Kenya: Death toll in post-elections riots passes 200

President Mwai Kibaki under increasing pressure for what protesters called his sham re-election.

By
January 1, 2008 14:43
4 minute read.
Kenya: Death toll in post-elections riots passes 200

kenya riots 224.88 ap. (photo credit: AP)

 
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Kenyans ventured out in search of food on Tuesday after four days of violence killed more than 200 people and President Mwai Kibaki came under increasing pressure for what protesters called his sham re-election. The postelection violence, which flared from the shantytowns of Nairobi to resort towns on the sweltering coast, has left 202 people dead since Saturday, according to accounts from police, morgues and witnesses. Tuesday was calmer, although skirmishes were still reported in Nairobi's slums, which are home to tens of thousands of opposition supporters. Much of the capital has been a ghost town as residents hunkered down in their homes. The European Union and the United States refused to congratulate Kibaki on winning a second five-year term, citing concerns about the tallies in the closest presidential election in Kenya's history. The EU and four top officials of Kenya's government-funded electoral body called for an independent inquiry. "The 2007 general elections have fallen short of key international and regional standards for democratic elections," said Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, the chief European Union election monitor, in his formal assessment. Opposition leaders set the stage for more turmoil by calling for a million people to rally against Kibaki, who had been trailing Raila Odinga in early election results and opinion polls before pulling ahead. The bloodshed exposed tribal resentments that have long festered in Kenya, where Kibaki's Kikuyu people - the largest group - are accused of turning their dominance of politics and business to the detriment of others. Odinga is from the Luo tribe. Anne Njoki, a 28-year-old Kikuyu, said she fled her home in the slums after she saw Kikuyus being attacked and their homes looted. She was camped out near a military base with her sister and her 3-year-old nephew and 7 year-old niece. "They have taken our beds, blankets, even spoons," she said of the looters. Kenya's Red Cross said many of the dead were killed in ethnic clashes and that gangs were even checking on the tribal affiliations of Red Cross workers trying to help the injured. Riots have also been raging in opposition strongholds in western Kenya, the tourism-dependent coast and the Rift Valley. In Nairobi's Mathare slum on Tuesday, Odinga supporters shouting "No Raila, no peace," torched a minibus and attacked travelers who belonged to Kibaki's tribe, witnesses said. "The car had 14 people in it but they only slashed Kikuyus," said witness Boniface Mwangi. Five passengers were attacked by the machete-wielding gang, but the others were simply robbed, he said. In Nairobi's slums - home to a third of the city's population - parents set out to seek food for their children, picking their way past blackened remains of burnt tire barricades. Many families have been unable to find food after looting caused shops to close and many markets were burned. Some tearful families went to claim bodies from the morgue. Riot police remained on duty in most city centers. Raymond Ochieng, 29, said he and his two young children had been surviving on porridge since the elections last Thursday, and he had been unable to find transport to his job as a security guard in the center of town. "Since Kibaki was sworn in, things have changed. Kibaki should resign," he said. Four of the country's 22 top electoral commissioners called for an independent inquiry into whether the national electoral commission, or ECK, altered the results of the election. Jack Tumwa told The Associated Press that he and three colleagues felt, "there are weighty issues raised ... about the conduct of the ECK during the tallying of results. The commission cannot investigate itself." The U.S. has warned travelers against all but essential travel to Kenya and Britain has warned against travel in some areas. Both countries have expressed serious reservations about the legitimacy of the way the vote was counted. The widespread violence and gathering international criticism could pressure Kibaki to find a way to compromise with the opposition. Most of his cabinet lost their seats in parliament, where Odinga's party took the majority of the seats. The discrepancy between the parliamentary and presidential results, unexplained delays in vote tallying and anomalies that included a 115-percent turnout in one constituency have fueled allegations of rigging. If Kibaki had lost, he would have been the first sitting president ousted at the ballot box in Kenya. Kibaki's supporters say he has turned Kenya's economy into an east African powerhouse, with an average growth rate of 5 percent. The 76-year-old won by a landslide in 2002, ending 24 years in power by Daniel arap Moi. But Kibaki's anti-graft campaign has been seen as a failure, and the country still struggles with tribalism and poverty. Odinga, a flamboyant 62-year-old with a son named Fidel Castro, cast himself as a champion of the poor. His main constituency is the Kibera slum, where some 700,000 people live in breathtaking poverty, but he has been accused of failing to do enough to help them in 15 years as a member of parliament.

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