised such concerns and Human Rights Watch is expected to publish its report making similar claims shortly. There are plans to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the coming weeks to examine claims of election violence.

The allegations are likely to be among the themes investigated by a commission created to address the issue of post-election skirmishes.

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