Human Rights – Kenya

February 8th, 2008 - abvadmin



8th February, 2008

Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps the Government is taking to raise concerns regarding the possible violation of the fundamental human rights of Kenyan people following media reports of ethnic cleansing in the Rift Valley; if the distribution of Irish Aid is affected by recent developments; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Dermot Ahern): I propose to take Questions Nos. 95 and 98 together.

I remain deeply concerned by recent developments in Kenya, where over 1,000 people have been killed and between 250,000 and 300,000 have been displaced from their homes in the aftermath of the elections on 27 December and the announcement of the re-election of Mr. Kibaki as President. The initial assessment by the EU election observation mission which monitored the elections stated that they fell short of key international and regional standards for democratic elections. The chairman of the Electoral Commission of Kenya , Mr. Samuel Kivuitu, said that he could not say if Mr. Kibaki had won the election fairly, while Mr. Amos Wako, the Kenyan Attorney General, has called for an inquiry into Mr. Kibaki’s re-election, casting serious doubts on the official election results. It is important that all such allegations of election irregularities are urgently and thoroughly investigated through the appropriate channels.

The ethnic dimension to the violence which has occurred is a matter of particular concern, and responsible leadership at the highest level is urgently needed. I am also concerned by the fact that two Opposition MPs have been among those killed. Any efforts to resolve the current crisis must also address more long-term issues, such as the need for constitutional and electoral reform and greater progress in tackling corruption within Kenya, as well as the immediate issue of the disputed election outcome.

A panel of eminent African personalities, headed by the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, is currently attempting to mediate a political settlement between the Kenyan Government and the Opposition. President Kibaki and Mr. Odinga have had two face-to-face meetings since the election, on 24 and 29 January in Nairobi, as part of Mr. Annan’s mediation efforts. These efforts achieved a breakthrough on 1 February, with agreement on a framework for negotiations covering the election outcome, the humanitarian situation, the political crisis and land tenure and reform issues. The discussions are due to last a month and aim to end the current violence within two weeks. At the same time, the fact that violence has continued is deeply disturbing.

The UN last night approached the Irish Mission in New York requesting us, along with a number of other donors, to provide financial support for the Annan-led mediation efforts. Given our strong national support for Mr. Annan’s efforts, we will respond positively to this request immediately.

My EU colleagues and I discussed Kenya at the General Affairs and External Relations Council in Brussels on 28 January. Council conclusions were agreed which stress the need for a political solution to the violence in Kenya, and call on all sides to give the necessary full support to the mediation efforts of the eminent panel. The Council conclusions make clear the EU’s willingness to assist Mr. Annan’s efforts in any way it can, if requested. They stress that any solution must reflect the democratic will of the Kenyan people and that failure by Kenya’s leaders to work seriously for a political resolution at this time is likely to have implications for future EU-Kenya relations.

Senior officials from my Department have held meetings in relation to the situation with the Kenyan Ambassador in Dublin, and have conveyed to her the Government’s serious concerns, particularly in regard to threats made against human rights defenders in Kenya, including Mr. Kiai, the head of the Kenyan National Commission for Human Rights. The ambassador has confirmed that these concerns have been relayed to the highest levels of her government. My Department has also been closely monitoring the consular situation and has regularly updated its travel advice, cautioning against any non-essential travel at the present time. Ireland is a significant humanitarian donor to Kenya. However, as the Deputies will be aware, no aid goes through the Kenyan Government. Since 2006, Irish Aid has provided just over €6 million in humanitarian funding for Kenya. In addition to this, Irish Aid has provided over €16 million in funding since 2006 to Irish, international and local NGOs as well as missionaries working in Kenya, including World Vision, Trócaire and Concern.

Last month, I announced an extra €1million in humanitarian funding for Kenya to be distributed through Irish NGOs there. As indicated, we will also make funding available to support the Annan mediation talks. There are no indications at the current time that humanitarian aid is not reaching those for whom it is intended. I will, of course, continue to monitor the situation closely.

Deputy Pat Breen: I welcome the Minister’s reply as regards the amount of funding the Irish Government has given to Kenya over a number of years, in particular the €1 million given in recent times. We are well aware of Irish development agencies working in Kenya, such Goal and Trócaire and of course the many Irish missionaries there. I believe every parish could name someone working in Kenya, whether as a nun or priest. I know a Fr. Martin Keane, who works there.

While doing research on this question before coming to the Chamber, I came across a clip from Youtube. It showed the difficulties the Red Cross has in distributing food in Kenya, particularly with the widespread roadblocks and the numbers of people displaced. It reported 1,000 people being killed, 300,000 displaced from their homes etc. I wonder whether the Irish missionaries or agencies working in Kenya have experienced any of that. Are any of our missionaries in danger, particularly those who might be working in the Rift Valley?

Deputy Dermot Ahern: As far as possible we have liaised with all the people with whom we have contact and know are in Kenya. I agree with the Deputy as regards the very strong Irish missionary presence there. At this time we are not aware of anyone who is in grave difficulty. After the initial outbreak of difficulties, however, we aided and assisted a considerable number of people.

As regards the logistics of delivering food, there has been a dramatic improvement. The World Food Programme, WFP, provided 80 metric tonnes in a significant internally displaced persons, IDP, camp, sufficient for one month’s supplies. On Friday and Saturday, 70 metric tonnes of food cereal and 27 metric tonnes of non-cereal were distributed to another ten sites. There were some difficulties. The Deputy is correct in his indication that WFP trucks had been stopped at roadblocks, but these have now proceeded with security escorts. It would appear the issue of humanitarian aid delivery is being looked after. There may, obviously, be incidents here and there, but by and large we are happy the aid is being delivered.