Six people were killed on Sunday when two explosions hit a political rally in Kenya's capital city of Nairobi, where demonstrators had gathered to protest a proposed new constitution.
AFP - Kenyan leaders on Monday traded accusations over blasts that killed six people at a rally, as political violence again engulfed the run-up to a key constitutional referendum.
Two blasts late Sunday at a gathering of opponents of a proposed new constitution and an ensuing stampede left six people dead and dozens wounded, police said. It was the first such incident since political strife in 2007-2008 after elections.
President Mwai Kibaki, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and security chiefs held emergency talks on the attack in the East African powerhouse.
The United States, which has been pressuring Kenya's leaders to speed up political reforms, "strongly condemns the violence at the rally" a US embassy statement said.
Kenya's National Cohesion and Integration Commission head Mzalendo Kibunjia called on Kibaki and Odinga to "immediately suspend campaigns on the proposed constitution until the start of the official campaign period on July 13".
Campaigning has "taken the wrong footing," Kibunjia said.
Odinga described the blasts as an "isolated incident" that should not be linked to the referendum but other members of the government did not agree.
"This is a sign some people want to force the constitution on Kenyans," said Higher Education Minister William Ruto when he visited the site of the blasts.
Ruto is a leader of the "No" campaign and one of the main figures in the running for the 2012 presidential election.
Christian leaders, who were out in force at Sunday's meeting and have been campaigning against a constitution they claim would legalise abortion, accused the government of plotting the blasts to weaken the "No" camp.
"We were told that the new constitution is a government project, we are left in no doubt that the government, either directly or indirectly, had a hand in this attack," Bishop David Oginde said.
"Who else in this country holds explosive devices?" he added, reading a statement from the National Council of Churches of Kenya during a press conference held near the site of attacks.
The head of the "Yes" campaign Anyang Nyong'o suggested the blasts may have been a ploy by the constitution's opponents to "attract sympathy" from the electorate.
The death toll rose Monday when police confirmed that a sixth person found dead in his car near the site of the rally had been killed by shrapnel.
Medics at the nearby Kenyatta hospital said they had treated 112 injured following the attacks but that 69 had already been discharged.
A new constitution limiting the powers of the president and enshrining reforms was a main pledge made by Kibaki and Odinga when they ended post-election hostilities and agreed to power-sharing two years ago.
But although Kenya's once feuding principals openly support the new constitution, their respective parties appear divided, with some politicians concerned over land issues and the clause on abortion.
Analyst Hassan Omar Hassan said he was confident however that the attacks would not scupper the referendum, seen as one of the key steps to avoid a repeat of the post-election violence.
"It looks like a diversionary action but I am quite confident that at the end of the day it will not work," said Hassan, from the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.
"There are people who want to derail the referendum campaign, much to the extent that some people played on ethnic animosities in 2007/2008, but I am still confident it will be a peaceful campaign and that the yes will prevail."
The international community, which brokered Kenya's power-sharing deal, has been critical of the pace of reform over the past two years.
Some top ministers and presidential hopefuls also face the threat of a warrant by the International Criminal Court, whose prosecutor is investigating the post-poll violence.
But during a visit to Kenya last week, US Vice President Joe Biden gave support for recent efforts to prepare the referendum and promised significant economic rewards.
Date created : 2010-06-13