/ 3 February 2008

Kenyan opposition calls for foreign peacekeepers

Kenyan opposition chief Raila Odinga on Sunday called for the deployment of foreign peacekeepers to stem the country’s escalating violence, saying security forces were not impartial in crackdowns.

”It is necessary that we should have a peacekeeping deployment from the United Nations or the African Union because the police have often been misused and we do not have faith in the army to be neutral,” Odinga told reporters in his home town of Bondo, near Kisumu in western Kenya.

Kenyan police have admitted to killing dozens of arsonists, looters and people who have attacked them during violent demonstrations that were first set off by the disputed re-election of President Mwai Kibaki on December 27.

The army has so far taken a back seat in the crisis, deployed to assist police in clearing road barricades and transporting humanitarian supplies to affected zones.

Odinga, who claims that Kibaki robbed him of the presidency, also said he supported current Kofi Annan-led talks with the government side, but hinted that he had a contingency plan prepared in case of failure.

”We have confidence in the ongoing mediation talks,” he said. But if talks fail, ”we have a fall-back [plan]”, he added without elaborating.

Odinga spoke as tribal fighting and a police crackdown escalated in western Kenya, where at least 70 people have been killed since Friday.

About 1 000 people have died and up to 300 000 have been displaced since the re-election of Kibaki on December 30 set off the turmoil, threatening Kenya’s stable reputation amid many regions of conflict. — Sapa-AFP