Kenya’s embattled opposition vowed to stage another day of rallies today, setting the scene for more violence amid a political deadlock between the president and his chief rival.
The US and Europe pushed for reconciliation, but said a “made-in-Kenya solution” is needed to end the violence that has killed 300 people and displaced 100,000 since President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the December 27 polls.
Jendayi Frazer, the top US diplomat for Africa, planned to travel for talks with Mr Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. Mr McCormack said Ms Frazer would not serve as a mediator – Mr Kibaki has rejected such a role for outsiders.
Mr McCormack said she would try to encourage the leaders to get together and work toward a political solution.
It was not clear how long Ms Frazer would be in Kenya.
Nairobi was calm early today, but Salim Lone, a spokesman for opposition chief Raila Odinga, said: “We are not going to give up our right to assemble peacefully”.
“We will not back down until there is a clear solution for the crisis caused by the stolen election,” Mr Lone said.
On Wednesday, riot police fired tear gas and water cannons to beat back crowds of opposition protesters in Nairobi, where post-election violence in what had been one of Africa’s most stable countries left shops, cars and a church in flames.
“War is happening here,” 45-year-old Edwin Mukathia said yesterday. He was among thousands of people who poured out of Nairobi’s slums yesterday to heed Mr Odinga’s call for a million man march in the city’s Uhuru Park.
Mr Mukathia and the others were kept at bay by riot police, who blocked off the roads and fired live bullets over their heads. Opposition leaders cancelled the march but said they would hold it today, setting the stage for yet another day of upheaval as one of Africa’s top tourist destinations and one of the continent’s most stable democracies approaches chaos.
The violent images – of burning churches, machete-wielding gangs, looters making off with petrol – are heartbreakingly common in a region that includes war-ravaged Somalia and Sudan. But Kenya had been spared.
The dispute has degenerated into violence pitting Mr Kibaki’s influential Kikuyus against Mr Odinga's Luos and other tribes.
Kenya’s electoral commission said Mr Kibaki had won the December 27 vote, but Mr Odinga alleged the vote was rigged and international observations say it was flawed.
Yesterday, Attorney General Amos Wako called for an independent probe of the counting.
Mr Wako did not elaborate or say whether an independent body would include foreign observers, and it was unclear whether he had Mr Kibaki’s backing or had made the statement independently.
As attempts at mediating the crisis gained momentum, Mr Kibaki said he was willing to hold talks.
“I am ready to have dialogue with concerned parties once the nation is calm and the political temperatures are lowered enough for constructive and productive engagement,” Mr Kibaki said.
South African Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu met Mr Odinga in Nairobi yesterday, saying afterwards that Mr Odinga was ready for “the possibility of mediation”.
Mr Tutu gave no details but said he hoped to meet Mr Kibaki as well.
Government spokesman Mr Mutua, however, said Mr Kibaki had no plans yet for such a meeting and that Kenya had no need for mediators. “We are not in a civil war,” he said.