Sun, Feb 03, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Agreement fails to put an end to killings in Kenya

AFP , NAIROBI

The death toll from ethnic fighting and a police crackdown in western Kenya rose yesterday, a day after the feuding political sides agreed to a framework to try to end weeks of violence.

Thirty-four people have died in fresh clashes, police said yesterday, including in western Nyanza Province after fighting with machetes and poisoned arrows, and in clashes in Ainamoi, the home village of a slain opposition MP.

The deaths came after former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan oversaw the signing of a first joint document between representatives of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga since last month's disputed election.

The deal marked out a joint roadmap to end, within two weeks, unrest that has claimed nearly 1,000 lives since the Dec. 27 presidential polls.

The crisis has severely shaken the formerly stable east African nation, a refuge for many people displaced by neighboring conflicts.

"You have lost already too much in terms of national image, in terms of economic interests," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said during a one-day visit to Kenya on Friday.

"What I'd like to ask you is to look beyond these individual interests, look beyond the party lines," he said.

The new roadmap said both sides would address the growing humanitarian crisis caused by the unrest, which has displaced up to 300,000 people.

It also pledged to resolve the political crisis created after Odinga accused Kibaki of rigging the election to rob him of the presidency.

But it was unclear how political issues would be addressed, saying only that "its resolution may require adjustments to the current constitutional, legal and institutional frameworks."

The opposition cautiously welcomed the deal.

"Given the very wide differences between the sides, this is a very important breakthrough. But it is not an agreement that will end the crisis," Orange Democratic Movement spokesman Salim Lone said.

Both sides faced the challenge of extinguishing a growing flare-up of latent ethnic clashes, economic and land disputes. They have traded accusations of using armed gangs to provoke further tensions.

Meanwhile, Lone yesterday expressed "serious concern" at a renewed call by Kibaki in a speech to African leaders in Ethiopia for the opposition to take its grievance over the election results to court.

Odinga has said that he believes the courts are loyal to Kibaki.

Police said yesterday that 34 people had died in fresh violence in western Kenya, bringing the toll in the past 24 hours to 44.

Ethnic fighting between villagers armed with bows and arrows, spears and machetes has ballooned in the region since the killing of local opposition MP David Kimutai Too in Eldoret on Thursday.

Odinga said the lawmaker's murder, and that of opposition MP Melitus Mugabe Were on Tuesday in Nairobi, were "part of a plot" to reduce his party's majority in parliament.

A police crackdown increased the death toll of new clashes.

"Seven were killed in Kapsoit" by police, a local commander said, updating an earlier toll of 27 new deaths.

A total of 16 have been hacked to death or shot with poisoned arrows in Nyamira in western Nyanza Province since Friday, another police commander said.

"Six others were killed in [nearby] Chepilat -- two shot by police and four hacked to death. Three others were hacked to death in Manga [also close by]," he said.

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