Kenya’s leader urges peace ahead of vote as tensions rise

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta
Updated 22 October 2017
0

Kenya’s leader urges peace ahead of vote as tensions rise

NAIROBI: President Uhuru Kenyatta urged Kenyans to remain peaceful ahead of Thursday’s fresh presidential election, while a witness said police shot and wounded at least one person amid a rise in ethnic tensions in the capital, Nairobi.
A resident of the low-income Lucky Summer neighborhood said tensions grew after members of Kenyatta’s ethnic Kikuyu community performed a ceremony involving the slaughter of sheep. Some residents interpreted it as a war ceremony. Others said it was a ceremony to recruit members of the Mungiki, a proscribed quasi-religious gang known for beheadings that has been used in past elections to attack supporters of the opposition, Sheila Kariuki said.
Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga went to the site of the ceremony and police shot at them when an argument started, Kariuki said. Running battles between stone-throwing residents ensued until local legislator Tom Kajwang arrived and calmed the Odinga supporters, Kariuki said.
Kajwang condemned the police for allowing the meeting to occur.
“This is intimidation that we won’t allow. This is aimed at provoking us and we will protect ourselves,” he said.
Area police chief Alice Kimeli confirmed that police had shot one person and said the group performing the ceremony had asked for police protection.
Kenyatta’s re-election in August was nullified by the Supreme Court, citing irregularities, and a fresh election was ordered. Tensions have increased ahead of Thursday’s vote, which Odinga has said he is boycotting because the electoral commission has not made the reforms he seeks.
One member of Kenya’s electoral commission has resigned, and its chairman has said it will be difficult to guarantee that the new vote will be credible.
Human rights groups have accused Kenyatta’s government of using police to clamp down on dissent. Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) last week said police killed at least 67 opposition supporters in demonstrations after the results of the August vote were announced.
Violence has followed some previous elections. During a prayer meeting on Sunday, Kenyatta said the country narrowly avoided plunging into civil war after the flawed 2007 election, when more than 1,000 people were killed. Kenyatta was charged with orchestrating that violence, but the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) dropped the charges while citing threats to witnesses, bribery and interference.
Without citing the election, Pope Francis on Sunday spoke of his hopes for Kenya, telling faithful in St. Peter’s Square that the nation was in his thoughts.
“I am following, with particular attention, Kenya, which I visited in 2015, and for which I pray so that all the country will know how to face the current difficulties in a climate of constructive dialogue, having at heart the search for the common good,” the pope said.


Controversy over South Korean ban on corporal punishment at home

Updated 17 min 4 sec ago
0

Controversy over South Korean ban on corporal punishment at home

  • Reporting of child abuse rose more than 10-fold between 2001 and 2017 to 22,386 cases
  • Parental rights to physically discipline their children will be removed from the country’s civil code, an official said

SEOUL: A law allowing South Korean parents to physically discipline their children is to be scrapped, authorities said, prompting controversy in a country where hierarchical family values still predominate.
Reporting of child abuse — including neglect and emotional abuse as well as physical or sexual assaults — rose more than 10-fold between 2001 and 2017 to 22,386 cases, with 77 percent of the perpetrators known to be the victims’ parents.
“More in our society agree that child abuse is a serious social problem,” Seoul’s Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo told reporters.
“But many are still lenient about corporal punishment. The ministry is to change this perception.”
Parental rights to physically discipline their children will be removed from the country’s civil code, he said, where they have been stated since 1960. Physical punishment was also allowed in schools until 2010.
A recent government survey showed that 76.8 percent of adult South Koreans feel corporal punishment is necessary, and Thursday’s announcement prompted controversy.
Lee Kyung-ja, head of a conservative group of parents, was adamantly opposed to any change.
“I’m going to continue beating my kids even if it requires writing a contract with them,” she told AFP.
“I’ll refuse to give them food and pay for their tuition if they don’t listen to their parents — this is how I’ll re-establish my rights as a parent.”
South Korean children have been repeatedly cited as the least happy in the OECD group of developed countries, facing a high-pressure education system and deeply rooted traditional values which emphasize obedience and respect toward parents and authority figures.
That makes young victims of domestic violence especially vulnerable, as filing a complaint or publicly criticizing a parent can be considered a disgrace — or even a “sin against heaven.”
With few facilities for abuse victims, many parents facing prosecution have their charges dropped as there is no-one else to care for their children, said youth rights activist Kang Min-jin.
Earlier this year a 12-year-old girl who had reported abuse by both her biological father and her stepfather to police was murdered by the stepparent.
“Many Koreans still view as their children as their properties, rather than separate human beings who have their own set of opinions and judgment,” said activist Kang.
But Lee Hee-bum, who leads the conservative Freedom Union group, said the government decision amounted to state interference in personal and family lives.
“One should be able to decide how to parent his or her kids independently,” he said.