News 2008

 

Peace talks resume to end violence in Kenya after opposition calls for international troops

The Associated Press

04. Feb. 2008

BONDO, Kenya: Kenya's opposing political forces resumed peace talks Monday, in a push to end weeks of violence that has wracked this East African country once considered one of the most stable on the continent.

The meetings, mediated by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, came after the two sides agreed a two-week plan to try to end ethnic clashes that followed the Dec. 27 presidential election, which foreign and local observers said was rigged.

Overnight, at least seven people were killed in western Kenya in fighting between Kisii and Kalenjin communities who were battling in an area 250 kilometers (155 miles) west of the capital, said District Commissioner of Sotik town Humphrey Nakitare. The fighting was continuing, he said.

Western Kenya has been the scene of some of the worst bloodshed since the election, with gangs armed with machetes and bows and arrows attacking each other and torching houses.

On Sunday, opposition leader Raila Odinga called on international peacekeepers to help end the violence that has killed more than 800 and made some 300,000 homeless.

"The AU (African Union) should bring in peacekeepers because the violence in Kenya is appalling," Raila Odinga told The Associated Press in an interview at his villa-style home in this western Kenya village.

The election returned President Mwai Kibaki to power for a second five-year term after Odinga's early lead evaporated overnight. The ensuing violence has degenerated into ethnic clashes over decades-old grudges about land and resources, with much of the anger aimed at Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe, long resented for their domination of politics and the economy.

On Monday, the negotiators tackle the humanitarian plight, said William Ruto, an opposition negotiator.

"Today, we are discussing the humanitarian situation in the country," Ruto said, adding that on Tuesday they will turn to the election disputes.

Representatives of Kibaki and Odinga agreed Friday to take immediate action to end the violence and said they would complete talks within 15 days on measures to resolve the political crisis. Annan said it would take up to a year to solve deeper problems.

Ruto said his party has faith in the Annan-led mediation.

"We are hopeful that Annan's mission will succeed because it has the support of the international community, and our party is determined to give it every chance to make it a success," he said.

But both sides were still talking tough. Kibaki accused his opponents of orchestrating the violence, and Odinga said Kenyans will not allow their votes to be stolen.

"Kenyans will continue to resist Kibaki because they didn't elect him," Odinga told the AP, in his family home. "He has no choice but to step down because the world will judge him harshly," he said, sitting on a sofa in khaki safari shirt and shorts.

He talked to crowds after a church service later Sunday, blaming the police for some of the violence.

"At the moment they are a source of insecurity. They are shooting people to kill. Therefore, we need some kind of foreign force to come and assist," he said, adding that the Kenyan army is not neutral.

"They are answerable to one person, the commander in chief ... (who is) Kibaki," he said. "That's why we want to have a neutral force; it can either be the AU or U.N., if the use of military is necessary."

On Sunday, gangs faced off in the western town of Sotik where several houses had been torched. A day earlier, young men from rival ethnic groups hunted each other through the streets of another western town, Eldoret, burning houses and blocking roads.

Associated Press writers Katharine Houreld in Eldoret and Matti Huuhtanen in Nairobi contributed to this report.

 

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