Kenyan Tribes Battle Amid Protest Mayhem

An opposition supporter shields his face from the flames of a burning makeshift roadblock in the village of Marura, near Eldoret, Kenya, Friday, Jan. 18, 2008.
AP Photo/Ben Curtis
Masai fighters battled rival tribesman loyal to President Mwai Kibaki on Friday, with both sides using machetes, swords, bows and arrows on the final and bloodiest day of protests this week over Kenya's disputed election.

In Nairobi's Kibera slum and the coastal tourist town of Mombasa, police and demonstrators fought in the streets.

Three days of protests called by Kenya's opposition have dwindled in strength, but at least 22 people have been killed, including five who died in the ethnic fighting less than a dozen miles from the premier Masai Mara game reserve in Narok, police chief Patrick Wambani told The Associated Press.

Since the Dec. 27 election, Kibaki's Kikuyu people have been chased from western Kenya by other ethnic groups.

A blood-smeared pickup truck carried the bodies of a 15-year-old girl and a young man killed in Kibera, along with wailing relatives.

"They killed my daughter. Kibaki must die," a woman screamed in anguish. She said her daughter was washing utensils on her doorstep when police opened fire and she was hit.

Demonstrators in the western town of Kisumu set fire to a truck, then marched by the hundreds, pulling down telephone booths and bus shelters and burning tires. In Nairobi, police fired tear gas at a dozen protesters outside a downtown mosque.

Kenya exploded in violence after the Dec. 27 election. Opposition leader Raila Odinga insists the president stole the vote, and international observers and the electoral chief have questioned the results.

As protests diminish and the days pass, Kibaki appears increasingly unlikely to accede to demands he step down. His mandate, however, is thin.

The opposition's best hope may rest in a power-sharing agreement with Kibaki.

Despite the flawed poll, international pressure is likely to focus on a power-sharing arrangement that leaves Kibaki as president. The U.S. and other allies consider Kenya a vital partner in the war on terrorism and a regional economic and military powerhouse whose stability has stood in stark contrast to war-ravaged neighbors like Sudan and Somalia, where Islamic extremism is rife.

More than 600 people have been killed in Kenya's election violence, according to a government commission, in the worst turmoil since a failed 1982 coup attempt.

Kenyan police released their own figures Friday, saying 510 people had been killed in the election violence, including 82 killed by police. Police, who had earlier denied charges they had killed anyone since Kenya descended into turmoil, have recently been more forthright, and critical of protesters.

The U.S.-based rights group Human Rights Watch said in a weekend statement that police were behind dozens of killings and that they opened fire on both looters and opposition protesters under an unofficial "shoot-to-kill" policy. Human Rights Watch said victims included people hit by police gunfire on the fringes of protests.

The police statement released Friday said police were dealing with "deception and manipulation of jobless people by their leaders. Some have been coached into committing crimes without the benefit of the bigger picture." It said the unnamed leaders were "exploiting ethnicity, religion and subjective politics."

Also Friday, Kenyan police said they had arrested two Germans and a Dutch national suspected of "terrorist activities." At least two had ties to Odinga.

One, Andrej Hermlin-Leder, is a jazz musician married to a Kenyan who "knows Mr. Odinga, he's a supporter of Mr. Odinga" and spends a lot of time in Kenya, said opposition spokesman Salim Lone. "I am astounded by the charge of terrorist activities."

Lone said a second suspect, Dutch woman Fleur van Dissel, recently made a documentary about Odinga, which was aired on the private Kenya Television Network days before the election. Details on the third suspect were not immediately available.

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said the arrests had "nothing to do with" connections to Odinga. He said the three "had footage of security installations in the country" and were detained "purely on criminal suspicion."

With the protests petering out, opposition spokesman Lone said Odinga would call for a "boycott of companies owned by hard-liners who are around Mr. Kibaki," including one of Kenya's biggest banks, a prominent bus company and a major dairy producer. Lone also said they would work with unions "to organize strikes in selected industries," Lone said. He declined to give details.

"We are completely ready to negotiate in good faith. We want peace in the country," Lone said. "Our people are suffering." Kibaki's government has made similar statements, but both sides appear recalcitrant and envoys from the U.S. and the African Union have failed to even bring Odinga and Kibaki together for talks.

The United States blamed the leaders' deadlock for the unrest. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack added Kibaki and Odinga needed to reach a compromise.

"We cannot have peace unless there is justice and they (protesters) are demanding justice, not violence," Odinga said Friday.