Annan meets Kenya negotiators

GUNNED DOWN: An opposition lawmaker was shot and killed by a police officer yesterday in what Kenya's national police chief described as `a crime of passion'

AGENCIES , NAIROBI

Fri, Feb 01, 2008 - Page 6

Negotiators for Kenya's political rivals met for the first time yesterday, as Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki attended an African Union summit in neighboring Ethiopia set to be dominated by the month-long crisis sparked by his reelection.

With the toll from the post-poll violence nearing 1,000 and close to 300,000 people displaced, representatives of Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga met for the first time together in Nairobi with former UN chief Kofi Annan.

The current UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, urged the feuding leaders to find a peaceful way out of their country's violent crisis in an opening address to the summit in Addis Ababa.

"Kenyan leader President Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga ... have a special responsibility to solve the crisis peacefully," Ban told African heads of state.

Among them was Kibaki, who attended the meeting despite efforts by Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) to get the 53-state body to exclude him.

The ODM warned that Kibaki's presence in the ranks of the heads of state would amount to a recognition of his election, despite local and international concerns over flaws in the vote count of the Dec. 27 polls.

An opposition lawmaker was shot and killed by a police officer in the Rift Valley yesterday, the second opposition lawmaker to be killed this week in Kenya.

National police chief Hussein Ali said lawmaker David Too was killed in "a crime of passion" by a traffic police officer who had been arrested. The opposition said it was an assassination plot.

Thousands of people from Too's Kalenjin ethnic group blocked roads with rocks and set houses ablaze on the outskirts of the western town of Kericho, near Too's constituency. Members of other tribes fled to a police station for safety.

In Eldoret, where Too was killed, angry residents marched on the police station. They fled when paramilitary officers fired into the air, and as the crowd ran, people began shuttering their businesses.

Within minutes of the news reaching another western town, the opposition stronghold of Kisumu, gangs of men armed themselves with machetes and set up burning barricades. Businesses shut down and workers began to flee from the town center.

Henry Kosgey, an ODM official, said at a news conference that witnesses said David Too was shot by a police officer as he was traveling from Nairobi to Eldoret by car.

But police said Too's death was not linked to the political turmoil. Eldoret deputy police chief Gabriel Kuya said the traffic officer discovered that his girlfriend was having an affair with Too, and when he saw them both in the car, chased them on his motorcycle.

``He drove toward the side of the woman and shot her in the stomach twice. Her partner [legislator Too] pleaded with the officer not to kill her but he turned his pistol on him instead, hitting him four times in the head,'' Kuya said.

A mob of Kikuyus attacked a Kalenjin official as he attempted to collect the body of a relative who had been killed, a correspondent said.

They accused him of having sponsored ethnic attacks near Molo late on Wednesday.

Police from his entourage shot in the air to disperse the crowd and the official sheltered in a nearby hospital for several hours before fleeing without the body, he said.