Secretary-General's press conference [unofficial transcript]
Nairobi, Kenya, 1 February 2008Ladies and gentlemen:
I am here today first to express my solidarity with the Kenyan people. I am extremely concerned and saddened by the level of civil strife yet unabated in this country. It has led to an intolerable level of deaths, destruction, displacement and suffering. This is unacceptable. It has to stop.
The humanitarian crisis we are witnessing is unprecedented in Kenya. Men, women, children, elderly, disabled and other vulnerable people have been uprooted, lost their property, their livelihood and are living in fear. An estimated total of 500,000 people from all walks of life have been affected and the spiral continues.
This has to stop.
This is the appeal I made to His Excellency Mr. Mwai Kibaki when I met him yesterday at the African Union summit and to the Honorable Raila Odinga when we discussed the situation this morning here in Nairobi. I also appealed today to the negotiators whom I met earlier with my predecessor, former Secretary-General Mr. Kofi Annan.
I also appealed today to members of Kenyan civil society working for peace: The killing must stop, the violence must end for the sake of the Kenyan people, for the sake of Kenya.
This is a message I brought with me from the African leaders I met yesterday at the AU Summit and from all other concerned world leaders as well as the UN Security Council.
The political crisis has evidently unleashed historic grievances which have led to a spiral of violence, displacement, revenge and renewed displacement.
The people and leaders of Kenya, particularly political leaders, have the duty, and the responsibility, to wake up and reverse this tragic path before it escalates into the horrors of mass killings and devastation we have witnessed in recent history. I have come to emphatically reiterate my fullest support to the mediation efforts led by the Chairman of the Panel of Eminent African Persons and Former SG, Kofi Annan, joined by Ms. Graça Machel and former President Benjamin Mkapa. They enjoy unanimous international support and respect.
I am encouraged by the constructive spirit that has prevailed throughout my discussions so far. I call on the Negotiating Teams to persevere and show the courage, vision and leadership to expeditiously find a just and peaceful solution.
I am also here to assess the humanitarian situation and the support provided by the United Nations family to the people of Kenya in this difficult time, and to reaffirm, loud and clear, that this support will continue.
It has not been easy for the people of Kenya. It has not been easy for our country team and the NGOs trying to provide assistance. They have backed the Government of Kenya's response and the rapid intervention by the Kenyan Red Cross Society which has spearheaded the relief efforts, saving lives and alleviating human suffering where-ever it is found.
However, the volatile security situation in the country is making it increasingly difficult for aid agencies to operate. We call on all parties involved in the crisis to spare no effort to ensure the secure and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance to all people affected.
Over the decades since independence, Kenya has shown itself capable of remarkable things. The Kenyan people have impressed and inspired the world in the stability and the progress they have achieved.
I appeal to all political leaders to look beyond the individual or partisan interests, look at the common interest for the brighter future of all Kenyans.
Today, I have come to appeal to Kenyan leaders to inspire the world yet again, by resolving differences peacefully and resuming the serious work of building a future for all Kenya's children.
I have come to appeal to all Kenyans to end the violence which has wounded and crippled this blessed country. I have come to call on all of you to put Kenya back on its rightful path -- that of one Kenya, united in peace, progress and freedom for all its people.
I call on all Kenyans to think and act as one people, one nation, one Kenya.
You together should move toward a better, a more just and prosperous country. For this journey, I, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, assure all Kenyan people that the UN and the international community will always stand on your side and spare no efforts to help you move forward.
Q: Mr Moon, what would you say has been your achievement from this visit?
SG: I came here to urge and appeal to all Kenyan people to resolve all the grievances, all the issues through dialogue in a peaceful manner. They must look beyond individual interests, at the common future of Kenya. Kenya has been known as the pillar of stability in this continent. This is the message I brought: this violence must stop first, then sit down together and resolve all these issues. The international community is watching, the future is on your shoulders.
Q: Which parts of the country are you going to visit and what message do you have for the people you will meet?
SG: I am visiting for just a little more than half a day here and I have met the political leaders and civil society leaders, and I have been briefed by my predecessor Mr Kofi Annan. Unfortunately I do not have time to spend more time to visit places. But I am fully briefed on the situation in Kenya and I appeal that we must stop this violence and stop killing people. This is unacceptable in this modern world.
Q: Does the United Nations recognize the government of Kenya?
SG: The United Nations is not an entity to recognize or not to recognize the sovereignty of any state. It is up to sovereign states to recognize others. But we are closely monitoring the situation, and all the causes of grievances which have made problems should be addressed through dialogue and democratic procedures.
Q: From your meetings with the leaders, do you feel that they are genuinely committed to resolving the problem?
SG: I am reasonably encouraged by the commitment of the political leaders and religious leaders who are now looking at ways of resolving the issues through peaceful means. My predecessor Kofi Annan who has been leading the mediation has made some progress, and I am encouraged by the situation which is calmer than before. This dialogue must continue until a solution is found.
Q: Is the UN considering pulling out from Kenya like the Africa Development Bank pulled out from Cote d'Ivoire due to the crisis in that country?
A: of course we have been closely monitoring and assessing the situation in Kenya. At this stage we do not have any such plans. Our security experts will continue to monitor the situation. What is important is that the government and the people of Kenya must inspire confidence and trust to the international community. You have already lost too much – this is a very unfortunate situation for a country which has enjoyed security and stability for so long. You must be ready to regain the trust and restore the confidence of the international community.
Q: What is the current security situation according to the UN? Is it green, yellow, amber, or red?
SG: Our security assessment is for internal purposes only, it is not public. It is our own assessment and is not for external release. We take it for our own security arrangements.
Q: Is the UN considering sending peacekeepers to Kenya?
SG: Peacekeeping operations are decided and mandated by the Security Council. I do not think at this time the Security Council has taken up this issue. I will report back to the Security Council about my visit and my discussions with the political leaders.
Q: Tens of thousands of people are on the move and being threatened. Is the UN prepared to call this ethnic cleansing?
SG: I am not in a position to characterize this situation in any way. I am deeply concerned about this situation, and the number of deaths is intolerable and unacceptable in a modern world. It must stop. It is up to the Kenyan people.
Q: There has been a deadline of four weeks to reach a solution as set by the Annan team. Is the UN setting a deadline and is four weeks enough?
SG: As Kofi Annan expects to resolve the short term issue within 4 weeks, I hope that will be possible within the period. There should be no fixed absolute deadline, but it would be desirable and critical for Kenya and the international community to see a resolution of the issue as soon as possible. For medium- and long-term issues, mediation can continue after addressing this short-term crisis.