More bloodshed in Kenya as crisis talks face tough times

 

At least five people have died in clashes in recent days in western Kenya, police said Wednesday, as former UN chief Kofi Annan pressed for a deal to end the crisis sparked by December's elections.

"In the last four days, three people have been killed in Molo and two others in Cherangani area," a police commander told AFP, requesting anonymity.


In Cherangani, thousands of livestock were stolen in the violence.

Police said they had boosted security in volatile western areas of the east African country that were the scene of some of the worst fighting set off by the disputed December 27 re-election of President Mwai Kibaki, in which more than 1,000 people died and some 300,000 were displaced.


Annan has spent more than a month in Kenya leading talks between the camps of Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, who claims he was robbed of victory in the widely-contested polls.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday pressed for a swift power-sharing deal between the two leaders, but Kibaki damped hopes of a quick resolution by insisting that any accord must be within the constitution.

In a meeting with Annan on Tuesday, Kibaki said "that he was willing to work together and share responsibilities in government with members of the ODM," the presidential press service (PPS) said in a statement.

"The President, however, cautioned that any political solution that will be proposed must be in tandem with the current Kenyan constitution."

"President Kibaki noted that the constitution must serve as a guide while the mediation team discussed what legal and institutional reforms are needed to move the country forward," the PPS statement added.

Launched by the African Union, Annan's mediation is seen as Kenya's best hope for a political solution to move beyond the violence which saw Kenyans killed by machete-wielding mobs, burnt in churches and driven off their land.

"We are working very hard to ensure that there is preservation of peace," police spokesman Eric Kiraithe told AFP Wednesday.

Police overnight descended on the capital's Mathare slums and evicted dozens of families from Odinga's Luo tribe who had refused to pay rent over the past months, local police commander Jasper Ombati told reporters.


"We received complaints that there were people who had illegally occupied houses, taking advantage of the post-election violence. We arrested 80 families that had refused to pay the rent, but investigations are under way," Ombati told reporters.

But residents said police descended on the volatile shantytown without warning and used force to evict the families, beating women and children who had occupied the four highrise apartment blocks.

Fighting erupted at about 4.00 am, which resulted in the burning of a minibus and many casualties.

"This is wrong. It was a very bad overnight operation, people were wailing all over the area because police used unnecessary force on women and children," said Mathare resident Mark Otieno.

"We are not to surrender until they are released," he added.

Witnesses said the crackdown spurred a stand-off between police and the residents.


The political crisis has tapped into simmering resentment over land, poverty and the dominance of the Kikuyu, Kibaki's tribe, in Kenyan politics and business since independence from Britain in 1963. (AFP)
 
 
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