Kenyan official urges vote probe

Kibaki appeals for calm as claims of "genocide" are levelled at challenger Odinga.

    Thousands of riot police and paramilitary units were deployed to prevent
    the banned protest from going ahead on Thursday [AFP]

    Kenya's most senior lawyer has appealed for an independent investigation into the results of the presidential election of December 27 that have ignited days of deadly violence.

    The surprise call from Amos Wako, the attorney-general, came as police on Thursday blocked thousands of people trying to protest against the incumbent's claim that he won the election fair and square.

    In a televised statement, Wako said: "It is necessary ... that a proper tally of the valid certificates returned and confirmed should be undertaken immediately on a priority basis by an agreed and independent person or body."

    There have also been skirmishes in Mombasa, which is Kenya's second biggest city and major port and airport for tourists.

    Police shot over the heads of protesters and used tear gas to stop them attending one of two planned protest marches.

    The opposition called for another protest rally after its leaders cancelled demonstrations on Thursday against Mwai Kibaki's re-election, in the wake of street battles in Nairobi.

    Al Jazeera's correspondent in Mombasa says she saw police chasing youths down back streets to stop them joining other protesters.

    Kibaki said on Thursday that he was "deeply disturbed by the senseless violence" and was ready to hold talks with "concerned parties once the nation is calm".

    He read a statement to reporters but did not take questions.

    Protest foiled

    Earlier in the day, thousands of supporters of Raila Odinga, the opposition leader, left the capital's slums to march to the banned rally, but were stopped by Kenyan police using tear gas, water cannon and live ammunition.

    William Ruto, a leader of Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), said: "We shall end our meeting here. As ODM we are peaceful people. We will hold a peaceful meeting on January 8.

    In video

    Kenyan police and protesters clash at election rally

    "We don't want any more lives lost. Our fight is not with ordinary Kenyans. Our fight is with Mwai Kibaki."

    More than 300 people have been killed and an estimated 100,000 displaced during nearly one week of violent unrest following Kibaki's victory.

    There were no immediate reports of casualties in Thursday's clashes with police.

    However, in the western city of Kisumu, police said that two opposition politicians were arrested.

    "Two ODM lawmakers for Kisumu Town East, Shabir Shabeer, and Kisumu Town West, Olago Aluoch, have been arrested for mobilising the ODM supporters to demonstrate in town," Michael Baraza, Nyanza province police commander, told AFP news agency.

    Media appeals

    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.

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    "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."

    Odinga, who led Kibaki in opinion polls before the election, says that the government rigged the tallying process after the poll.

    Odinga 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.

    Kibaki's supporters have blamed Odinga for the wave of violence that has spread across the country, immediately targeting the president's Kikuyu tribe. However, revenge killings by Kikuyus are reportedly on the rise.

    Genocide charges

    On Thursday, 104 politicians who support Kibaki urged the International Criminal Court to bring genocide charges against the opposition.

    "We are calling for ... the indicting of Orange Democratic Movement leaders by the International Criminal Court on charges of ethnic cleansing and genocide," Mohammed Yusuf Haji, an MP, said reading from a statement.

    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".

    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.

    Mediation efforts

    In a sign of growing international concern, 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.

    Thousands of people had left Nairobi's slums
    to march to Thursday's opposition rally [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."

    Uganda's president is the only prominent African leader so far 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 US, but Washington has since expressed concerns at election violence and irregularities.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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