Warning that violence in Kenya could spiral out of control, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced plans to visit the country, where more than 800 people have already lost their lives in intensifying ethnic clashes triggered by the aftermath of recent elections.
Speaking to reporters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, Mr. Ban called on the Kenyan people to “stop the killings and end the violence now, before it is too late.”
More than a quarter of a million people have been forced to flee their homes due to the violence, which began late last year after Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner over opposition leader Raila Odinga in December elections.
Mr. Ban said he will travel to Nairobi tomorrow to give his full support to the Panel of Eminent African Persons, led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which is trying to resolve the current crisis. While in Nairobi, Mr. Ban intends to meet with Mr. Odinga, civil society leaders and UN staff.
“If political leaders fail to act responsibly in the interests of all Kenyan people, the situation could escalate beyond control,” warned the Secretary-General, stressing that the UN is ready to provide all necessary assistance.
“Kenya can remain stable and prosperous, a model to all Africa,” he added. “We must all do our utmost to ensure that it does so.”
Addressing the opening session the African Union summit earlier today in Addis Ababa, Mr. Ban drew attention to the alarming developments in Kenya, calling on the gathered African leaders to urge the leaders and people of Kenya to calm the violence and resolve their differences through dialogue and respect for the democratic process.
In a meeting with President Kibaki on the sidelines of the summit, Mr. Ban encouraged the Kenyan leader to move toward a quick resolution of the crisis, according to a UN spokesperson. The two men discussed the humanitarian situation in the country and the situation of internally displaced persons (IDPs), as well as the Secretary-General’s trip to Nairobi.
Mr. Ban also spoke by phone with Mr. Annan, discussing the serious impact of the violence on Kenya’s economy.
In a related development, Kenyan women have called for an immediate end to inter-ethnic killings, impunity and gross violations of human rights, especially the increasing cases of sexual crimes and gang rapes, in a communiqué handed over to Mr. Annan’s team.
The women appealed for an urgent response to the special needs of women and children who constitute the majority of IDPs, according to a news release from the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
They also called for constitutional reforms and measures to restore the rule of law and order, and appealed to all Kenyans to respect and embrace different democratic opinions. Consultations have been held over the past couple of weeks on getting women effectively engaged in national efforts to resolve the crisis.