Kenyan politicians were behind the violence that killed more than 1,000 people following the country’s disputed presidential election, a watchdog group declared today.
A report by Human Rights Watch also found that police shot hundreds of protesters in Nairobi, the western port town of Kisumu and other towns between late December and early January. In many cases, it said, witnesses reported that the police had not acted in self-defence and had not been provoked.
Much of the violence after the December 27 presidential election, which local and foreign observers said was rigged, was between rival tribal groups.
Local political leaders from pro-government and opposition parties as well as businessmen helped organise attacks, the report said.
“As the country slid into inter-ethnic violence, there were examples of the police intervening to protect lives, but in many other situations the police appear to have had little will or capacity to prevent violence,” the Human Rights Watch report said.
Salim Lone, a spokesman for the opposition Orange Democratic Movement, said some party supporters were involved in violence, but their actions were not sanctioned by the party or its leadership.
“You cannot blame a political party for individual acts of violence committed by its supporters,” he said.
He said he believed the party and its leadership would be cleared of any involvement by a commission set up under a power-sharing deal signed last month between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga. The commission is expected to begin work in the coming months.