At least 45 killed in new wave of violence in Kenya

Sunday, January 27, 2008

At least 45 people have been killed in a new surge of violence that began after Kenya's disputed December 27 presidential election. Some sources have said that there have been over 80 deaths in the last 3 days. The latest deaths come as former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan is in Kenya to try to broker a compromise.

Police had imposed an overnight curfew in the city of Nakuru, about two hours north of Nairobi, after new violence broke out on Friday. The killings appear to be ethnically motivated, as Kikuyus seek revenge for attacks against their fellow tribesmen in recent weeks.

Officials estimate that nearly 800 people have been killed since the vote, which saw President Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, defeat opposition candidate Raila Odinga by just 230,000 votes. Odinga supporters from the Luo, Kalenjin and other smaller ethnic groups claim the election was stolen, and international observers say the vote was flawed.

Widespread anger at the election results sparked violence in Nairobi's slums and parts of the west, and tens of thousands of Kikuyus fled their homes. The violence had largely died down in recent days, but has erupted again in Nakuru.

Police also said Saturday that at least 15 people have been killed in the town of Molo, west of Nakuru. The two towns are in the Rift Valley, an ethnically mixed area that has seen violence in the past over land and resources.

The Kalenjins had already pushed and got the Kikuyus earlier so what they are doing is the Kikuyus are trying to revenge and get back their places, get back their houses

—Jimmy Mucheru, resident of Nakuru

"The Kalenjins had already pushed and got the Kikuyus earlier so what they are doing is the Kikuyus are trying to revenge and get back their places, get back their houses," said Jimmy Mucheru, who is a local safari guide in Nakuru. "There is not much hope for peace because the two groups are really after each other."

The new wave of violence came as former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan was in Kenya trying to resolve the crisis. In a news conference on Saturday, he urged followers of the two leaders to remain calm. He said he saw several camps for people who have been displaced by the crisis.

What we saw was rather tragic

—Former UN secretary general, Kofi Annan

"What we saw was rather tragic," he noted. "We visited several IDP camps, we saw people pushed from their homes, from their farms, grandmothers, children, families uprooted. And I think it is important that all Kenyans respond with sympathy and understanding and not try to [seek] revenge."

On Thursday, Mr. Annan managed to secure the first face-to-face meeting between Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga, a move hailed as a breakthrough. But the two sides have shown no willingness to negotiate issues of substance. Mr. Kibaki insists he is the legitimate president of Kenya, while Mr. Odinga is demanding a new vote.

Mr. Annan urged people to give more time to Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga to work out a solution.

"No one should take the law into his or her own hands," he added. "Allow the leaders the opportunity to resolve these issues - and as I said - including the long-term issues. And we are here to help them, that was the purpose and objective of that meeting."

Mr. Annan told reporters it is unacceptable that no one has been held accountable for the violence, though he did not apportion blame.

Earlier this week, the New York-based Human Rights Watch reported what it said was evidence that the opposition had organized some attacks. Mr. Odinga's team has denied those claims.