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UN chief calls on Kenya rivals to stop violence

UN chief calls on Kenya rivals to stop violence
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First Published: Fri, Feb 01 2008. 05 00 PM IST
Updated: Fri, Feb 01 2008. 05 00 PM IST
Nairobi: UN chief Ban Ki-moon called Friday for Kenya’s feuding political leaders to stop weeks of deadly violence sparked by disputed presidential polls, and to resolve the crisis through peaceful dialogue.
“My message to the government and people of Kenya is to stop this violence and to solve all these issues ... through dialogue in a peaceful manner,” Ban said to journalists in Nairobi, where he added his weight to mediation efforts led by his predecessor Kofi Annan.
“You are taking a very important historical responsibility at this critically important junction,” the UN secretary general said, sitting alongside Annan and representatives of negotiating teams for President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Ban arrived in Kenya Friday in the wake of turmoil sparked by disputed presidential elections on December 27 that sparked weeks of unrest in which almost 1,000 have died and some 300,000 have been displaced.
But as mediation efforts continued, so did the unrest, as police shot dead one man in the volatile western opposition stronghold of Kisumu as they dispersed a group of demonstrators.
“The man was shot because he was in group that wanted to attack Kondele district police station,” a police commander said.
“We were only expressing our emotions peacefully when police opened fire and killed one of us,” said Simon Okelo, a protestor.
In Nairobi, Ban called on both sides to work to stem the violence, after more than a month of post-poll protests now mixed with latent economic, land and ethnic disputes.
“What I’d like to ask you is to look beyond these individual interests, look beyond the party lines,” he said.
The crisis has shattered the image and economy of the formerly stable east African nation that is a refuge for many displaced by neighbouring conflicts.
Annan earlier resumed talks between three representatives each of Kibaki and Odinga after postponing them the previous day when an opposition lawmaker was shot dead in the western town of Eldoret.
The killing -- the second slaying of an opposition lawmaker in two days -- set off further clashes in the volatile western region.
Odinga’s party said the killing of opposition MP David Kimutai Too in Eldoret Thursday had been a political assassination, although police described it as a crime of passion.
Odinga visited Too’s body Friday, after it was flown to Nairobi, and accused the government of involvement in his killing and that of opposition MP Melitus Mugabe Were in Nairobi early Tuesday.
“Our charge is that the government has killed them: let them disprove this and accept this offer of an independent inquiry,” he said.
Odinga said Thursday that the two MP killings were “part of a plot” to reduce his Orange Democratic Movement’s (ODM) majority in parliament.
The ODM secured 99 seats in the legislative elections that coincided with the presidential poll, making it the largest single party but short of an overall majority. Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) won 43 seats.
Ban met with Odinga in Nairobi on Friday, after meeting with Kibaki on the sidelines of an African Union summit in Ethiopia the previous day.
Members of Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe suffered heavily in the first wave of violence at the hands of Odinga’s Luo tribe and other ethnic groups, but have since carried out numerous revenge attacks.
Arsonists burned down more than 50 houses overnight in revenge attacks in western Kenya, police said Friday.
Nyanza police chief Anthony Kibuchi said the fires broke out only hours after a security meeting was held in the area with the warring communities.
“Officers are now patrolling the area to avert any revenge attack,” he said.
An ambulance belonging to a hospital near Kisumu was also burnt by rowdy youths in opposition stronghold Kisumu, he added.
The top US Africa envoy Jendayi Frazer said that Kenya’s violence had involved acts of “ethnic cleansing,” after a visit there, and the UN Security Council has called for both sides to end the bloodshed.
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First Published: Fri, Feb 01 2008. 05 00 PM IST
More Topics: Kenya | Politics | Unrest | violence | elections |