/ 31 December 2007

Dozens killed in Kenya post-election violence

An eruption of fresh violence triggered by Kenya’s disputed presidential ballot left more than 100 dead on Monday, after defeated opposition candidate Raila Odinga rejected Mwai Kibaki’s re-election.

Further clashes were feared as Odinga planned to hold his own alternative inauguration at a mass rally later on Monday, a day after Kibaki was officially sworn in for a second term despite widespread allegations of vote-rigging.

At least 64 people were killed overnight in western Kenya in fresh outbreaks of tribal violence and clashes between police, looters and opposition activists.

Separate clashes in the capital, Nairobi, claimed a further 40 lives, police said.

At least 124 people have now been killed since Thursday’s elections, which have left one of Africa’s more stable democracies teetering on the brink of turmoil.

The government has enforced a ban on live television broadcasts related to the election in what it says is an effort to contain the violence.

“We know there are skirmishes in many parts of the country. We are fully cracking down and fully responding to every situation,” police spokesperson Eric Kiraithe said.

A total of 46 bodies were brought to the morgue in Kisumu, Kenya’s third largest city and an Odinga stronghold, a mortuary attendant told Agence France-Presse.

“These bodies were brought here overnight by police officers,” he said, adding that 20 of them had multiple bullet wounds.

Local police chief Grace Kaindi declined to comment on the number of dead, but acknowledged that police had opened fire on “looters” during the night.

Reporters were also shown seven other bodies in Kisumu’s main hospital waiting to be transferred to the morgue.

Police imposed a day-time curfew in the city, with an order to shoot violators.

“We are going to deal with them [rioters] ruthlessly,” said Michael Baraza, a top police commander in the region.

Threatened with arrest

Another seven people were killed in clashes between rival political supporters in the town of Nakuru, and four in a village near Kapsabet, police said.

According to police, hundreds of houses have already been torched in the western Rift Valley province and fresh fighting broke out Monday in Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum.

Opposition supporters there were trying to march towards the city centre where Odinga, a fiery 62-year-old former political prisoner, planned to hold an alternative swearing-in ceremony presenting him to the nation as “the People’s President”.

“We know that the people of Kenya elected Raila Amolo Odinga as their legitimate president and they are ready to see him serve democratically in that capacity,” Odinga’s party said in a statement.

Odinga, who has been threatened with arrest if the rally goes ahead, stressed the need for “peaceful mass action” as the violence flared.

The rage boiling over in the Odinga camp was in stark contrast to the celebrations that filled the streets of pro-Kibaki towns in central Kenya on Sunday, where revellers flooded local bars.

Kibaki called for a “national healing” process as he was sworn in.

“I urge all of us to set aside the passions that were excited by the election process, and work together as one people with the single purpose of building a strong, united, prosperous and equitable country,” he said.

The European Union’s team of election observers acknowledged fraud and questioned the accuracy of the ballot results.

“We regret that it has not been possible to address irregularities about which … [we] have evidence,” chief EU observer Alexander Graf Lambsdorff said in a statement.

Kibaki cancelled out Odinga’s lead in late vote-counting, even as more than half of his Cabinet’s ministers were voted out of Parliament.

Former colonial ruler Britain expressed “real concerns” at reported “irregularities”.

But in Washington, US State Department spokesperson Rob McInturff congratulated Kibaki on his re-election and called on all sides to accept the results. — AFP