- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 14, 2009

NAIROBI, KENYA (AP) - Government anger over a U.N. report accusing it of running deaths squads in Kenya has led to threats against members of human rights groups and some have gone into hiding, activists said Saturday.

Two activists who provided information in February to the author of the report, U.N. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, were shot and killed hours after they were denounced by a Kenyan government spokesman, but it is unclear whether the deaths were linked to their work.

Other activists in western Kenya said they have been followed by plainclothes intelligence men and received threatening phone calls. Four have fled the country and 10 are in hiding. The activists provided information about alleged abuses by the military during a crackdown on a brutal militia in the Mt. Elgon region last year. Thousands of Kenyans were arrested _ some as young as 11 _ and many allege they were tortured in custody.

On Saturday, a government spokesman did not return calls seeking comment.

Alston said the Mt. Elgon crackdown was one of three events during which the government was responsible for extrajudicial killings. The other two were Kenya’s postelection violence and a crackdown on a gang known as the Mungiki.

Job Bwonya of Western Kenya Human Rights Watch fled to Uganda after local officials demanded he provide a list of witnesses he had arranged for Alston to interview. Government officials have denounced him on the radio, and he has received threatening calls, he said. The wife of one of his staff, now in hiding, was told by officials she would not receive relief food if she did not take part in a demonstration denouncing her husband, he said.

“These officials came early in the morning and made her carry a placard denouncing her husband through the streets,” Bwonya said.

Martin Wanyonyi, another human rights activist, said he received threatening calls, and Taiga Wanyanja of Mwatikho Torture Survivors Organization said he had been followed by plainclothes policemen.

Ken Jones, 72, a British doctor who treated torture victims and documented human rights abuses in the area, was arrested Friday and is under police guard in a local hospital. It was unclear whether the detention of Jones, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, was related to his work or his complaints to the Red Cross and Kenyan government over military abuses.

Alton’s group is the latest of many local and international organizations that have accused the government of extrajudicial killings. Activists say the failure of Kenya’s coalition government to tackle the problem is contributing to a culture of impunity which will feed into future political violence.

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