Kenya unrest hits Rift Valley town

Authorities in Nakuru impose curfew after ethnic violence claims up to 12 lives.

    Nakuru had previously avoided the violence that has claimed 700 lives across the country [AFP]

    "They tore his clothes off first then killed him with blows of a panga [machete]. It took him some time to die. The police were just watching. There was nothing they could do."
    Town 'shut down'
    Residents said many homes were burned and shops looted as large groups of youths armed with rocks, bows and arrows and homemade guns confronted each other across town.
    "Nakuru town has been shut down ... My staff have carried three dead bodies and hundreds are injured in hospital," Abbas Gullet, head of the Kenya Red Cross, said.

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    Kenyan troops were deployed in some neighbourhoods, the first time the military has been used during the crisis, where they cleared burning barricades off roads.
    Eric Kiraithe, a national police spokesman, said in a statement late on Friday that clashes between tribal gangs had broken out in four Nakuru suburbs, but that calm had been restored.
    He rejected witness accounts that a dozen people had died, saying officers were investigating only four possible killings.
    He said that "comprehensive measures" were being taken to ensure security.
    "Rumours that lorry loads of criminal gangs have been transported into Nakuru from various parts of Rift Valley with a mission to commit crimes against certain communities are malicious and intended to cause unnecessary tension," he said.

    Morris Ouma, a 25-year-old trader, told the Reuters news agency that he had taken part in Friday's fighting.

    "I didn't feel good about it, but they are killing our people. What shall we do?" he asked.
    "We had to push them [the Kikuyus] away to protect our land. The enemy comes, so you have to be strong. Today was serious."
    Mediation attempts
    The continuing violence undermines efforts by Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general, to mediate the dispute.
    Hopes for a solution had grown on Thursday after Annan brought Odinga and Kibaki together for their first discussions on how to end the standoff, but both sides later traded accusations.

    The two sides traded accusations after Kibaki,
    right, and Odinga met on Thursday [AFP]

    The opposition was angered by Kibaki's reference to himself as the country's "duly-elected" leader.
    "I would ask him to desist from making those kind of embarrassing remarks which will definitely undermine the process of mediation," Odinga told news agencies on Friday.
    He also urged the African Union to avoid endorsing Kibaki's re-election at a planned summit in Ethiopia and ruled out taking a new post of prime minister in the government, a solution touted by some diplomats.
    Odinga said the only three acceptable options would be Kibaki's resignation, a vote re-run, or power-sharing followed by a new election.

    Kibaki's Party of National Unity said that the opposition should respect the election board's verdict that their candidate won and accused it of pre-planning the violence against Kikuyus.
    "We should focus on the bigger picture - how we resolve the conflicts we are having in the country, not the semantics and phrases in speeches," Moses Wetangula, the foreign minister, said.
    "We are moving on."

    Hundreds of people have been killed and over 250,000 have been made homeless in the unrest that has shattered Kenya's stable image and badly damaged one of Africa's most promising economies.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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