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Ban Ki-moon calls on Kenyans to ‘wake up’ and halt violence

Ban Ki-moon calls on Kenyans to ‘wake up’ and halt violence

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on all Kenyans to stop the violence that has torn apart their nation in recent weeks, claiming over 800 lives and displacing more than a quarter of a million people.

“The killing must stop. The violence must end for the sake of the Kenyan people, for the sake of Kenya,” Mr. Ban said at a press conference in the capital, Nairobi.

Mr. Ban is in Kenya 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 crisis that began just over a month ago after Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner over opposition leader Raila Odinga in December elections.

In a meeting yesterday with President Kibaki on the sidelines of the African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, Mr. Ban encouraged the Kenyan leader to move toward a quick resolution of the crisis. On arrival in Nairobi today, the Secretary-General met with Mr. Odinga, as well as Mr. Annan and his mediation team.

Pointing to a humanitarian crisis that is “unprecedented” in Kenya, Mr. Ban called on all political leaders to look beyond individual or partisan interests and resolve their differences peacefully.

“The people and leaders of Kenya, particularly political leaders, have the duty, and the responsibility, to wake up and reverse this tragic path before it escalates into the horrors of mass killings and devastation we have witnessed in recent history,” he stated.

As the violence persists in parts of the country, UN agencies and their partners are continuing to assist the Government and the Kenya Red Cross in providing relief to those affected.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) says the violence affecting the main roads through the Rift Valley and towards Uganda in recent days has interrupted the transportation of commercial food as well as food aid. Trucks carrying WFP food could go from Mombasa to Nairobi without escort, but escorts were necessary when the trucks drove out of Nairobi and through the Rift Valley. Rising fuel prices were also affecting food delivery.

The agency also notes a shortage of food in the markets around the country, and an increase in food prices. To date, WFP has helped distribute food to more than 185,000 displaced persons in the Rift Valley and the western provinces.

Meanwhile, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that displaced Kenyans around Nairobi, Eldoret, Nakuru and Naivasha are lacking critical health care.

The number of sites hosting internally displaced persons (IDPs) appears to increase every day, and an initial assessment by WHO has found that these sites are very crowded, with poor shelter, water supply and sanitation. In some camps, there is only one toilet for every 500 people. The most prevalent health concerns in all sites are diarrhoea in children, and acute respiratory infections.

Reports of violence continue in Nakuru, Eldoret, and Naivasha, all towns which already host hundreds of IDPs. WHO also notes that hospitals are reporting a “dramatic” increase in cases of sexual violence.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) yesterday ferried more supplies from Nairobi to three displacement sites some 30 kilometres outside of the Kenyan capital in the wake of new evictions of nearly 10,000 non-indigenous communities working mainly in tea plantations and flower farms around Tigoni.

UNHCR immediately handed over 1,800 family kits, enough for 9,000 people, and 25 lightweight tents to the Kenyan Red Cross for distribution to the IDPs in the three towns.

The agency has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Kenya Red Cross by which it will provide emergency shelter and basic household items, assist with camp coordination and management, and strengthen systems for IDP registration. The Government of Kenya and the Kenya Red Cross estimate there are now more than 250,000 IDPs living in over 300 IDP sites in various parts of the country.