*Women in White: The phrase "Women and Children Hit Hardest" is usually deployed in a sarcastic manner here in the USA; the purpose being to mock the purveyors of Identity Politics and of Nanny-statism. With the Kenya Crisis, however, the phrase carries none of its sarcasm and all of its horror: women and children--the most vulnerable groups--are the victims of not only quick deaths, but slow ones. Deaths of optimally functioning bodies, souls and spirits.
Kenyan women wearing white clothes to symbolise peace vowed on Thursday to surround the venue of crisis talks until a solution is found to the east African country's worst turmoil since independence.*Kenya's religious leaders--Christian, Muslim and Hindu--call for new elections. Their statement is here.
Many women and children have been among the victims of post-election violence which has killed at least 1,000 people and forced more then 300,000 from their homes in a country previously seen as one of Africa's most stable.
Cases of rape and sexual violence doubled within days of trouble erupting, according to the United Nations. In refugee camps, traumatised children in makeshift classrooms have been drawing burned houses and beheaded people.
"All of you -- wear your white dresses, carry your food. Tomorrow (Friday) we shall go to peace house," said Violet Mavisi, an activist with the Coalition of Women for Peace and Justice, referring to the Nairobi hotel where talks are ongoing.
"We will circle their cars and make sure that those guys do not come out of there without a peace settlement."
*Odinga’s ODM threatens to resume protests if Kibaki’s PNU remains intransigent on changing the constitution to create the post of prime minister. The position was abolished by Jomo Kenyatta, independent Kenya’s first president. The government calls the threat a ‘bullying tactic’ since the all of the other protests resulted in many deaths. ODM has given a one week deadline.
The PNU responds by naming the threat: blackmail.
*Clashes in Kenya’s Mount Elgon are going on unabated. In fairness, these clashes have been going on sporadically for years, with the main actor said to be a group called Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF). The bone of contention? Land allocation and distribution from the government. The grievance sounds familiar if you've been paying attention.
"Mt Elgon is a reflection of the country. If we had taken this [the Mt Elgon crisis] as a case study then maybe it would have helped solve the current crisis in the country," she added. ['She' is the National Council of Churches of Kenya coordinator for the western region, Florence Makhanu.]*Kenya’s woes are destabilizing the entire East African region.
Before violence erupted after the disputed December 2007 election, Kenya was the region’s hub, with many people in neighbouring countries traveling frequently to the capital, Nairobi, for medical treatment, holidays, trade and education. IRIN spoke to a cross-section of people in Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, Uganda and Tanzania and Sudan to gauge how the crisis was affecting them:Remember what Douglas Farah said: a destabilized Kenya is an opportunity for a “stabilizing” force.
“Most consumables in Rwanda are imported, so delays in delivery from Kenya mean shortages, which translate into price hikes, which of course have an effect on our pockets,” a young Rwandan executive, who requested anonymity, told IRIN. “The sooner Kenya can return to a normal state of affairs, the better for us all in the region.”
UPDATE: Peace deal done? Almost.
Kenya’s rival political parties have nearly completed a deal to end the crisis that has kept this country on edge for almost two months, with the government agreeing to create a prime minister position, one of the opposition’s chief demands, a high-ranking government official said Thursday.
Not all the details have been worked out, the official said, but lawyers were drafting language on Thursday evening that would outline the job description of the prime minister position and how it would be incorporated into Kenya’s political framework.
An opposition official [ODM] confirmed that a deal was close, but was a bit more cautious, saying that the amount of power given to the new prime minister position had not yet been pinned down.Odinga has said that the bare minimum he would accept is a post as PM--a position that was abolished by President Jomo Kenyatta in 1964.
“It’s a major achievement,” said the opposition official, on the condition of anonymity because both sides had been asked by international mediators not to speak to the news media. “The next challenge will be to put meat on the bone.”