Dozens of people were feared dead today in the violence that erupted following Kenya’s presidential election.
As clashes continued over claims the vote had been rigged, opposition leader Raila Odinga compared President Mwai Kibaki to a military dictator.
“There is no difference between him and Idi Amin and other military dictators who have seized power through the barrel of the gun,” Mr Odinga said.
Heavily armed police were trying to contain protesters in Nairobi’s slums with tear gas and by firing bullets into the air.
Kibaki, 76, was sworn in almost immediately after the results were announced yesterday. Within minutes, the slums – home to tens of thousands of opposition supporters who believe the election was rigged – exploded into fresh violence.
A BBC reporter in the western town of Kisumu said they saw more than 40 dead bodies riddled with gunshot wounds in a makeshift morgue.
In the Nairobi shanty town of Kibera 24-year-old James Onyango declared: “We have been rigged out, we are not going to accept defeat. We are ready to die and we’re ready for serious killings.”
Teams of riot police fired shots into the air and tear gas into homes and businesses; in one home, a woman and her four young children ran out, retching.
“We were just hiding from the shots,” said Dorothy Nyangasi, frantically pouring water over the eyes of her six-month-old old son Daniel.
Other residents said that they had not been able to find food since shops closed for elections on Thursday and trouble began over the delayed vote-counting.
“This place is just in tatters. We used to have food and shops here,” said Bernard Ichodo, a father of two, standing in the smoking ruins of the marketplace. Supermarkets in other parts of town have also been closed for fear of looters, and he had only been able to find two meals – of bread and mangoes - in the past four days.
Mr Odinga, the firebrand opposition candidate who had been leading early results and public opinion polls, rejected the results and was planning a ceremony to be declared “the people’s president” later today in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park.
Police banned the event, and hundreds of riot police were deployed around the park.
While Mr Kibaki won the presidency, the opposition took most of the parliamentary seats in the vote.
The bloodshed is a stunning turn of events in one of the most developed countries in Africa, with a booming tourism industry and one of the continent’s highest growth rates. Many observers saw the campaign as the greatest test yet of the young, multiparty democracy and expressed great disappointment as the process descended into chaos.
Mr Odinga said the dispute could trigger a political crisis and compared the country to Ivory Coast – the once stable West African nation where a 2002 coup sparked a civil war.
Elections chief Samuel Kivuitu, who read the results on live television after other media were expelled from the main vote headquarters yesterday, said Mr Kibaki beat Mr Odinga by 231,728 votes in the closest race in Kenya’s history.
But even Mr Kivuitu had acknowledged problems with the count, including a constituency where voter turnout was 115 per cent and another where a candidate ran away with ballot papers.
Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, the chief EU election monitor, said the Electoral Commission of Kenya “has not succeeded in establishing the credibility of the tallying process to the satisfaction of all parties and candidates.”