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Kenya seeks $400 million for rebuilding

/ Source: The Associated Press

On the day a global human rights watchdog accused politicians and police of helping orchestrate  violence in Kenya, the president and the top opposition leader joined to appeal for $400 million for an emergency humanitarian and reconstruction program.

President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga presented representatives of 40 embassies — including Kenya's major creditors Canada, China, the European Union, Japan, Russia and the United States — with an outline of the emergency program Monday.

"We want to restore peace; we want to resettle as well as reintegrate the displaced to their respective areas and neighborhoods," said Odinga, who is expected to become prime minister once parliament passes the laws necessary to implement a power sharing deal struck after both he and Kibaki claimed to have won the Dec. 27 presidential election. Local and foreign observers have said the election was rigged and it was impossible to determine who won.

"We urge you to keep in mind that this is an emergency program that requires resources that are readily available and can be committed immediately without delay," Kibaki told the diplomats.

Their election dispute had sparked violence that killed more than 1,000 people, and profoundly set back an economy based on tourism and exports that had driven the region. Much of the violence took on an ethnic dimension.

Rights report issued
In its report Monday, New York-based Human Rights Watch called on the government to address deep-rooted tensions "laid bare" by the election turmoil. It cited disputes over "the ownership and allocation of land, the constitution, and impunity for corruption and the organization of political violence."

Human Rights Watch accused pro-government and opposition politicians of helping finance and organize the violence. It also accused police of shooting hundreds of people protesting the election result in Nairobi, the western port town of Kisumu and other towns between late December and early January. In many cases, HRW said, witnesses reported that the police had not acted in self-defense and had not been provoked.

Kenyan and other international rights groups and researchers have made similar allegations about the involvement of politicians and businesspeople in the violence, as well as excesses by the police. Kenyan politicians and police have repeatedly rejected such charges.

The Human Rights Watch report was based on 200 interviews with victims, witnesses, perpetrators, police, magistrates, diplomats, staff of Kenyan and international development and rights groups, journalists, lawyers, businessmen and members of parliament across the country.

"Far from being spontaneous for the most part, the violence that took place throughout January and February was organized," said Ben Rawlence, a researcher at the Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "It was incited in some cases prior to the election and following the election it was coordinated. Meetings took place, elders and youth came together, money was raised, discussions took place about when and where attack should take place."

Group wants crimes prosecuted
"Human Rights Watch believes that there is no alternative to criminal prosecutions of those who have contributed to the violence, including for members of the police found to have used excessive force," said the report.

Police officials were not immediately available to comment.

Salim Lone, a spokesman for the opposition Orange Democratic Movement, said some party supporters were involved in  violence, but "you cannot blame a political party for individual acts of violence committed by its supporters."

George Nyamweya, spokesman for Kibaki's Party of National Unity, said he could not comment as he had not seen a copy of the report.