Kenya: top UN emergency relief official arrives to assess humanitarian crisis

Kenya: top UN emergency relief official arrives to assess humanitarian crisis

John Holmes
The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator arrived in Kenya today to assess the humanitarian crisis resulting from the recent post-election violence that has claimed some 1,000 lives and forced over 300,000 people to flee their homes.

"I want to see for myself the humanitarian situation on the ground and to understand where we need to take our aid efforts in the future so that we reach people in need in all parts of Kenya," John Holmes said at the start of his three-day visit.

Mr. Holmes, who is also Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, stressed that the political crisis sparked by last December's disputed elections must be solved through negotiation, and voiced his support to the mediation efforts led by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The two men met today in Nairobi to discuss how humanitarian assistance can contribute to ending the current political crisis.

The Coordinator also met with UN staff, as well as Kenyan officials dealing with the relief operations, and with the head of the Kenya Red Cross Society, a key humanitarian partner of the UN.

He will travel tomorrow to the cities of Kakuru and Molo in the west, where he will meet those who have been affected by the recent violence.

More than 310,000 people have become internally displaced in the six weeks since the elections in which President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner over opposition leader Raila Odinga. In addition, some 12,000 Kenyans have fled to neighbouring Uganda.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed food to 212,000 people in Kenya's Rift Valley and the west, as well as 160,000 people in Nairobi. Food rations are being distributed in all the main sites for internally displaced persons (IDPs).

WFP, the Kenya Red Cross Society and other partners are also setting up transition shelters in Kisumu to offer essential services, including a one-week food ration, to displaced people in transit.

Meanwhile, a fact-finding mission deployed by High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour is continuing its investigation into allegations of grave rights violations in the post-election period.

In addition, staff from the office of the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide are on the ground to examine the ethnic dimension of the conflict, as well as the extent to which this ethnic violence was organized.

"They're going out into the field where violence has taken place to see exactly what is going on or has gone on and to give us a picture of whether there has been incitement, by whom and where responsibility lies," Special Adviser Francis Deng told the UN News Service.

The team, which is expected to conclude their visit in a few days, will also look at "the extent to which there can be said to be responsibility in terms of incitement, as well as crimes committed for which people should be held accountable, both domestically and internationally," Mr. Deng said.