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Post-Election Kenya Violence Claims More Lives


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

And we start this part of our New Year's Day program in Kenya. At least 250 people are now reported killed in post-election violence there. The conflict began on Sunday when election results returned incumbent President Mwai Kibaki. But the challenger, Raila Odinga, has refused to concede the vote. And the nation has been paralyzed by ethnic conflict and a de facto state of emergency.

NPR's Gwen Thompkins is in Nairobi.

GWEN THOMPKINS: What began as a political contest in Kenya has become a reckoning. Since President Mwai Kibaki took the oath of office on Sunday evening, much of the nation has been burned and looted, and people raped and killed. The ethnic groups that supported challenger Raila Odinga are in conflict with those that supported Kibaki. Earlier today in western Kenya, a Catholic church harboring women and children who had been burned out of their homes was itself burned. Aid workers estimate that at least 50 people were killed.

Mr. MAINA KIAI (Chairman, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights): Innocent Kenyans did not do anything wrong. They exercised their right to vote whichever way they did it. And that's - they're not the problem.

THOMPKINS: Maina Kiai heads the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. The commission is calling on Kibaki and Odinga to do more to end the violence.

Mr. KIAI: What we suggested is for Nelson Mandela moments, where the political leadership reaches out to the other side in dramatic gestures.

THOMPKINS: On the face of it, Kenya is experiencing a backlash against Kibaki's tribespeople, the Kikuyu, and the other tribes that are seen as Kibaki supporters. The Kikuyu are the nation's largest ethnic group. They are perceived by Odinga's supporters to have prospered unfairly during Kibaki's first term.

Cecilia Wanjira, a Kikuyu in the Kalanguari slum of Nairobi, watched her neighbors from different ethnic groups burn everything on her plot of land.

Ms. CECILLA WANJIRA (Kikuyu): We want peace. We don't want that war because they are our brothers and sisters.

THOMPKINS: But the dead and wounded across Kenya include many of Odinga's people as well, the Luo and other tribes sympathetic to the Luo. Across the nation, people are being told to stay in their homes or at some other shelter where they feel safe. Most businesses have not been open since Christmas Eve. Hooliganism is rampant. Hunger is increasing. The government has banned public demonstrations. Live television broadcasts are off the air, and security forces are on red alert. As Kibaki and Odinga remain at a standstill, so does everyone else.

Mr. ALEXANDER GRAF LAMBSDORFF (Chief Observer, Election Monitoring Delegation, European Union): We find that these elections have fallen short of key international and regional standards for Democratic elections to which Kenyans committed themselves.

THOMPKINS: Alexander Graf Lambsdorff heads the European Union's election monitoring delegation. He says Kibaki may have had the most votes, but the mistakes made in the tallying have eroded his confidence in the veracity of the final count. He's calling for an independent investigation into the matter. Kiai, of the Commission on Human Rights, is calling for a recount. But for now, Kiai says, he would sell for some goodwill food.

Mr. KIAI: So it's just, for example, the government sends foods to the Kibera slum, which is perceived to be a Raila Odinga stronghold, to show that they care for every Kenyan, and vice versa for Raila Odinga to reach out to Kurasoi(ph) in Molo, which is perceived to be a Kibaki stronghold, and take some food there.

THOMPKINS: As of now, no one can tell if the situation is getting better or worse. On Wednesday, many Kenyans expect to go back to work. And some say that normalcy will prevail. One Kikuyu tour operator in Nairobi seemed confident that his tribespeople will quickly recover from this time of trouble. We Kikuyu are so many, he said, we are mighty.

Gwen Thompkins, NPR News, Nairobi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Gwen Thompkins
Gwen Thompkins hosts Music Inside Out on WWNO in New Orleans.
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