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Police fire tear gas at opposition rally

Latest update : 2008-01-23

Kenyan police used tear gas at an opposition funeral procession on Wednesday, forcing Raila Odinga and other leaders to flee the scene. Meanwhile, former UN chief Kofi Annan is in Kenya to push for national reconciliation.


Kenyan police fired bullets in the air and tear gas at an opposition funeral procession Wednesday while political strife claimed more lives and former UN chief Kofi Annan forged on with a mediation mission.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga fled the scene after the latest disturbance in the Kenyan capital, which has seen weeks of deadly unrest since President Mwai Kibaki was on December 30 declared winner of disputed elections.
Six people were killed late Tuesday in western Kenya and another man in the Mathare slum of Nairobi, police told AFP, taking the overall death toll to more than 780.
Riot police fired tear gas at hundreds of opposition supporters taking part in the funeral procession as some chanted political slogans and blocked traffic.
At least 13 coffins carrying victims killed during opposition protests were laid out on tables, where mourners gathered for a mass.
Odinga and other opposition leaders were in a funeral tent when the tear gas was fired. They sped off in their vehicles as angry rock-throwing protestors clashed with police in a street nearby.
After the funeral rally was broken up, an angry mob set up a roadblock as police fired more tear gas and bullets in the air resulting in running battles.
A local telecommunications exchange was set on fire in the chaos, an AFP correspondent said.
"This was a peaceful demonstration to honour the buried and now the police starts firing rubber bullets and tear gas. Now we are angry, these peace talks cannot succeed," said 27-year-old protestor Joseph Ngira.
Before his first talks with Kenya's feuding factions, Annan said he had no miracle answer to the unrest.
Annan met Wednesday afternoon with the newly-elected parliament speaker Kenneth Marende but separate meetings with Kibaki and Odinga were delayed.
The opposition had indicated before the latest unrest that it was ready to call off demonstrations planned for Thursday if Annan requested at a meeting scheduled for later Wednesday.
"We expect all parties to enter into dialogue in good faith, and to seize this opportunity to end the suffering and uncertainty that has plagued the lives of Kenyans everywhere," Annan told reporters after arriving on Tuesday.
"There can be no solution without genuine dialogue."
Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, who is on a two-day official visit as chairman of the five-nation East African Community summit, also held talks with Kibaki in a bid to defuse the crisis.
Several international attempts to bring the two sides together have failed, as the rival sides harden their positions and the violence escalates.
The AU's Peace and Security Council on Tuesday condemned "gross violations of human rights" in Kenya and called for an investigation, which was also supported by the United Nations.
"The killings have to be investigated expeditiously and impartially, and anyone found responsible for human rights abuses must be brought to justice," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said in a statement.
The World Bank and African Development Bank said they would review funding to Kenya if leaders fail to halt the crisis that has crippled the once-vibrant economy.
The banks said in a joint statement that they will "continue to monitor developments closely, keep our programmes under review and make necessary adjustments as the situation evolves."
About 260,000 people have fled their homes because of the violence which has broken Kenya's image as a haven of stability in the region and dealt a huge blow to east Africa's biggest economy.
Hundreds of villagers on Wednesday fled their homes in Molo, western Kenya.
Around forty lorries were seen transporting whole families and their possessions.
Witnesses said most of those leaving were from Kibaki's Kikuyu ethnic group.
Kenya's tourism sector, battered by the political unrest, is to request the creation of a special fund to assist its recovery.
"We asked for a billion shillings (13.6 million dollars / 9.3 million euros) from the treasury for urgent marketing and recovery programmes," tourism and wildlife ministry spokesman Gakunga Mwangi told AFP.

Date created : 2008-01-23