Kenyan death toll nears 500

The official death toll from Kenya’s orgy of violence following last week’s presidential election was put at 486 today.

The official death toll from Kenya’s orgy of violence following last week’s presidential election was put at 486 today.

A statement from the Ministry of Special Programs also said 255,000 people were forced to flee from their homes.

The toll was compiled by a special committee of humanitarian services set up by the government which extensively toured areas most affected by riots and protests.

Meanwhile the country's embattled government urged the opposition to call off protest rallies planned for tomorrow saying they could re-ignite violence.

A Kenyan government spokesman said today that the opposition Orange Democratic Movement was encouraging confrontation.

“It is unfortunate that while the ODM leaders are calling on their supporters to uphold peace, they are at the same time advocating a violation of the law and the creation of tension and hooliganism,” he said.

President Mwai Kibaki’s government victory in the election on December 27 despite questions over its validity sparked a week of riots and ethnic clashes.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga has indicated he is willing to share power with the government he accuses of rigging elections.

Yesterday he called for mass peace marches and protest rallies across the country to demand Mr Kibaki’s resignation.

He advised his supporters to wear white arm bands to emphasise their peaceful intent and said any bloodshed would be the government’s responsibility.

Attempts to hold opposition rallies last week were blocked by police who fired tear gas, water cannons and live bullets over people’s heads. Human rights groups accused police of excessive force and unjustified killings in the crisis, but police Commissioner Hussein Ali insisted yesterday that “We have not shot anyone.”

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