|Hundreds of people came from Nairobi's Kibera slum |
to attend the anti-Kibaki protest [Reuters]
Kenyan police have fired tear gas, water cannon and live ammunition to disperse hundreds of protesters gathering before a banned rally against the disputed re-election of Mwai Kibaki, the president.
Thousands of riot police and paramilitary units had been deployed on to the streets of the capital, Nairobi, after Raila Odinga, the opposition leader, vowed to defy the ban.
Several hundred people poured out of the Kibera slum after dawn on Thursday, heading for Uhuru Park to attend what Odinga hopes will be a million-strong rally at which his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) intends to declare him "the people's president".
When they were stopped by police, the protesters sat in the street, blocking traffic. Police responded by firing tear gas, water cannon and bullets.
"We are gathering now... The whole of Nairobi is going to go to Uhuru Park," James Ngare, an Odinga supporter, said.
After almost a week of violent unrest in which more than 300 people have been killed, the protesters chanted "Peace" and sang the Kenyan national anthem.
'Anger and bitterness'
A senior police official said there were about 2,000 demonstrators and accused them of planning to loot a supermarket.
"We have dispersed them because they were planning to loot Nakumatt market and we will not allow them into the city centre," Herbert Khaemba, police commander, told the AFP news agency.
On Wednesday, Moody Awori, vice-president, warned Odinga he would be held responsible for any loss of life at Thursday's rally.
"I plead with you my friend Raila, overcome your anger, your bitterness and all negative emotions for the sake of our country which you very much want to lead," he said.
"Please do not risk the lives of Kenyans, encouraging a large crowd of people coming in Nairobi on a working day."
In Mombassa, Al Jazeera's Gabi Menezes said there was sporadic violence on the outskirts of the city as protesters tried to march to a rally in the centre.
"The police are having some trouble containing these protests because young men are coming from different directions," she said. "The police are trying to diffuse them down small streets, but it seems impossible to really contain all of them."
Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe was immediately targeted in the post-poll violence, but revenge killings by Kikuyus are on the rise. Odinga's supporters are drawn mainly from his Luo tribe.
Odinga, who led Kibaki in opinion polls before the election, claims that the government rigged the tallying process after the December 27 poll.
The opposition leader has said he is prepared to enter into dialogue with Kibaki only if he concedes that he lost the election. Odinga has also proposed setting up an interim power-sharing government to prepare for a re-run of the vote.
International observers said the election fell short of democratic standards and both sides have accused each other of electoral fraud.
Paul East, the deputy head of the Commonwealth election observer group, said that Kenyans had "no confidence in the final results that were announced".
|We're now in a position where it is just impossible to know who should have won the presidential election" |
As such, he said it was important to have outside judges deciding on who the winner is or whether to hold another election especially after electoral officials said they saw documents being tampered with."We're now in a position where it is just impossible to know who should have won the presidential election," East told New Zealand's National Radio network.
"And this is now confirmed by several of the [Kenyan] electoral commissioners who have now stated that they saw changes to documentation that was presented to them."
Newspapers united in pleas for peace on Thursday, with every major newspaper running the same front-page headline: "Save Our Beloved Country."
"Kenya is a burnt-out, smouldering ruin. The economy is at a virtual standstill and the armies of destruction are on the march," said the Daily Nation.
"In the midst of this, leaders - who are the direct cause of this catastrophe - are issuing half-hearted calls for peace, from the comfort of their hotels and walled homes in Nairobi, where they are conveyed in bullet-proof limousines."
Desmond Tutu, South African Nobel peace laureate, has arrived in Nairobi to try to mediate between Kibaki and Odinga.
John Kufuor, the chairman of the African Union, is also expected to speak to Kenya's president by telephone.
|Tens of thousands of Kenyans have been |
displaced by the violence [AFP]
"We think that the government is resisting this mediation attempt from the African Union, the UK, the US and the European Union," Andrew Simmons, Al Jazeera's Africa bureau chief, said.
"However, the former president of Sierra Leone, Tejan Kabbah, is in the capital and I understand he is having talks at a low level. He is trying to be sensitive, he is trying to use diplomacy to get some sort of progress."
Meanwhile, Uganda's president has become the first African leader to endorse Kibaki's victory.
"President Museveni telephoned President Kibaki to congratulate him on his re-election as president," said a statement by a spokesman for Museveni, who has been in power since 1986 and himself won an election marred by fraud claims in 2005.
The only other nation to congratulate Kibaki has been the United States, but Washington has since expressed concerns at election violence and irregularities.
Major Felix Kulayigye, Uganda's military spokesman, said soldiers have been deployed heavily on the border with Kenya "to avoid violence spilling over".
About 1,000 Kenyan refugees have already crossed as the death toll from post-election violence passes 300, according to human rights groups.
"The government and the International Red Cross have moved in to make sure these people are sheltered well, but for now they are in schools and churches," Musa Ecweru, disaster preparedness minister, said.
About 100,000 people are believed to have been displaced by fighting in Nairobi and western Kenya.