Gunfire erupted Saturday and young men vowed revenge as the death toll from two days of bloodshed in western Kenya's main town reached at least 25 - including 16 charred bodies unloaded at the morgue from the back of a truck.
Nakuru, Kenya's fourth-largest city, is suffering the latest explosion of fury over Kenya's deeply flawed presidential election. Riots and ethnic fighting following the Dec. 27 vote have killed more than 700 people nationwide and forced 255,000 from their homes.
CBS News producer Katherine Smerdon reports that Nakuru's mortuary is full and the center of town is empty as much of the fighting has taken place in suburbs of the tourist and business area. Residents are piling up what belongings they can and fleeing, a sight that has now become familiar in this country.
"We are planning revenge, we are searching for weapons," said 23-year-old Njenga, who was among hundreds taking shelter at a Catholic church after their homes were torched. He gave only his first name for fear of reprisals.
"Now it will be the survival of the fittest," he said.
Much of the recent fighting has degenerated into riots pitting ethnic groups who support the opposition against President Mwai Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe, long dominant in Kenyan politics and the economy. Opposition leader Raila Odinga accuses Kibaki of stealing the election, and local and foreign observers have said the vote tally was rigged.
Smerdon spoke with Daniel Maina, a waiter working in Nairobi, whose family is in Nakuru. He worries for his son's safety and for his parents. A member of the Kikuyu tribe, his family has owned land there for decades. His parents were born there, but still they are being told to leave.
"I want to rush there but I don't know if I will be able to reach there. The road may be insecure. They are being told to leave but we have nowhere to go. All we have is in Nakuru...and they are telling my family to go to the Central Province. But we have nothing there."
When asked why the members of another tribe, the Kalenjin, are so angry with Kikuyus, Maina said "This is all about land. I'm sure my family's land was purchased properly, but they think land was stolen from them."
Men broke down in tears at the city mortuary as police wearing rubber gloves unloaded the burned bodies. In recent days, hundreds of homes have been burned by mobs with torches and homemade guns.
"I have never experienced this in my country," one man at the mortuary said, his face marked with grief. "I just pray that our leaders end this thing immediately."
At Nakuru's main hospital, dozens of people with machete and arrow wounds were lying two-to-a-bed. One man's face was a maze of stitches; he appeared to have been slashed. Bed sheets were soaked in blood.
Michael Ndegwa, 21, thought he found a corpse behind some kiosks Saturday morning when he walking through town, but when he got closer he saw the body trembling.
"I saw him and he was lying by the side of the road," Ndegwa said, sitting at a Nakuru hospital with the wounded man, Steven Mwangi. "I carried him here. I thought he was dead."
Mwangi, whose forehead, ear and nose were bandaged, kept his eyes closed as he waited for treatment, tears streaming down his face. He did not speak.
Nakuru, a city of 300,000, had until now been spared the violence, but the fighting started late Thursday after Kibaki and Odinga held talks for the first time since the election. Immediately after the meeting, Kibaki made clear his position as president was not negotiable. The Rift Valley exploded in violence just hours later.
Soldiers began patrolling the streets and a dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed. A barrier of rocks and wood blocked a main road Saturday, manned by youths with sticks.
In Naivasha, also in the Rift Valley, scores of youths in a slum went on house-to-house searches and two people were hacked to death, witnesses said. "I saw at least two dead men, all with wounds, lying on the ground as I escaped through my bedroom window," said resident David Okoth. Police officer Willy Lugusa said one man was killed and one seriously injured.
As the violence raged, Kibaki and Odinga remained far apart on the central question of who really won the election. Both men are under international pressure to find a way to share power. But Odinga is insisting that new elections are the only way to restore peace.
The crisis has destroyed Kenya's image as a peaceful haven in a region rife with conflict, and raised international concern about the East African nation, which is an ally in Washington's war on terrorism.
Mediator Kofi Annan, a Ghanaian who is the former U.N. secretary-general, visited trouble spots in the Rift Valley Saturday and flew over Nakuru and other areas where thousands of homes have been razed.
Annan called for an investigation to establish who was responsible for the violence in the Rift Valley, and he urged politicians to avoid inciting people.
"If there are people inciting others to violence or sponsoring chaos, they should know that that is not acceptable and that action will be taken against them," Annan said.
New York-based Human Rights Watch reported this week it had evidence that opposition politicians helped direct and organize some attacks in the Rift Valley - charges Odinga has vigorously denied. Odinga said the violence was a spontaneous reaction.
Annan flew by helicopter to Molo, where 50,000 people have been chased from their homes in ethnic clashes in recent days, according to the Kenya Red Cross.
"We cannot accept the pattern every five years these sorts of incidents take place and no one is held to account," Annan said, referring to Kenya's cycle of ethnic clashes in election-year violence. "Let's not kid ourselves this is an electoral problem. This is much broader."
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