Protesters, police clash in Kenya rallies

January 19, 2008|By Los Angeles Times

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Clashes between police and protesters in several cities resulted in as many as 12 deaths yesterday, bringing the toll to nearly two dozen in three days of "mass actions," witnesses and officials said.

The deadliest skirmishes occurred in the Nairobi slum of Kibera, where angry youths tore up railway lines that run through the restive district, connecting the Kenyan coastline to Uganda. Protesters re-dubbed the broken transport line the "Odinga Highway," in honor of opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Odinga challenged Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki in the disputed Dec. 27 presidential election. Violence has rocked the East African country since Kibaki was declared the winner amid allegations of fraud. More than 600 have died in post-election clashes.

Police, who have been criticized in recent days for their heavy-handed approach to dealing with protesters, swarmed into Kibera in the late afternoon, firing tear gas and live bullets.

"They were just firing indiscriminately and lobbing tear gas at any people in their way," said John Lallo, 62, an unemployed resident of Kibera. "I can't even say that this is unusual. They use force like that every time there is a crisis."

In southern Kenya yesterday, four people from Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe were killed with poisoned arrows and machetes by members of a rival Masai tribe near the city of Narok, a local government official told Reuters.

In the coastal city of Mombasa, four people were reportedly shot, one fatally.

Odinga and human rights groups are calling for an investigation into accusations of police brutality in recent days.

Government officials defended the police, saying they were not dealing with peaceful marchers, but with angry young men who at times have stoned them, burned homes and looted businesses.

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