Elections violence stalls aid in Kenya

Thousands could starve as political rivals face off

January 05, 2008|By Robyn Dixon | Robyn Dixon,Los Angeles Times

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Up to 100,000 Kenyans face starvation in western Kenya because of election-related tribal violence, the World Food Program warned yesterday, as rivals in last week's disputed presidential vote showed no willingness to talk.

President Mwai Kibaki and opposition candidate Raila Odinga, who had led through much of the vote-counting, continued to put up uncompromising positions: The opposition called for a new election and Kibaki agreed - if the courts ordered it.

Odinga already has described the courts as packed with Kibaki's cronies. Many analysts and diplomats do not see the courts as a solution, partly because cases take so long to process.

Opposition claims of vote-rigging in the election triggered tribal violence that has killed about 300 people. European Union observers said the vote failed to meet democratic standards. Yesterday's Daily Nation newspaper called on Kibaki and Odinga to "make peace happen."

Violence ebbed in Nairobi's slum districts and many areas across the country yesterday, and only a few opposition demonstrators turned out for an opposition rally. In Mombasa, police fired tear gas to disperse more than 1,000 protesters.

More than 180,000 Kenyans have fled their homes because of tribal violence, the United Nations reported, and 500,000 will need aid in the coming month, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which launched a $15 million appeal yesterday.

Tens of thousands have fled the Rift Valley in the west, where 100,000 people are in critical need of food. The area has been the site of some of the country's worst violence, including a church burning that killed about 35 people.

"The level of hatred is very high," said Alexandre Liebeskind, deputy head of the Red Cross operations for the Horn of Africa.

The World Food Program plans to distribute food soon through the Red Cross, but 75 truckloads carrying 2,500 tons of food were stranded in Kenyan cities because of poor security.

Robyn Dixon writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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