Kenyan opposition MP shot dead,
Tue 29 Jan 2008, 11:47 GMT
NAIVASHA, Kenya (Reuters) - Kenyan military helicopters swooped
over machete-wielding crowds terrorising hundreds of refugees in a
lakeside town on Tuesday against a backdrop of spiralling violence
in the east African country.
With tribal violence and score-settling spreading across the
nation of 36 million people, President Mwai Kibaki appealed to all
Kenyans to maintain peace.
But opposition leader Raila Odinga warned Kenya was "drifting into
a state of anarchy."
Reuters reporters in Naivasha said two helicopters dive-bombed the
crowd several times, firing what police said were rubber bullets
at a mob of about 600 people brandishing machetes and clubs at
members of another tribe.
The incident came as police trucks prepared to evacuate about 300
Luo refugees to safety from the mainly Kikuyu crowd.
The helicopter attack drove the Kikuyu crowd back.
Earlier, fresh ethnic violence broke out in Nairobi's Kibera slum
after a Kenyan opposition politician was killed at his Nairobi
home in the early hours.
Melitus Were, a newly elected member of parliament for
Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), was shot twice in the
head as he reached the gate of his house shortly after midnight.
Kibaki, in his statement, condemned Were's killing as "a heinous
crime" that would be swiftly investigated.
But an ODM spokesman said, without offering evidence, that Were
may have been targeted by political foes.
Government officials did not immediately comment.
Hours after Were's death, rival ethnic gangs began fighting in
Nairobi's Kibera slum, near where he was shot.
A Reuters witness saw seven corpses, some with cuts on the head
and neck. One of them lay in agony on the ground after being
forcibly circumcised, before dying.
RIFT VALLEY VIOLENCE
Unrest also simmered across the volatile Rift Valley, with mobs
ransacking homes, burning belongings and threatening people trying
to flee Naivasha town, north of the capital.
A Reuters witness saw a man hacked to death with machetes.
Around 850 people have been killed since a December election which
re-installed Kibaki in power but which the opposition says was
The violence has taken on a momentum of its own, with cycles of
killing between tribes who have never reconciled divisions over
land, wealth and power left by British colonial rule and
exacerbated by politicians in 44 years of independence.
The turmoil has dented one of Africa's brightest economies --
hotels in a previously booming tourist sector are empty, and the
local currency came close to a three-year low on Tuesday.
Former U.N. head Kofi Annan is spearheading attempts to mediate
between Kibaki's government and the opposition led by Odinga. An
Annan spokesman said negotiating teams would begin "formal
dialogue" on Tuesday afternoon.
Police fired teargas to disperse mourners and supporters of Were
gathered near the politician's house in a middle-class suburb on
the edge of Kibera slum. Some of them had taunted police officers.
"There's no justice in Kenya. For whoever killed my husband, God
is there," said Wairimu Were, the MP's wife.
In Naivasha, about an hour's drive north of Nairobi, crowds
ransacked homes and burned belongings of people fleeing the
lakeside town, a Reuters witness said.
Plumes of smoke rose from different parts, as members of Kibaki's
Kikuyu group hunted down Luos, Luhyas and Kalenjins whose
communities have largely backed Odinga. Police opened fire to
disperse one mob trying to attack a truck carrying refugees.
Nearly 100 people have died in the latest flare-up over recent
days in the Rift Valley. Fighting has been largely centred on the
towns of Naivasha and Nakuru, better known for their lakes and
wildlife, but now deserted by tourists.
In horrific images round the Rift, one mother lay in a pool of
blood in a Nakuru shack, as her baby cried on a chair nearby. In
Naivasha, a man entered a clinic with an arrow in his head.
Protests also rocked the western opposition stronghold town of
Kisumu on Monday, residents said. Police fired in the air and one
demonstrator died in the morning, residents said.
"What is alarming about the last few days is that there are
evidently hidden hands organising it now. Militias are appearing
... the targeting is very specific," Britain's Africa Minister
Mark Malloch Brown said during a visit to Kenya.
Both sides have traded accusations of genocide in a standoff that
has shocked world leaders, who had long viewed Kenya as a
peacemaker, rather than a problem, on a volatile continent.
About 250,000 people have been displaced by the violence.
Official results showed Kibaki narrowly won the December 27 vote,
but Odinga says victory was stolen from him by vote-rigging.
International observers said the poll was flawed and diplomats are
pushing for a power-sharing arrangement.