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Kenya’s Kibaki ‘prepared’ for dialogue with opposition


Nairobi : Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, under attack over his controversial re-election, Thursday indicated he would enter into talks with the opposition.

Kibaki told journalists he was “prepared for political dialogue once the situation in the country is calm”. At the same time, he announced a clampdown on “criminal violence”.

The 76-year-old was on Sunday declared the winner of the presidential vote by the country’s electoral commission, with 230,000 votes more than opposition candidate Raila Odinga.

Odinga, 62, has charged that the polls, which he lost by 230,000 votes, were flawed and has demanded Kibaki step down.

International election observers and members of the electoral commission cast doubt on the validity of the results.

Attorney General Amos Wako on Thursday called for an independent probe.

Bloody violence has waged in Kenya following the poll, with more than 300 people killed. In parts of the country, conditions similar to civil war have caused more than 100,000 people to flee.

On Thursday, Kenyan opposition politicians called off amid widespread rioting the “million-man” rally defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga vowed to bring out to protest flawed polls.

As disgruntled Kenyans fought the police and condemned the so-called flawed poll results that brought President Mwai Kibaki back to power, the country’s Attorney General Amos Wako called for a vote recount.

“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,” Wako said in a statement read out on television, echoing the European Union and other leading countries.

Kenyans smashed car windows and burned tyres on main highways as they attempted to make their way to a heavily-guarded downtown park where defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga was set to greet his supporters.

Paramilitary police were deployed to most areas of the capital, lining the perimeter of the park where Odinga’s supporters were set to gather. Cabbage, mangoes and broken soda bottles were strewn along streets, acting as a barricade to the police attempting to push back the crowd.

A spokesman from Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) said the rally had been postponed to Tuesday because safety of the supporters “could not be guaranteed.”

Several hundred people chanting “We want peace” reached the park but were met by the police who fired teargas canisters, many of which landed near the entrance to a posh hotel.

Earlier, Odinga met South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu who flew in Thursday in an effort to resolve the stalemate that has ignited widespread rioting and outrage and set off a wave of violence countrywide.

“I hope I am able to encourage the leadership of this country to take action that would stop the carnage,” Tutu told reporters upon arriving.

ODM leaders have called for international mediation to the crisis, and Ghanaian President John Kufuor, who is also the head of the African Union, is set to take the role.