News 2008


Fifteen killed in Kenya as politicians thrash out reforms


NAIROBI (AFP) - Fresh ethnic violence claims at least 15 lives in Kenya's Rift Valley region, police said Monday, while political rivals discussed their new deal to share power and tackle root causes of the strife.

"A total of 15 people died: six burnt in their houses, six hacked with machetes and three shot dead," a police commander said after the attack that occurred in the Rift Valley's Trans Nzoia area.

Police said attackers, armed with machetes and guns pounced on their victims -- who recently returned home from displaced people's camps -- while they slept in a region swept by violence after a disputed December 27 presidential election.

"It was horrifying. These people were merciless. They burnt people alive. About 10 houses were razed," said another police officer, who asked not to be named.

The killings prompted a fresh exodus among families that had recently returned to homes near the volatile Cherangani and Mount Elgon area after the ethnic strife was triggered by the election, police said.

"This attack is really scaring people. Instead of people re-settling, they have again begun fleeing their homes," said National Security Minister George Saitoti.

Meanwhile attackers overnight razed a school in the volatile Molo district, police said.

The government and opposition resumed talks in the capital Nairobi, under a new international mediator, after a weekend break in marathon talks that led to their accord last week to end share power and end violence.

Nigerian former foreign minister Oluyemi Adeniji replaced former UN chief Kofi Annan who left on Sunday, after obtaining the deal between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Current negotiations focus on reforms to address historical injustices that entail electoral, institutional, constitutional and judicial issues, as well as land reforms at the heart of ethnic unrest.

The agenda includes measures to address poverty, unemployment, inequity and corruption, with more transparent government.

The rival leaders agreed last Thursday to create a post of a prime minister and two deputies under the east African country's current constitution pending a comprehensive constitutional review in 12 months' time.

Odinga accused Kibaki of rigging the presidential elections and the ensuing violence left more than 1,500 dead. Odinga is set to become prime minister once parliament entrenches the deal in the constitution.

In an article published in the Daily Nation newspaper, Annan told Kenyans to hold leaders accountable and urged them to forget the past.

"I know you will support this agreement, even if some of you might feel that your party conceded too much. But compromise was key to success, and this compromise opens the door to a unified, prosperous and peaceful Kenya," Annan wrote.

"My heart aches especially for you, especially for those who have lost loved ones. We cannot bring them back. But you can, through the way you choose to live your lives without them, ensure that the legacy of their loss is not one of hatred and revenge," the former UN chief wrote.

"Part of the healing process includes a respect for the rights of every Kenyan to own property, work and live in any part of the country," Kibaki told lawmakers, who assured him they would support the bill to be enshrined in the constitution when the 222-member assembly gathers on Thursday.

The crisis tapped into simmering resentment over land, poverty and the dominance of the Kikuyu, Kibaki's people, in Kenyan politics and business since independence in 1963.

On Sunday, Odinga pressed for foreign countries to lift travel advisories against visiting Kenya, because tourism and agriculture were also hard hit by the unrest.

"There is no need for anyone to fear coming to our country, therefore I make a passionate appeal to the countries that issued travel advisories to the tourists ... to remove those advisories immediately," he told local media.