Opposition leaders in Kenya have cancelled tomorrow’s planned nationwide election protests over fears they could re-ignite the violence that has cost almost 500 lives so far.
Raila Odinga leader of the Orange Democratic Movement who had originally called for mass demonstrations instead pleaded for peace and said he wanted to talks aimed at ending the chaos to have every chance.
President Mwai Kibaki’s government, accused by Mr Odinga of rigging the election, said the proposed demonstrations were illegal.
Mr Odinga said Ghana’s President John Kufuor, the current chairman of the African Union, was expected to arrive tomorrow to act as a mediator in the dispute.
“We want the mediation to take place in a peaceful environment, that is why the rallies have been cancelled,” Mr Odinga said.
Meanwhile both sides argued about who should be blamed for the turmoil.
Mr Odinga said: “Mr. Mwai Kibaki must bear responsibility ... for the deaths we are seeing in our country today.”
In a statement welcoming Mr Odinga’s cancellation of the rallies, a government spokesman said it was investigating “premeditated murder” of people he said were warned not to vote for Mr Kibaki.
Mr Odinga has said he is willing to discuss a power-sharing option and has also proposed an interim government be set up to hold new presidential elections.
But Mr Kibaki has said only a court could order fresh elections, which is unlikely as the judiciary is packed with his allies.
It would be nearly impossible for Mr Kibaki to govern without opposition support. In parliamentary elections held the same day as the presidential vote, Mr Odinga’s party won 95 of 210 seats, and half of Mr Kibaki’s Cabinet lost their seats. It was a sign of people’s anger over pervasive corruption and nepotism that favoured Mr Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe.
Since the violence began tens of thousands of people have been left hungry, cut off from supplies as shops closed and transport stopped across Kenya. What food is available has tripled in price.
Reports continued of killings in the countryside.
An official in neighbouring Uganda said that 30 people trying to flee western Kenya were thrown into the border river by attackers, and were presumed drowned.