Tribal violence flared again in Kenya today with mobs burning down half a town, killing at least two people.
The Kenyan Red Cross said 50 people had been wounded by clubs and machetes and up to 3,000 made homeless in fighting in the west of the country between President Mwai Kibaki’s Kikuyus and Kalenjins who support opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Sixty percent of the town of Total Station’s buildings had been razed in fires, the organisation’s secretary general Abbas Gullet said. The town is in the Rift Valley, which has seen some of the worst of the violence which began with last month’s disputed presidential election.
“The spiral effects of counterattacks and reprisals is getting out of hand in the Rift Valley,” said Mr Gullet. He showed film of people fleeing for safety to a mosque and police station with columns of flames and black smoke rising in the background.
He said up to 50,000 people had fled their homes in recent days in other Rift Valley clashes around Molo.
Across the country since the vote on December 27, at least 685 people have been killed in riots and ethnic fighting and some 255,000 forced from their homes.
Yesterday Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga held talks for the first time since the disputed election. They are under international pressure to find a way to share power, but the president angered the opposition by insisting afterwards that his position as head of state was not negotiable.
Today the opposition said Mr Kibaki should not be allowed to send a delegation to an African Union summit planned next week in neighbouring Ethiopia.
“We are telling the world, including the African Union, that Kibaki’s government is not the legitimate government,” said a spokesman for Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement.
“The AU should accept our call because Kibaki lost the election and all the independent institutions in the world have shown this was a fraudulent election.”
Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka reiterated Mr Kibaki’s position today saying: “The matter of the legitimacy of the government is not in doubt whatsoever.”
International allies, though, have said the vote tally was rigged.
The Pan-African Parliament, set up under the African Union, yesterday issued a report from its election monitors that said Kenya’s elections did not meet democratic standards. It urged the African Union “to look into a protocol that will deal with future revelations of vote-rigging by member states using state power.”
While politics sparked the post-election fighting, much of the violence has also been ethnic, pitting other groups against Mr Kibaki’s Kikuyu people who are resented for their domination of politics and the economy in Kenya.
Human Rights Watch said it has evidence that opposition party leaders “actively fomented,” organised and directed ethnic attacks in the Rift Valley, and plans were in the making to attack camps of displaced Kikuyu there.