Rifts still evident after Kenyan election

January 10, 2008|By Robyn Dixon | Robyn Dixon,LOS ANGELES TIMES

NAIROBI, Kenya -- As the head of the African Union met with Kenya's political rivals here yesterday to try to get them talking, opposition supporters waited tensely on the streets for news and warned of more violence if President Mwai Kibaki stays in power.

John Kufuor, the AU chairman and Ghana's president, met with Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, trying to inch them toward a political resolution to end tribal violence that followed their disputed presidential contest. There was no official comment on the substance of the talks, nor any sign that the two rivals would meet face to face.

Later yesterday, Kibaki accused some politicians of fanning recent violence and vowed to bring them to justice. He also ruled out new balloting, saying the election was "finished."

The Dec. 27 vote, which Kibaki claims to have won and Odinga says was rigged, triggered widespread ethnic killings, shattering Kenya's reputation as a stable country and damaging its tourist industry. As efforts to broker a peace deal have eluded international diplomats, the tribal anger and divisions have hardened.

Across Kenya, more than 250,000 have fled their homes in violence that has largely involved members of the Kikuyu, Luo and Kalenjin tribes. Kikuyus have fled areas dominated by Luos, while Kalenjins and Luos have fled Kikuyu-dominated areas, in what could become permanent divisions.

Kibaki, who was sworn in for a new term Dec. 30, on Tuesday named his vice president and 17 members of his Cabinet. The move angered the opposition, which says he seized power illegally and had no right to form a government.

Kibaki named Kalonzo Musyoka, a member of the Kamba tribe who finished third in the presidential race, as his vice president. His decision sparked new ethnic violence against Kambas, who had been spared from earlier attacks.

Kibaki, a member of the dominant Kikuyu tribe, says the final Cabinet will be broad-based, and will represent the will of the people. After meeting with Kufuor, he released a statement promising to reach out to other political leaders.

"Kibaki later flew to Burnt Forest in the Rift Valley. The nearby town of Eldoret was the scene of some of the worst recent violence, including the burning of a church that left an estimated 35 people dead, including women and children. Tens of thousands of Kikuyus have fled the region.

The president urged residents not to move and promised to bring those responsible for the violence to justice. He also pledged money to help displaced people resettle and rebuild.

"The politicians inciting people to commit violence, don't worry, the government will arrest them and charge them in court," Kibaki said. "They know who they are."

After Kibaki's Cabinet announcement Tuesday, angry opposition supporters poured into the streets in Huruma, a slum district of Nairobi, stoning cars and shops and targeting Kambas, Kikuyus and others.

Isiah Mwale, 40, who cooks deep-fried snacks similar to doughnuts at a roadside stand, was forced to flee the rioters.

"They were looting. They said they didn't want us here. They looted me. They took my money and my bucket with dough. They frightened me very much," said Mwale, of the Luhya tribe.

Paramilitary police fired tear gas at the crowd and bullets into the air to disperse protesters.

Stephen Areka, one of dozens of opposition supporters who gathered in the area yesterday, said they were all ready to protest again if Kufuor failed to convince Kibaki to step down as president and allow a transitional government to rule until new elections.

"Everywhere in this country is chaos," he said. "Kenya is not at peace at this moment."

Areka, 32, who said he was an area organizer for Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement, warned that if Kufuor flew out of Kenya in coming days without a breakthrough, "then Kenya will be in trouble. The whole country will be in trouble, especially people from President Kibaki's tribe, and chaos will erupt in the whole country."

Robyn Dixon writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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