Of course not

Salim Lone, the spokesman for Sergio Vieira de Mello who was killed in the truck bombing of the UN Headquarters in Baghdad in August 2003 — who was earlier the Director of the Media Division in the Department for Public Information at UNHQ/NY, is now apparently working as spokesman for the angry opposition who say they have been cheated out of an electoral victory last month in Kenya.

Lone, whose family was of subcontinental origin before the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan, was born in Kenya, and worked as an editor for the Kenyan daily paper, The Nation. But, he got in trouble for his political stances, then his nationality was revoked during the African persecution of subcontinentals. So, he went to study anthropology at the New School for Social Research — and was rather radical and overbearing at the time (we actually took a class together, when I was a first year postgrad anthropology student there myself in the fall 1969 semester). After getting his doctorate, Salim took refuge at the United Nations, married a New Yorker, and found a niche editing a publication called “Africa Recovery“.

The AP reported today that “The government of President Mwai Kibaki and the opposition have traded blame for the killing and arson that followed Kibaki’s victory in the Dec. 27 election that international observers say was followed by a rigged count. Some of the attacks took on an ugly ethnic twist, with other tribes turning on Kibaki’s Kikuyu people. But the respected and independent Kenyan Human Rights Commission says there is more to it, and that it appears to involve politicians from both sides. It ‘was portrayed as some primal irate rising up of (ethnic) communities against each other’, commission chairwoman Muthoni Wanyeki told The Associated Press. ‘But our investigations indicate it seems to be very organized militia activity … (the violence) very much seems to be directed and well organized’. She pointed to the torching of a church sheltering Kikuyu, dozens of whom burned to death. ‘One group was watching the church, and then another took over’, Wanyeki said. ‘We say it’s organized because they are working in groups of 10 to 15 people and in shifts’. Their training areas have been identified, some of the people from whom they get money have been identified’, she said. ‘They are being paid 500 per burning and 1,000 per death’. The information, she said, comes from about 100 monitors and a network including prominent individuals and community-based organizations who were given pre-election training in researching human rights violations. She said information is being compiled in a report to be published this week and given to another body, the state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, for investigation by appropriate authorities. The state-funded commission, as well as a bishop and a police superintendent, agree that a lot of the violence seemed orchestrated. However, they stop short of claiming money changed hands, and both camps vying for the presidency strongly deny it … Odinga’s spokesman, Salim Lone, said the charges of payment were ‘wild propaganda’. ‘I cannot categorically say that no politician is doing that (paying militias)’, he said, but bristled at the suggestion that his party, having denounced the violence, could at the same time be fomenting it … Maina Kiai, chairman of the state-funded human rights body, said that in response to attacks on Kikuyu, government politicians have recruited the Mungiki, a Kikuyu gang blamed for a string of beheadings carried out in Nairobi’s slums this year. Kiai said the government has promised Mungiki immunity in return for protecting the Kikuyu. He said his information came from several sources including Mungiki members. In a crackdown last year, police killed dozens of alleged Mungiki. Government spokesman Alfred Mutua said Kiai’s charge was ‘preposterous. There is no truth to it’. He accused Kiai of being partisan and challenged him to produce evidence…” This AP report is posted here.

The International Herald Tribune had another set of comments from Lone: “Both the government and opposition leaders, who have blamed one another for the surprise burst of bloodletting in the relatively stable country, are now also pointing fingers over the lack of progress in negotiations. ‘The government had offered dialogue which was to be facilitated by President John Kufuor, but Orange Democratic Movement leaders have not been responsive’, a government statement said, referring to Odinga’s political movement. Salim Lone, a spokesman for Odinga, said that ‘the government was obviously never serious about negotiations’. ‘To tell you the truth, we’re getting discouraged’, Lone said”. This IHT article is posted here.

And, now we hear that former UN SG Kofi Annan, during whose time Salim Lone prospered, is going to Kenya to try to mediate…

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