Kenya

British High Commissioner to Nairobi speaks about Kenya in sky Sunday live interview

INTERVIEWER:

Well could a government of national unity be the answer to Kenya's current crisis? Well joining me now is the British High Commissioner in Kenya, Adam Wood. Commissioner, a very good morning to you there in Nairobi for us today. National unity - there doesn't seem to be a lot of unity frankly, certainly in the slums of the city you're in right now.

ADAM WOOD:

Good afternoon from Nairobi. Currently the situation appears a little calmer across Kenya. As I came to work this morning, talking to some of the Kenyans in Nairobi, clearly there are some who still witnessed violence in the slum areas. There are one or two incidents being reported from Kitale in western Kenya for instance but overall the situation does appear calmer and that's borne out by reports from a DFID team on the ground in western Kenya.

INTERVIEWER:

The focus has understandably been on the violence - more than 350 people killed - but increasingly we're looking now at a humanitarian catastrophe in the making, a quarter of a million people displaced.

ADAM WOOD:

That's right. DFID has contributed =A31 million from the British Aid Programme through the Red Cross to help those who have suffered the worst in this violence and from the displacement and that's part of an international effort. That involves a World Food Programme convoy of trucks that has left Mombassa this morning and is on its way towards western Kenya.

INTERVIEWER:

And in terms of how that aid operation can work particularly in those areas which have suffered the greatest ethnic strife in particular, is getting aid in going to be difficult?

ADAM WOOD:

I think what the Army has done is to....you know the Army has played a very good apolitical role through this troubled time but what they have done is to ensure that roads are cleared so that convoys of relief can get through to western Kenya.

INTERVIEWER:

Arguably the British occupy a particular function here as the former imperial power, some might say this is part of their ongoing African sphere of influence. I note that the French government were pretty outspoken about President Kibaki. They said pretty much that the election was rigged. There are some who say the British need to be a little tougher on him and they need to come out and say "Look, this man, in terms of the election at least, didn't play fair."

ADAM WOOD:

Well I think you've see now both Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the Foreign Secretary David Miliband quite clear on this point. We share the concerns that have been voiced by international observers, the European Union foremost amongst them. We share those concerns but what we're keen to do now is to support efforts to establish a process of reconciliation and there's a great deal going on behind the scenes to bring this about.

INTERVIEWER:

And as we continue to look at pictures of considerable lawlessness in parts of Kenya, we again have that situation where almost cheek by jowl sometimes you've got unrest that's leading to a loss of life but not very far off often tourists enjoying the good life on the beaches of Mombasa or on safari. That all continues.

ADAM WOOD:

Well that's right. This is, you know, quite a sophisticated country by African standards. As you'll know we are now, and have been for a few days, advising against all but essential travel to Kenya but those who are here on holiday are continuing to enjoy those holidays until they have returned to Britain or whichever they've come from by the tour operators. But we are working very closely to try to help Kenyans, to help the international community bring the basis to resolve this crisis into position as soon as possible.

INTERVIEWER:

As you say Commissioner, this is a comparatively sophisticated country. Many people have held Kenya up as a democratic beacon within Africa and yet we've seen almost this...this default to a kind of ethnic strife which is profoundly depressing.

ADAM WOOD:

Well I think what you're witnessing in the violence, it has several strands. There are those who were frustrated by the process of the election and by the result. There are others who are sort of indulging in the looting, which sadly is characteristic of Kenya in times of trouble. But there is a third strand which has an ethnic element to it. Now we must not underestimate that. It is serious but we also must not exaggerate it.

INTERVIEWER:

High Commissioner, Adam Wood, from a very windy Nairobi, thank you very much indeed.

ADAM WOOD:

That's a pleasure, thank you.