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Ban Ki-moon to send top UN humanitarian official to Kenya

Ban Ki-moon to send top UN humanitarian official to Kenya

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced plans to dispatch his top humanitarian official to Kenya, where more than 300,000 people have been forced to flee their homes due to violence which has torn through the East African nation following last December’s disputed elections.

“With our partners, we have been able to meet the initial basic needs of displaced populations, totalling around 310,000 IDPs [internally displaced persons] spread over 192 sites in the western and central provinces,” Mr. Ban told reporters after briefing a closed meeting of the Security Council today on his recent visit to Africa.

“I am going to dispatch Mr. John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, to look after these issues.”

The Secretary-General recently returned from a visit to Africa, where he met with both President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, telling both men that “they bear a particular political responsibility for the future of Kenya.”

More than 800 people have lost their lives in the post-election violence.

Mr. Ban said that he underscored the need by all Kenyan leaders to bring an end to the “unacceptable violence and killings” and to settle all problems peacefully.

“I also appealed to all the political leaders to think beyond their individual interests or party lines, and to look to the future of Kenya as one country,” he added.

The Secretary-General reiterated his support for the mediation efforts led by his predecessor, Kofi Annan, who heads the Panel of Eminent African Personalities.

During his visit to Nairobi, the troubled nations’ capital, last week, Mr. Ban and Mr. Annan conferred on the roadmap for the talks between the Government and the opposition.

“The parties are now talking and discussing practical measures to stop the spiral of violence, to address the humanitarian crisis, and to restore fundamental human rights and liberties,” the Secretary-General said.

He noted that he has assigned several members of his staff to assist Mr. Annan’s team and pointed out that a UN Development Programme (UNDP) Trust Fund has been created in support of the peace efforts.

“Needless to say, much more needs to be done,” Mr. Ban pointed out, urging donors to step up their contributions to address the problem.

In a related development, High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour will deploy a three-week fact-finding mission to Kenya beginning tomorrow to assess rights violations committed since last December.

The team will travel around the country to gather first-hand information from victims, witnesses, Government officials, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and representatives of the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights, among others.

“Truth and accountability are of critical importance in putting an end to the violence and preventing future human rights violations,” Ms. Arbour said.

Meanwhile, an emergency United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) team has been deployed to the border region between Kenya and Uganda, where some 12,000 people have fled in the wake of the December elections.

According to Ugandan authorities, these Kenyans are taking refuge in the south and south-east of Uganda.

UNHCR is registering new arrivals, and its team will lead emergency response efforts and coordinate with local and central Ugandan authorities.

The agency’s Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Judy Cheng-Hopkins met today with Kenya’s Minister for Special Programmes who is overseeing the efforts to assist IDPs.

Ms. Cheng-Hopkins assured the Government of UNHCR’s readiness to take part in efforts to help the displaced.