Kenyan premier’s party wins three seats in peaceful by-elections


Nairobi : The party of Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga won three parliamentary seats Thursday after by-elections that were seen as the first major test for the grand coalition formed to end months of deadly post-election violence.

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Over 1,500 people died in clashes between members of tribes affiliated to political parties after opposition leader Raila Odinga claimed December’s presidential elections were stolen from him.

Hundreds of thousands fled their homes as the tit-for-tat violence caused chaos, particularly in the western Rift Valley province.

Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan finally brokered a deal that brought together Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) – installing Odinga as prime minister – and President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU).

Tensions have been apparent in the cabinet, particularly over the issue of how those arrested in the violence should be dealt with.

Odinga wants an amnesty for many of the youths he says were simply protesting against rigged elections, while the PNU says the law should be allowed to take its course.

Some had feared that tribal conflicts could resurface during the by-elections, but the polls on Wednesday passed peacefully despite a heavy police presence.

The PNU won the remaining two seats.

The by-elections were overshadowed, however, by the deaths of Minister for Roads Kipkalya Kones and Lorna Laboso, assistant minister in the Ministry for Home Affairs, on Tuesday afternoon.

The politicians, both from the ODM, died when the light aircraft carrying them to the by-election in Kichero, western Kenya, crashed near the Masai Mara game reserve.

Initial investigations say that the plane hit some trees and then ploughed into an abandoned house in adverse weather conditions.