Kenya’s police said the fatal shooting of a legislator by a policeman on Thursday was a ”crime of passion” and had already led to one arrest.
But the head of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), Raila Odinga, called the death of David Kimutai Too in the Rift Valley town of Eldoret a politically-motivated ”execution”.
”He has been shot dead, by a traffic policeman in Eldoret, we think. The circumstances are very unclear. This crisis is just getting deeper every day,” said ODM spokesperson Tony Gachoka.
The hospital where Too’s body had been taken was quickly jammed with people trying to find out what happened.
Earlier this week, another opposition legislator Melitus Were was gunned down outside the gate of his Nairobi home, in a murder that triggered rioting and ethnic killings.
ODM said Were’s killing was a ”political assassination”, although police said they were treating it as ”murder”.
President Mwai Kibaki flew to Ethiopia on Thursday for an summit of the 53-nation African Union, likely to be dominated by the violence gripping his country which was triggered by his disputed re-election last month.
In Nairobi, government and opposition teams met for a second day of talks led by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, backed by an international community alarmed at the continuing killing.
Political and ethnic violence has killed 850 people in Kenya since the December 27 election. The instability has shocked its neighbours and Western donors, and battered Kenya’s image as a stable trade and tourism hub.
Many Kenyans fear what will happen if Annan’s mediation fails to strike a deal between Kibaki and his rival Raila Odinga, the ODM leader who says vote-rigging stole his victory.
Watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged African leaders to endorse an independent probe into the vote and violence.
”The African Union should also insist that those responsible on all sides for inciting and organising the horrendous violence be investigated and held accountable,” HRW’s Africa director Georgette Gagnon said in a statement.
The violence has taken the lid off decades-old divisions between communities over land, wealth and power dating from British colonial rule, which have been stoked by Kenyan politicians during 44 years of independence.
Jendayi Frazer, the top United States diplomat for Africa, said on Wednesday the violence had degenerated into ethnic cleansing in parts of the Rift Valley and that she wanted to see ”some kind of power-sharing and some kind of coalition government”.
Annan launched formal mediation between the government and ODM on Tuesday, each side represented by a team of three — both a mix of moderates and hardliners.
Kibaki (76) says he is the legally elected president, but is open to sharing power. Odinga (63) says he was robbed by fraud during the vote count and wants Kibaki to stand down or allow a new election after a period of power-sharing.
Kenya’s unrest may have been triggered by an election dispute but the tinder for ethnic conflict was there and has burned before at elections in 1992 and 1997.
Members of Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe were the first to be attacked, and are now seeking revenge on Luos, Luhyas and Kalenjins who largely back Odinga in what many fear will turn into tit-for-tat attacks.
After a month of bloodshed, the Kenyan government vowed to adopt a tougher approach to contain the conflicts.
The opposition-leaning Standard newspaper in an editorial urged police to act tough in spite of being ”condemned for using excessive force”.
”With the killings and blocking of roads going on, the police must stop looking on and sweet-talking criminals. This is no longer a tribal issue. This is barbarism at its worst and it must be stopped” the Standard wrote. – Reuters