Kenyan Tensions Heighten Over Cabinet Snub

Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga burn tyres at a barricade in Kisumu, western Kenya, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008.
AP Photo
More refugees streamed from western Kenya on Wednesday as fresh violence followed Cabinet appointments the opposition said heightened a dispute over elections that has killed more than 500 people.

Diplomats worked to bring the political rivals together Wednesday, but it was unclear whether the new tension would force a compromise or increase the anger and distrust that has so far kept them from even agreeing to talk to one another.

With suitcases on their heads and frightened children grabbing at their skirts, women searched for transport to get away from Kisumu, a main town in the west, where opposition candidate Raila Odinga has strong support and those seen as government supporters have been attacked. Seven buses and two dozen cars overloaded with people waited on a police escort to try to reach Nairobi.

Within minutes after the local evening news finished, youths took to the streets in the teeming slums, some wielding machetes, reports CBS reporter Katherine Arms.

On the road to Nairobi, dozens of angry youths brandishing sticks burned tires to block the route. "If elections fail, violence prevails!" they shouted.

Tuesday night, police fired over the heads of young protesters in Kisumu, and one man was shot in the stomach, according to a resident at the scene. He was in serious condition and being operated on in the hospital Wednesday, a nurse said.

President Mwai Kibaki's list for half the Cabinet, released late Tuesday, included no one from Odinga's party, even though the two sides were expected to discuss power sharing. The opposition says Kibaki stole the Dec. 27 vote, international observers say there was rigging, and even Kibaki's elections chief says he can't be sure who won.

In some areas, the political dispute has sparked ethnic violence, with other tribes pitted against Kibaki's Kikuyu, which has long dominated politics and the economy in Kenya. Many of those fleeing Kisumu Wednesday, though, were Kamba - Kalonzo Musyoka, from the Kamba tribe, was named vice president Tuesday.

Musyoka, a member of the Kamba tribe, had been a distant third in the race for the presidency. Now that he has accepted a position in Kibaki's government, Musyoka puts his own tribe into the ethnic trouble mix - something it had largely managed to avoid until now, Arms reports.

At the Kisumu bus station, where fares doubled overnight, businessman Isaac Notuva said: "Our lives are in danger. Now those things that happened to the Kikuyu will happen to the Kamba."

Thousands of Kibaki's Kikuyu people already had been chased or burned out of their homes in Kisumu. In all, more than 255,000 have been driven from their homes across the country, leaving many spending chilly nights in the open and without food.

Hundreds of people gathered for food and other supplies in Nairobi's Kibera slum on Wednesday, but the crowds turned rowdy. Several men stole sacks of corn flour as volunteers tried to hand the food out.

"There are some boys there taking all the food," said Eunice Ochien, 21, who was pushed out of line. "It isn't fair."

There were indications Wednesday Kibaki hoped to resolve the crisis through direct talks with the opposition. After a meeting with the chairman of the African Union, Ghanaian President John Kufuor, the government issued a statement saying Kibaki "assured President Kufuor that he had already initiated a process of dialogue with other Kenyan leaders." Kibaki has resisted outside mediation while the opposition insists it will not negotiate without it.

Salim Lone, a spokesman for main Odinga's party, had said the Cabinet announcement was "a slap in the face" and intended to undermine African Union-mediated talks expected to begin Wednesday.

In another statement Wednesday, Kibaki said he was "committed to dialogue with all parties" and indicated there still was room for the main opposition party in his full Cabinet. "It is envisioned that this government will be established as a result of a constructive and inclusive dialogue. Nothing is ruled out in this process," it said.

Kibaki flew Wednesday to the western town of Eldoret town, scene of some of the worst violence where dozens of his Kikuyu people died in a blaze set in a church. It was his first visit to a trouble spot since the crisis erupted Dec. 29.

AU envoy Kufuor also met Odinga Wednesday. And four former African heads of state met with Kibaki on Tuesday and with Odinga on Wednesday.

Odinga said he had told the statesmen that "We want peace to return to our country ... There cannot be lasting peace without justice."

Odinga's party won 95 parliament seats and Kibaki's party 43 in legislative elections held the same day as the presidential elections, meaning it will be difficult for Kibaki to govern without making some overture to Odinga.

According to a Kenyan government Web site, Kibaki won 4,584,721 votes or 47 percent of the ballots cast, against Odinga's 4,352,993, or 44 percent.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme said more than 63,000 people have been fed in the North Rift Valley and that 250,000 people have been either displaced or affected by the post-election violence.

The U.N. refugee agency has begun preparations to distribute relief supplies for to up to 100,000 displaced people. Aid includes tents and mosquito nets, Arms reports.