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Annan condemns Kenya 'gross and systematic' rights abuses

[JURIST] Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan [official profile] expressed concern Saturday about "gross and systematic abuses of human rights" taking place in Kenya in the wake of last month's disputed presidential election [JURIST report]. Annan is in the country to help mediate the conflict between Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki [official profile] and opposition candidate Raila Odinga [campaign profile]. Annan acknowledged that the violence in the country initially stemmed from protests concerning Kibaki's re-election, but said that it had evolved into "something else." Annan also said, "We cannot accept that periodically, every five years or so, this sort of incident takes place and no-one is held to account. Impunity cannot be allowed to stand," adding that Kenyans should "respond with sympathy and understanding, and not try to revenge."

The controversial presidential vote has sparked simmering ethnic tensions in Kenya [JURIST news archive], where Kibaki has long been accused of using his position to favor members of the Kikuyu tribe. Fueling accusations of malfeasance, Kibaki won the December 27 election despite early opinion polls that placed rival candidate Odinga in the lead. Thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets following the election which prompted the government to temporarily ban public rallies and institute a curfew in Nairobi, the capital city. In all, over 700 people have been killed since protests began and thirteen nations, including several European Union members and the United States, have threatened to cut off aid to Kenya's government until the crisis is resolved and democracy is restored. Earlier this week, Odinga's opposition party, the Orange Democratic Movement [party website] filed a formal complaint [JURIST report] with the International Criminal Court [official website], alleging that Kibaki's administration has committed crimes against humanity while using force against demonstrators. The Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) [official site] on Saturday launched an official investigation [KNCHR brief; Standard report] into the alleged human rights violations. BBC News has more. The Standard has local coverage.

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