The Sunday Times
January 13, 2008
THE police chief was unapologetic about the number of people her force had shot dead in Kisumu, western Kenya, to quell looting in the violent aftermath of last month's disputed presidential elections.
"They don't know another language except the gun," said Deputy Police Commissioner Grace Kaindi, glancing up from her desk with pursed lips. A Kenyan police motto, "Keepers of the peace, defenders of the innocent", hung on her office wall.
In the darkness of the mortuary a few hundred yards away, her force's handiwork lay on the floor of three sweltering rooms: some 50 bodies under strips of crimson cloth with their feet poking out, waiting for families to collect them.
But that was not happening. The families of the dead were poor and could not afford funeral expenses. Others had still not been identified. A cloth strip across their foreheads said: "Unknown African". what does unknown african mean? is this really kenya?
The police ferried the bodies of the men they had shot to the mortuary. In the chaos, they brought some in alive, mixing them up with the dead, a priest said. Their suffering as they were left to die amid the corpses is unimaginable.
One after another, relatives filed in last week to check whether their loved ones were among those killed. "Yes, my son, your father is dead," sobbed Christine Awino, 20, to her young son Joseph. The boy was waiting outside the main entrance, his aunt comforting him and telling him not to cry.
Waving goodbye to the dead, another woman walked through the rooms where they lay in rows, crying out: "We will be back to avenge you"
How can the people of kenya trust their supposedly protector and upholder of justice while all these are ongoing?
The government has banned public gatherings in Kenya
Nearly 600 people have been killed in post-election violence, the Kenyan Red Cross has said, as opposition supporters protest December's vote.
HRW said Kenyan police in several cities have used live ammunition to disperse protesters and looters.
Defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga has called for further protests.
Police have banned public gatherings since violent clashes erupted after President Mwai Kibaki was declared re-elected in a controversial poll.
"Kenyan security forces have a duty to rein in criminal violence and should protect people, but they shouldn't turn their weapons on peaceful protesters," said Georgette Gagnon, acting Africa director at HRW.
The political violence, including tribal-based clashes, have also seen 250,000 flee their homes, the United Nations estimates.
Around half-a-million people will need emergency aid, including food and shelter, the UN said.
Defeated candidate Raila Odinga and his supporters say the vote was rigged.
On Sunday, he said he was ready for talks, but only if they were led by international mediators - a condition rejected by the president.
Mr Odinga has refused to join a power-sharing administration led by Mr Kibaki and has called for three days of protests beginning on Wednesday.
"Kenyans spoke for change, Kenyans want change and Kenyans will get change," he said to some 2,000 supporters at a Nairobi church on Sunday.
"I can see the light at the end of the tunnel," he said.
Tuesday's reopening of parliament, where Mr Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement won 99 seats to 43 for Mr Kibaki's Party of National Unity, may provide another flashpoint for violence.
Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is due in Nairobi this week to head a panel to attempt to broker a deal between the two sides.
Meanwhile, the United States and the European Union said their relations with Kenya would come under review unless Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga reach a compromise that restores stability.
The top American diplomat to Africa, Jendayi Frazer, said on Saturday that it was "imperative" that the two men sit down together "directly and without preconditions".