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Bloody violence grips Kenya

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Written on 2:44 AM by yahoo

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NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) -- Gangs of young men armed with machetes are roaming the streets in Kenya as post-election violence threatens to engulf the country. Horrific attacks are being reported, including the torching of a church where people who had sought refuge were burned alive.

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Police officers detain an opposition supporter on Monday during riots at the Kibera slum in Nairobi.
At least 148 people have been killed and about 75,000 have fled their homes since President Mwai Kibaki won a narrow victory, according to Kenyan government officials. The Associated Press reported that a higher number -- about 275 -- had died since Saturday.

Much of the violence is between supporters of Kibaki, from the majority Kikuyu tribe, and backers of opposition leader Raila Odinga, who is from the Luo tribe.

Ghanaian President John Kufuor, the head of the African Union, was due to arrive in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, to act as a mediator, a spokeswoman for the African Union told The Associated Press. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Milliband have also appealed for calm.

The ethnic violence, previously rare in Kenya, is reminiscent of the strife that led to the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

In a particularly disturbing incident, a mob appears to have burned a church filled with Kenyans seeking refuge from the violence.

The Red Cross told AP that at least 50 were burned to death at the church, some of them children.

As many as 200 people were at the church, about 185 miles northwest of Nairobi, KTN reporter Tony Biwott told CNN.

Biwott said he had counted at least 15 charred bodies, including children, in the burned church and an adjacent field.

"I'm sure there were more than 15 but I couldn't count the ones who were ashes," he said in a phone interview.

The wounded sustained gunshot wounds, burns and cuts from a panga, a machete-like weapon, the Red Cross said.

Kenya's national police commissioner has said an investigation into the incident is under way and expressed shock that the violence had occurred in a church.

Police and political backers of opposition leader Odinga began clashing about four days ago as Odinga narrowly lost Kenya's presidential election to Kibaki.

Violence broke out in several cities as frustration mounted during the slow hand-count of the ballots.

Kibaki was re-elected with 51.3 percent of the vote, to 48.7 percent for Odinga.

"What we now witness is a cold and calculated plan to organize and engage in massacres," government spokesman Alfred Mutua said.

In an article published Wednesday in The Herald, Kenya's oldest newspaper, the head of the country's electoral commission, Samuel Kivuitu, was quoted as saying that he did not know who had won the election. Kivuitu said he had been pressured to announce the results, AP reported.

Bringing in the New Year, Kibaki -- who rarely speaks to the press -- urged calm to the nation.

"It now is a time for healing and reconciliation amongst all Kenyans," he said.

Foreign Minister Raphael Tuju said the government is committed to taking control.

"If the tear gas doesn't work then unfortunately they have to use live bullets," he told CNN. "The president has been sworn in, the elections are over, the Kenyans have to accept the results, the opposition has to accept the results."

Tuesday, international observers said the balloting fell short of international standards for democratic elections.

Alexander Lambsdorff, the head of the EU Election Observation Mission in Kenya, cited discrepancies in vote counts, election observers being turned away from polling places and observers being refused entrance to the electoral commission vote-counting room.

The United States has withheld congratulations for Kibaki, citing concerns over voting problems.

In a joint statement, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Milliband said there were "independent reports of serious irregularities in the counting process" and urged Kenya's political leaders to call for a cessation of violence by their followers.

"We call on all political leaders to engage in a spirit of compromise that puts the democratic interests of Kenya first... and we pledge the diplomatic and political efforts of our two countries to support reconciliation and national unity at this vital time for Kenya and the region," the statement said.

The government said Tuesday it would not allow any political rallies in the aftermath of the controversial election outcome.

Odinga's opposition Orange Democratic Movement had scheduled rallies for Tuesday, raising fears of more violence.

Mutua said there was no intention to impose a state of emergency or curfew at this point, and said police are handling the violence well and with "extreme restraint."

However, he warned that police restraint would not last forever. Kenya has enjoyed relative calm over recent decades even as war and chronic political violence have wracked neighboring countries such as Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda.
from cnn

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1 Comment

  1. Anonymous |

    Kibaki must go! He is a dictator! Prayers to the people of Kenya in their fighting against Kibaki! May you stand on the top of Mt Kenya and on the heights of Uhuru Park with the Kenyan flag held even higher! Justice shall prevail!

     

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