Kenya opposition party plans rallies despite continued violence


Published: Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 4:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 4:50 p.m.

NAIROBI, Kenya - Kenya's opposition party, determined to bring down President Mwai Kibaki's government, called Saturday for another day of "peaceful rallies" despite the deaths of more than 20 people in this week's demonstrations.

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A sea of tents made out of plastic sheeting fills a camp for the displaced in the showground in Eldoret, Kenya, Saturday, Jan. 19, 2008. The displaced are eager to return home, but most will not do so until the security situation improves, for fear of further attacks.

Ben Curtis/The Associated Press

Police took forceful action at rallies Wednesday through Friday protesting the Dec. 27 presidential election, but opposition party chairman Henry Kosgey told reporters "we will use each and every means to bring down Kibaki's government."

Kosgey called for more rallies on Thursday, in defiance of a government ban and to the disapproval of the European Union.

"Mass meetings ... can lead to violence," EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel said, after holding what he called "positive" meetings with both Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

He said both sides "appeal to end the violence," and agreed to recognize mediation efforts by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Five more people died in ethnic clashes Saturday. Kalenjin, Kisii and Kikuyu fought each other with bows and arrows and machetes in villages around a Catholic monastery northwest of Nairobi. Police said they were guarding the monastery, where hundreds of people have sought refuge.

Nearly 200 houses were set ablaze in what appeared to be an old argument about land.

More than 600 people have been killed in Kenya's election violence, according to a government commission.

U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger, citing "many factors and underlying grievances," has compared Kenya's violence to the 1968 race riots in the United States.

At a town hall meeting Friday for Americans in Nairobi, Ranneberger said there had been "a lot of cheating on both sides" in the Dec. 27 elections that pitted Kibaki against Odinga.

The U.S. maintains there were allegations of improprieties on both sides that were not properly investigated, and Ranneberger said either Odinga or Kibaki could have won by 120,000 votes because it was a close election and both sides are alleged to have rigged.

But David Throup, an associate of the Washington D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in a public conference call with Ranneberger that Odinga won by 120,000 votes.

Kibaki's power becomes more entrenched each day. The opposition's best hope may rest in a power-sharing agreement that might make Odinga prime minister or vice president.

Michel, the EU development commissioner, also met Saturday with Deputy President Kalonzo Musyoka, and urged him to come to an agreement with the opposition "because the consequence of chaos will be so important and so badly affect the people and the region."

Musyoka said that "we are trying to come out with a healing process and a process which also ensures we engage each other as Kenyans in dialogue." He said Kibaki was determined to spearhead the dialogue.

But Kibaki has said he wants direct talks with Odinga, not mediation.

Legislators at the European Parliament this week urged aid cuts to help force Kibaki to negotiate. His government says it will not be blackmailed and can support itself. But the violence has cost the tourist-dependent economy at least $1 billion, the Finance Ministry has said.

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