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Kenya death toll reaches 700

Latest update : 2008-01-28

Over 700 people have lost their lives since violence erupted throughout Kenya in the wake of the disputed presidential election on December 27. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that failure to negotiate a solution would be disastrous.

The death toll from violence in the wake of disputed elections in Kenya has passed 700, police said Sunday, as rival political leaders remained under international pressure to drop all preconditions for talks.

"The country wide death toll is more than 700 dead," a top police commander told AFP, after another senior officer reported 89 more bodies had been recovered in the Rift Valley and western provinces.

Four new deaths were reported in the Rift Valley overnight.

An official from the Kenya Red Cross Society confirmed the new recorded deaths, and revised its official toll from 486 to 575 dead. A tally by AFP now stands at 693.

The toll rose after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga -- who claims he was robbed of the presidency in the December 27 elections -- that failure to negotiate a solution to the deadlock would be disastrous.

"The potential for further bloodshed remains high unless the political crisis is quickly resolved," said Ban in a statement.

The crisis has shattered Kenya's image as a beacon of stability in  otherwise restive East Africa, and dealt a serious blow to the region's largest economy.

Odinga is refusing to recognise Kibaki's re-election or to sit down with him until he admits to fraud.

Kenya braced for further unrest after Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) last week called for three days of mass rallies beginning Wednesday.

Police banned the protests, while the government and church leaders urged the opposition to call them off.

A senior US official who left Nairobi on Friday after a week of intense negotiations with both sides said Saturday that it was "imperative" for Kibaki and Odinga to sit down together "directly and without preconditions."

"Both should acknowledge serious irregularities in the vote tallying which made it impossible to determine with certainty the final result," US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer.

Odinga had previously temporarily called off protests amid international efforts to broker a political settlement.

But when African Union-mediated talks ended in failure Thursday, his Orange Democratic Movement struck back with more protest promises.

African Union chairman and Ghanaian President John Kufuor left Nairobi with little to show for two days of talks.

He did say, however, that both men had agreed to work with a panel lead with former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan "towards resolving their differences and all other outstanding issues".

There remains confusion over just what Annan's role would be, with Kibaki rejecting the idea of outside mediation in favour of face-to-face talks with Odinga.

Kibaki on Thursday swore in 17 ministers as part of a partial cabinet to stiff criticism both at home and abroad.

Nearly 260,000 people have been displaced -- mainly in the Rift Valley region -- after violence flared on December 30 when Kibaki was declared winner and immediately sworn into a second term of office despite protests of irregularities in the vote count from international observers.

The Kenya Red Cross Society warned Saturday of degenerating conditions for the displaced, most of whom are in the west of the country and in slums around the capital Nairobi.

The camps "reported increased numbers of people suffering from malaria, pneumonia, respiratory tract infections and other diseases," it said.

Date created : 2008-01-13