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Monthly Archives: December 2007

Calls for calm in Kenya after poll violence

Sample ImageA man was killed in western Kenya yesterday in fresh violence linked to the disputed presidential poll, prompting the international community to appeal for calm and police to beef up security.

The latest victim, who was looting property in the western town of Kisumu, marked the seventh death in violence that has erupted since Thursday's election.

"The thug was among a gang that was looting property in town. More than 10 others have been arrested," Nyanza province police chief Grace Kaindi said.

A controversial vote tallying process that has dragged on for three days saw opposition challenger Raila Odinga's early lead almost cancelled out, with pending constituencies expected to favour incumbent Mwai Kibaki.

On Saturday, angry supporters of Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) went on a rampage for several hours, burning tyres and looting shops.

"We have put a lot of contingencies on the ground to reinforce security in the country," police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said.

"The ECK (Electoral Commission of Kenya) should announce the winner because the more it waits, the more tension will flare up again," a top police official also said.

Hundreds of paramilitary police ringed the central tallying centre in Nairobi, amid fears disgruntled Odinga supporters from Nairobi's slums could take to the streets again if Kibaki is declared the winner.

"I am urging our opponents to restrain themselves and let the Electoral Commission of Kenya carry out its constitutional mandate," said Ngari Gituku, spokesman for Kibaki's Party of National Unity.

"Kenyans must desist from acts of hooliganism," he said, referring to the riots that erupted on Saturday in pro-Odinga bastions in Nairobi and western Kenya when the trend in results started shifting.

Gituku urged both sides to "have the grace to accept the verdict of the people made at the ballot box and the politics of chest-thumping must not cloud judgement."

Observer teams from the European Union, the Commonwealth and various African groupings have all urged restraint while the United States and Britain also voiced their concern overnight.

"We condemn the violence that occurred in Kenya as its citizens await these election results, and call on all Kenyans to remain calm while the vote tabulation process is concluded," US State Department spokesman Tom Casey said in a statement.

"We are disturbed at the violence surrounding the elections," said a statement from British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Secretary of State for International Development Douglas Alexander.

"The British government calls for an end to the violence, respect for the democratic process and for all Kenya's political leaders to act responsibly," the statement added.

Iran moderates relaunch paper ahead of key vote

Allies of pragmatic Iranian cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Sunday relaunched a moderate newspaper ahead of March parliamentary elections seen as a battle between moderates and conservatives.

"Kargozaran" (Executives), which is owned by the Executives of Construction Party, hit the newsstands again with a new layout and staff after it closed down in September due to financial problems.

The party, which was formed by former ministers from Rafsanjani's 1989-1997 presidency and his allies, has joined reformists in a broad coalition for March 14 parliamentary polls.

The new chief editor, Mehran Karami, was a columnist for the banned moderate dailies Shargh and Ham Mihan, which was directed by former Tehran mayor and the party's secretary general Gholam Hossein Karbaschi.

Kargozaran's new layout is very similar to that of Ham Mihan, which was shut down in July less than two months after the authorities allowed it to reappear after a seven-year ban.

"In its new form, Kargozaran seeks to bridge idealism and pragmatism and create a balance between reformism and conservatism so that neither is sacrificed to the other," Karami wrote in an editorial.

"There is a daunting path ahead. Political camps and groups, especially those in power and the ones seeking it need to increase their tolerance to overcome obstacles on this way," he added.

Iran's moderate press burgeoned in the early years of the reformist presidency of Mohammad Khatami from 1997 to 2005 but was then hit by a series of bans which have continued under his hardline successor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But despite the frequent closures, Iran retains a surprisingly vibrant moderate press scene led by the reformist dailies Etemad Melli (National Confidence), Etemad (Confidence) and the economic paper Sarmayeh (Capital).