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Kiai to US House of Representatives


Thursday, February 7, 2008
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Maina Kiai is the Chair of the Kenya National Commission for Human Rights. In the past two weeks, he’s received death threats for his public stance for truth and justice for all Kenyans.

Yesterday, he spoke before the US House of Representatives on the crisis in Kenya. You can read his full statement at the excellent Kenyan Emergency Blog. Some quotes:

Kenya is at a cross-road that will mean either the complete disintegration of Kenya or the beginning of a new, more democratic, sustainable nation suited to the needs and aspirations of the Kenyan people.

What is going on in Kenya is a political crisis with ethnic manifestation because politics in Kenya is organized ethnically.

Part of the reason why militia—on both sides—have been so potent and dangerous is that they arose from the earlier violence of the 1990s and were never de-mobilized. Nor was there a process to deal with the root causes of that violence, with the Kibaki government choosing to sweep the matter under the carpet, despite campaign promises to the contrary. With grievances bubbling and fermenting close to the surface, it was relatively easy to reactivate the militia using methods similar to those of the 1990s. Most important, the paymasters and planners of the 1990s clashes were never held accountable.

The violence is neither genocide nor ethnic cleansing: The root of the problem is not that different ethnic groups decided they could no longer live together. The root of the problem is the inability of peaceful means to address grievances.

It is clear that the flagrant effort to steal the presidential election was the immediate trigger for the violence. All independent observers have said that the tallying process was so flawed that it is impossible to tell who won the presidential election.

This is the time for Kenya to end the impunity that has been a feature of our history since independence, and also to end the “winner take all” “first past the post” system.

Finally, it is important that U.S. military and security assistance be frozen immediately. All US assistance to Kenya should be channelled through non-governmental sources.

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About Shailja Patel

Shailja Patel is a Kenyan poet, writer and theatre artist who has performed at venues from New York's  Lincoln Center to the Zanzibar International Film Festival. Patel's first full-length show, Migritude, premiered in the San Francisco Bay Area, and toured Kenya to critical acclaim in 2007. The show was selected as the subject of the 2007 season premiere of SPARK! –  KQED TV's award-winning arts programme .Patel's work has received awards from, among others, the Ford Foundation, the National Performance Network, and Indian American Women Empowered. Most recently, she is a founding member of Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice, a coalition of Kenyan citizens and legal, governance, and human rights organizations, working towards a viable peace in the Kenya Crisis stemming from the December 2007 elections.

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