Kenya warns of tougher action to
Wed Jan 30, 2008
By C. Bryson Hull and Andrew Cawthorne
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya on Wednesday warned it would act tougher
to reign in post-election violence threatening to spiral out of
control in the east African nation's darkest moment since 1963
Protests over President Mwai Kibaki's disputed re-election in a
December 27 election have degenerated into cycles of killing
between rival tribes, and there is increasing evidence of gangs
being well organized on both sides.
The top U.S. diplomat for Africa on Wednesday urged the political
rivals to forge a compromise at mediation led by former U.N. chief
Kofi Annan and warned that the cycle of ethnic retaliation had "gone
"There has been an organized effort to push out people from Rift
Valley...It is clearly ethnic cleansing," U.S. Assistant Secretary
for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer said in Ethiopia.
Most of the deaths since the election came in attacks that at
first targeted Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe.
They are now taking revenge on pro-opposition tribes.
Police have also killed close to 100 protesters backing opposition
leader Raila Odinga.
Internal Security Minister George Saitoti on Wednesday warned that
police would tolerate no more violence, and would ensure that
Kenya's roads and rail lines -- critical lifelines for neighboring
nations -- would remain open.
"We have decided to act tough this time. We are not going to allow
criminals and hooligans to run around. No country or government
can allow that," he told reporters.
Angry youths have set up roadblocks all over the Rift Valley in
the past month, squeezing transport into neighboring Uganda,
Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan and hurting their economies --
dependent on Kenya's Mombasa port.
The government on Tuesday demonstrated its willingness to apply
heavier force, sending in two army helicopters to strafe a Kikuyu
mob with rubber bullets in Naivasha. Saitoti said the military
would still be used in a humanitarian capacity.
More than 250,000 people are living as refugees -- a sad irony not
lost on Kenyans more used to receiving the displaced from war-torn
neighbors like Sudan and Somalia.
Some Kenyans laid wreaths at Nairobi's "Freedom Corner" on
Wednesday. "Peace", "Love", "Sorry" read some cards with them.
Annan's team on Thursday plans a second day of talks between
Odinga and Kibaki's negotiators, each a mix of moderates and
hardliners -- the latter of whom are blocking progress.
'WE'RE NOT BROTHERS'
Annan, after bringing Kibaki and Odinga together on Tuesday, said
he was confident "immediate political issues" could be resolved in
four weeks. Broader issues could take a year.
Kibaki, 76, says he is the legally elected president, but is open
to sharing power. Odinga, 63, says he was robbed by fraud during
the vote count and wants Kibaki to stand down or allow a new
election after a period of power-sharing.
Much hangs on the fate of the talks, including the future of
Kenya's economy -- east Africa's largest and previously one of its
brightest. The $1 billion a year tourism industry has been
hard-hit and the currency is near a three-year low.
The Kenya Association of Manufacturers warned gross domestic
product could fall by 3 percent if violence doesn't stop.
Just north of Nairobi in Nderi, a group of unarmed Kikuyus
cornered people from the rival Luo tribe inside the Kenya Forestry
Research Institute. "We were living here as brothers but we have
now come to realize that we are not," said Frederick Muiruri, part
of the Kikuyu group outside.
More than 100 people have been killed in the Rift Valley towns of
Nakuru and Naivasha since Thursday, mostly as Kikuyus avenged
attacks on their kin in other parts of the Rift that started
moments after Kibaki was sworn in on December 30.
Inter-ethnic killings also have hit Nairobi's slums.
The violence has taken the lid off decades-old divisions between
communities over land, wealth and power that hark back to British
colonial rule and have been stoked by politicians at election time
over 44 years of independence.
(Additional reporting by Joseph Sudah, Bryson Hull, Jack
Kimball and Duncan Miriri; writing by Bryson Hull; editing by