Nairobi, Jan 1 (DPA) Violence continued to rock Kenya and more than 100 people were killed in the rioting, one day after President Mwai Kibaki returned to power in contested elections that have inflamed ethnic tensions.
Riot police fired tear gas and shots into the air to disperse disgruntled crowds while houses belonging to Kikuyus, Kibaki’s tribe, were burned around the country Monday. Parts of some slums were flattened once all goods were looted from stores by angry supporters from the Luo tribe of defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga.
The Red Cross said more than 100 people have been killed while national newspaper The Standard put the number at 164, citing local police sources. Local news station KTN said 124 died, with at least 46 people killed in Kisumu, an Odinga stronghold in western Kenya.
“The number could easily be in the hundreds,” said Abbas Gullet, head of the Kenya Red Cross Society, adding that the group was having difficulties reaching certain areas. “Many places are no-go zones for us. Many areas are inaccessible and that is a major problem for us.”
He said at least 315 people have been wounded countrywide since Thursday’s polls and many Kikuyus had to seek shelter in police stations.
EU and the US meanwhile voiced concern over irregularities in the election results. Kibaki was declared the victor by a margin of some 200,000 though Odinga had apparently been leading until the announcement.
The Electoral Commission itself appeared to be at odds as four of its members on Monday called for a judicial inquiry into the election results.
“We cannot remain silent under the circumstances. Like all Kenyans, we are deeply affected,” they said in a statement cited by The Standard. “Some of the information received from some of our returning officers now cast doubts on the veracity of the figures.”
US State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the US “has concerns about irregularities in reporting the results, which should be resolved promptly through constitutional and legal remedies”, and urged restraint from all sides.
Odinga supporters had been set to gather in a Nairobi park to inaugurate a parallel government in protest at the allegedly fraudulent polls, but a large security presence around the park prevented the rally, postponing it until Thursday.
Security officials have warned that if Odinga and members of his Orange Democratic Movement party turn up at Uhuru (“Freedom” in Swahili) Park, they would be arrested.
“We want Kibaki to step down because he is now illegitimate. His mandate expired yesterday. I am the elected president of Kenya, that is the role I want to play,” an exhausted-looking Odinga told reporters, urging his supporters to remain calm and protest peacefully.
Odinga ruled out joining a coalition government with Kibaki and said he will rally his backers, peacefully, until he is instated.
Heavily armed riot police were deployed around the capital as protesters flinging stones attempted to march to the city centre, which was a virtual ghost town, but were prevented, leaving a trail of destruction in their way.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Monday urged all sides in Kenya to remain calm and resolve their differences peacefully. He also called for “restraint” on the part of security forces.
Looters in Kisumu carried televisions and generators away on their bicycles in a free-for-all that elicited a harsh police response.
Mere moments after Kibaki was declared winner Sunday riots erupted around Nairobi and across the country in protest at what Odinga has charged were rigged elections.
The government imposed several strict measures meant to contain the violence, including a gag order on media, preventing them from airing live broadcasts in the name of “public safety” and a curfew on Kisumu.
The violence, which has exposed deep tribal tensions, marks a disturbing change in Kenya, which is seen as a beacon of stability in a troubled region.