Kenyan crisis talks to resume amid violence

Talks to end Kenya's escalating political turmoil were set to resume Monday after clashes left at least 13 dead overnight. The talks led by Kofi Annan were adjourned on Friday after an initial deal.


 The Kofi Annan-led talks to end Kenya's escalating political crisis were set to resume Monday after weekend clashes left at least 70 dead mainly in the country's western region.

The talks chaired by the former UN chief between representatives of President Mwai Kibaki and opposition chief Raila Odinga adjourned on Friday after they reached a deal aimed to end weeks of unrest that has claimed around 1,000 lives, within two weeks.

Over the weekend, police said 74 people died in three days -- Friday, Saturday, Sunday -- of tribal fighting and a police crackdown in the western region.

Later on Sunday, an AFP photographer said hundreds of fighters armed with bows and arrows and rocks fought pitched battles there as police struggled to contain them.

Meanwhile Kibaki and Odinga traded further barbs, maintaining their hardline positions.

Odinga claimed Kibaki robbed him of the presidency in closely fought December 27 elections amid widespread concerns from local and international observers over the vote-counting process.

The new deal called for illegal militias to be disbanded and for the investigation of all related crimes, including those allegedly committed by the police, who have killed scores of people.

Both sides also promised to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis, after more than 1,000 people have been killed and around 300,000 people have fled their homes.

As thousands languished in makeshift displacement camps across the country, amid reports of rapes and fears of ethnic reprisals, a government newspaper advert reminded Kenyans: "you have a right to be wherever you choose in the country."

The political unrest has stirred up latent ethnic clashes, plus economic and land disputes.

Members of Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe suffered heavily in the first wave of violence at the hands of Odinga's Luo tribe and other ethnic groups, but have since carried out numerous revenge attacks.

Ethnic fighting between villagers armed with bows and arrows, spears and machetes spiralled in western Kenya after the killing of David Kimutai Too in Eldoret on Thursday, the second opposition MP killed in two days.

Police said scores were killed on Friday and Saturday in clashes and a police crackdown in Nyanza province, and in Too's home village of Ainamoi in the Rift Valley province and nearby localities.

While Ainamoi was deserted after a police crackdown Sunday, tension remained high in nearby Nyanza.

Police trailed fighters after they razed more than 100 houses and a primary school, a police commander said, and the trading post of Chepilat was burned down overnight.

Arsonists burnt down a church overnight Friday in the northwestern town of Eldoret where Too was killed, causing no injuries. A total of four schools were burnt in the country -- one overnight Saturday near Eldoret and three others in western Kenya.

Odinga on Sunday called for the deployment of foreign peacekeepers, saying security forces were not impartial in crackdowns.

"It is necessary that we should have a peacekeeping deployment from the United Nations or the African Union because the police have often been misused and we do not have faith in the army to be neutral," he told reporters in his hometown of Bondo, near Kisumu in western Kenya.

The Kenyan army has so far played a backseat role in the crisis, deployed to assist police in clearing road barricades and transporting humanitarian supplies to affected zones.

As the peace roadmap was inked Friday, Kibaki insisted, in a speech in Ethiopia, that opposition protests over the election results be taken to court, and accused the opposition of instigating the violence.

Odinga rejected the claims and said Kibaki's comments "undermined the mediation talks."

He also hinted Sunday that he had a contingency plan in case the talks should fail.

"We have a fall-back (plan)," he said, without elaborating.

The Kenyan talks are due to be joined by South African businessman Cyril Ramaphosa -- who chairs the African National Congress's Negotiating Commission.


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