Kenyan Community in Canada in Action for Kenya

Kenyan Community in Canada in Action for Kenya

KENYA: PEACE, JUSTICE AND RECONCILIATION
PRESS RELEASE
Ottawa, February 16, 2008

Concerned Kenyan-Canadians living in the National Capital Region along with African and Canadian friends of Kenya are rallying today with three main objectives: to demonstrate our solidarity with the people of Kenya at a time of suffering and social instability; to support the on-going negotiations and call for peace, reconciliation and justice; and finally to recognize humanitarian assistance offered so far by Canadians to victims of violence and displacement while urging continuing and increased humanitarian support to those impacted by the fighting.
The tragic events that have rocked Kenya since the Dec 27, 2008 elections have caused untold suffering, many deaths and forced displacement of populations. Figures provided by the media show conservatively 1,000 dead and 300,000 persons displaced. However more accurate figures from NGOs which work closely with affected communities estimate that up to 2000 may have died either directly or indirectly from the conflict with at least 500,000 displaced from ethnic cleansing evictions. They also estimate that at least 30,000 known homes and farms have been razed to the ground including whole villages and townships. The economic and social consequences of these disturbances are simply uncountable and will take Kenyans a long time to recover from.

The presidential elections dispute that triggered this fierce ethnic conflict has exposed serious underlying issues that have for far too long been ignored by politicians, policy-makers and donors. These include:
1) Extreme poverty for where more than 50% of the population live on less than $5 a day while a tiny minority (less than 2% of the population) control more than 45% of the Kenya’s wealth.
2) Extremely unequal distribution of land and access to livelihoods and employment.
3) Extremely unequal geographic spread of national wealth. This has direct and serious ethnic consequences and leads to easy manipulation by power-seekers.
4) Weak national institutions and instruments for administering justice, civil rights and the rule of law. In particularly, we note the much-deferred constitutional reform aimed at replacing the outmoded pre-independence document of 1962.
5) The grand corruption and theft by the ruling classes coupled with the arrogant indifference of Kenyan leaders to the plight of citizens during the last 45 years since independence.
6) A population that is overwhelmingly youthful and unemployed. More than 78% of the population is under 35 with an unemployment rate of over 46% in some regions.

Kenyan Canadians call upon the two sides to the on-going dispute, Raila Odinga (the Orange Democratic Movement – ODM) and Mwai Kibaki (Party of National Unity – PNU) to address exhaustively the six underlying issues above in addition to settling their electoral dispute. Unless this is done comprehensively the conflict and the attendant political instability and insecurity will likely recur sooner rather than later – with perhaps graver consequences.

We support the vigorous mediation efforts led by the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. We however, wish to observe that much anticipated agreement should be a good and durable one – not merely an expedient one.  The agreement must be based on the principles of social equity, justice and democratic rule of law. Reaching such a far-reaching agreement calls for true leadership on the part of the parties now at the table. Given the complexity of the agenda at hand, a quick agreement or unrealistic deadlines risk leaving important underlying causes unresolved. We note further that the overbearing insistence by big powers (particularly the European Union and the USA) for a quick agreement at all costs – carries the grave risk that the negotiating parties may be forced to gloss over root causes to Kenya’s poverty and instability. This is the moment for decisive leadership to come to the fore to ensure that Kenya can properly avoid once and for all the tricky path towards a failed state.

Kenyan Canadians applaud the prompt humanitarian assistance and support offered by the Canadian government people. More such assistance will be needed once the true extent of destruction, human suffering and needs for re-construction become clearer. As Kenya embarks on the challenging course towards reconciliation, peace and justice – we urge the Canadian government and people to continue supporting Kenyans in this hour of need.

Our own community is organizing on-going fundraising activities in collaboration with the Canadian Red Cross. The kick-off event will take place on Wednesday, February 20, 2008 at 165 Sparks Street Ottawa at the National Press Club (tickets cost $35.00 with a tax deduction receipt provided). Direct deposits can be made to any Branch of the Bank of Montreal – Account No: 3874-8207-056.

Pambazuka 

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