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The Kenyan government on Monday condemned as "illegal sabotage" a plan by the opposition to widen its protests against President Mwai Kibaki's re-election to a boycott of companies linked to his allies.
After a bloody weekend that added to the death toll of around 650 since the December 27 vote, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) vowed to continue street rallies from Thursday and also called for economic protests.
"Sabotage of companies [is] illegal and an insult to Kenyans," the government said in a statement.
"Politicians are warned that they will be held personally responsible and accountable for any destruction of property emanating from their incitement."
In the latest violence, three people were hacked to death in ethnic fighting in a Nairobi slum on Sunday. Some 250,000 people have also been displaced in a nation more used to receiving refugees from war-torn neighbours like Sudan and Somalia.
The crisis has also damaged one of Africa's most promising economies, cut off supplies to neighbours, and tainted Kibaki's reputation as the man who democratised Kenya after the 24-year rule of President Daniel arap Moi.
The opposition, led by former Kibaki minister and one-time political prisoner Raila Odinga, hopes increased pressure on the president will undermine his hold on power after a vote that most foreign and local observers agree was flawed.
It has urged supporters to shun companies owned by Kibaki allies, including Equity Bank, Brookside Diaries and bus companies CityHoppa and Kenya Bus. Boycotts would hurt the poor and inflame ethnic divisions, the government said.
The boycott call may be more symbolic than real, given that many of Kenya's poor use Equity because of its accessibility and low charges, while commuters in long queues may not want to wait even longer by shunning certain buses.
ODINGA VISITS HEARTLAND
Odinga was due later on Monday in the western towns of Kakamega and Kisumu, both opposition strongholds, for funeral services for supporters killed in protests against Kibaki.
Residents in Kisumu promised a rapturous welcome for Odinga, whom they call the "People's President", on his first visit to the unofficial opposition capital since the vote.
The city has been devastated by riots and protests.
"This will be both a funeral service for those shot by the police as well as a homecoming for our President Raila Odinga," said hotel worker Wycliffe Orwa, 26. "I will look for a reason to sneak out of work to go and welcome my president."
After a funeral service in Kisumu's Catholic Cathedral, opposition supporters were to march to the city mortuary then to the local Moi stadium for a mass memorial meeting.
In the latest international mediation attempt, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan was due to fly into Kenya to start talks with both sides on Tuesday. Diplomats hope he can bring Kibaki and Odinga into some sort of power-sharing arrangement, possibly before a fresh vote in the east African nation.
Kenyans, however, are sceptical of such a solution.
"It seems every time we vote, we bring a bloodbath upon ourselves," said a Nairobi housewife, Joy, who asked for her surname not to be used. "Why would we want another election? It will just bring more violence."
The Kenyan government is furious with comments by some Western powers, including Britain, that the election was dubious. Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula met UK High Commissioner Adam Wood on Monday, a diplomatic source confirmed. (Reuters)
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