Nairobi: Kenyan police have been given shoot to kill orders in a bid to stem weeks of violence, a commander said Wednesday, a day after Kofi Annan launched crisis talks between feuding political leaders.
The order, issued for the second time since President Mwai Kibaki’s contested re-election last month, followed the formal launch by the former UN chief of a dialogue between Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, who claims he was robbed of the presidency.
It also came amid increasing international condemnation of a spiral of violence in which almost 1,000 people have died and more than a quarter of a million have been displaced.
“There are four categories of people who will face tough police action: Those looting property, burning houses, carrying offensive weapons, barricading roads,” the police commander told AFP.
“We have orders to shoot to kill these categories of people if they are caught in the act,” he added.
On Tuesday, military helicopters had fired warning shots to stop ethnic fighting in the lakeside town of Naivasha, the latest flashpoint.
Police reported 22 new deaths as political crisis talks began Tuesday, particularly in opposition strongholds in western Kenya and the capital’s slums.
Annan said he hoped the immediate political issues could be resolved within four weeks and gave Kenya one year to resolve damage inflicted by a month of chaos.
“We are confident that the issues can be resolved within a year and ... that immediate political issues, what we are describing as short-term issues, can be resolved within four weeks, if not shorter,” he said.
Both leaders called for peace and committed themselves to dialogue. Each side has formed a negotiating team of three members, but further details of the talks are as yet unclear.
The rivals still appear to maintain their hardline positions, however, and Odinga accused “our adversaries” of having a hand in the killing of an opposition MP in Nairobi on Tuesday.
Odinga has refused to recognise the legitimacy of Kibaki’s presidency and his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) has pressed for an electoral re-run, but the government has instead pressed for dialogue.
Members of Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe suffered heavily in the first violence after the December 27 election from members of Odinga’s Luo tribe and other ethnic groups, but have since carried out numerous revenge attacks.
A handful of incidents were reported across the country earlier this week. One person died overnight after hundreds of Kalenjins attacked a group of Kikuyu villagers who had returned to collect belongings from homes they had fled in Njoro, a settlement outside Nakuru, the provincial capital of the Rift Valley Province.
“There were two groups of attackers numbering about 300. They shot one man with an arrow to the head and he died on his way to hospital. Two others were injured,” said local resident Ben Anjiri. Police confirmed the death.
A few houses were also razed in rural settlements nearby, a witness said. Police in the town of Kikuyu, just outside Nairobi, fired teargas to disperse a group of several hundred protesters.
Meanwhile, soldiers armed with assault rifles and whips patrolled the tense streets of Naivasha, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) northwest of Nairobi, where three died the previous day.
Several stalls were burned down in the town centre, while some 8,000 displaced Luos remained in a police compound where they have sheltered since deadly clashes erupted there several days ago, transforming a tourist town famed for its wildlife.
Thousands of displaced remained in crowded makeshift camps or en route to areas where they sought safety because their ethnic groups were in a majority.