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Rights group warns of violence in Kenya’s 2012 elections
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NAIROBI, Kenya | Three years ago, Kenya’s top leaders pulled the country back from devastating post-election violence. Today, the country is peaceful, but human rights advocates say they worry that the country could explode again during next year’s vote.
More than 1,000 people died and 600,000 were displaced in the ensuing tribal violence after the disputed 2007 presidential election.
The still-smoldering issues in Kenya include demobilizing militias that fought during the post-election violence, addressing the impunity of connected officials and addressing poverty and youth unemployment, the independent Kenya Human Rights Commission said.
“Our concern is that, should the government not implement these reforms, the 2007-08 violence will seem like a Christmas party compared to the violence in 2012,” commission researcher George Morara said.
The commission gave its assessment on the third anniversary of a power-sharing agreement between President Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga that ended the violence. That agreement made Mr. Odinga prime minister.
The group gave Kenya’s coalition government 43 points out of 100 in its scorecard of government performance in implementing the reforms agreed upon three years ago.
Kenya’s prime minister has congratulated the country for achieving one of the key reforms - a new constitution that was approved in an August referendum. The new document reduces the powers of the presidency, which had been used by Kenya’s first two leaders to favor their tribes in land distribution, government jobs and tenders.
Still, critics say the president already has violated provisions of the new constitution 11 times since its adoption last year.
Peter Karanja, leader of the National Council of Churches in Kenya, said he is suspicious that efforts have not been made to demobilize youth groups and militias recruited to carry out the violence between December 2007 and February 2008.
“The failure to do this three years after the violence raises suspicions that there are plans to engage those groups in similar violence in the future,” Mr. Karanja said.
Tens of thousands of internally displaced people still live in camps and cannot go back to their home areas - a testament to the lingering hostility between communities, said David Malombe, an official at the Kenya Human Rights Commission.
Some politicians continue to fan the flames.
In December, the Hague-based International Criminal Court prosecutor named key suspects he wants the court to investigate for masterminding the post-election violence. Soon after, allies of the six suspects said the ICC’s investigations were targeting certain tribes and ignoring others.
Three politicians face charges of hate speech after being shown on TV asking people from other tribes to move out of the constituencies they represent if they voted for a new constitution.
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