March 17, 2008 / 7:38 AM / 12 years ago

World must accept some blame over Kenya: group

A woman runs away as protesters try to dismantle a bus burnt during a protest against an overnight police crackdown on people living in Nairobi's Mathare slum, February 20, 2008. World leaders had to accept some blame for the violence that rocked Kenya after a disputed December election, killing more than 1,000 people, the international Human Rights Watch group said on Monday. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

NAIROBI (Reuters) - World leaders had to accept some blame for the violence that rocked Kenya after a disputed December election, killing more than 1,000 people, the international Human Rights Watch group said on Monday.

“Foreign governments should remember that decades of turning a blind eye to corruption, impunity and mismanagement by Kenya’s governments has contributed to the recent crisis,” the U.S.-based group said in a report.

The world was shocked at the bloodshed in Kenya, previously seen as a haven of stability on a volatile continent, and many leaders helped pressure President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga into a February 28 power-sharing pact.

Human Rights Watch accused police of causing “hundreds” of deaths by using excessive force during the two-month crisis in the East African country, especially in opposition strongholds like the town of Kisumu.

Fleeing children had been shot, the group said in its 88-page report.

Lethal force was used quickly in opposition areas but restraint was shown towards pro-government supporters, it said.

The crisis was Kenya’s worst since independence from Britain in 1963 and damaged its reputation as a prosperous trade and tourism hub. Kenya is East Africa’s biggest economy.

Human Rights Watch blamed successive post-independence governments for failing to address land and poverty issues at the root of the violence.

“Much of the ethnic-based violence was organized by local leaders, politicians and businessmen from all sides, according to eyewitnesses,” it said.

Editing by Ralph Gowling

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