x

Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Kenya death toll rises as police fire on protesters

Former UN chief Kofi Annan warns leaders against stoking tensions

Opposition protesters throw rocks at police in the Kibera area of Nairobi, Kenya. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)
Opposition protesters throw rocks at police in the Kibera area of Nairobi, Kenya. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

The former UN leader Kofi Annan warned Kenya’s leaders to tone down their rhetoric as the coalition of defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga claimed more than 100 people had died in post-election violence.

The toll was far higher than figures released by the country’s human rights commission, which said that 24 people had died since Tuesday’s re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta. The Reuters news agency said it confirmed 11 deaths following a police crackdown on violence after violence erupted in the western city of Kisumu and slums around the capital Nairobi.

The violence revived memories of a decade ago when Odinga lost an election in controversial circumstances that led to a wave of political and ethnic unrest that left 1,200 people dead. Odinga has rejected the result of the latest election which he described it as a “massive fraud”.

Kofi Annan, the former U.N. head who mediated during that crisis, warned Kenya's leaders in a statement to "be careful with their rhetoric and actions in this tense atmosphere".

Annan reiterated calls for Odinga to lodge any complaint in court but the opposition has said it does not trust the system.

Senior Odinga lieutenant Johnson Muthama said police had been packing corpses into body bags and dumping them, remarks likely to exacerbate the tensions that followed Friday night's official announcement that Kenyatta had won, with 54.3 percent of votes.

Another senior official said the killings were part of a carefully laid plan by 55-year-old Kenyatta's Jubilee party and the security forces to rig the poll, crush dissent and then hide the evidence.

Acting Interior Minister Fred Matiang'i had earlier said trouble was localised and blamed it on "criminal elements" looting shops rather than legitimate political protest. He also denied accusations of police brutality.

“They are criminals and we expect police to deal with criminals how criminals should be dealt with," he told reporters.

On Saturday, Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson congratulated President Kenyatta on his re-election and praised the Kenyans who worked to ensure democracy was upheld.

Describing it as a "historic day" for the country, he added: “We commend the people of Kenya for their commitment to democracy and salute those who worked tirelessly and courageously towards holding credible elections, often in difficult circumstances.

"In the spirit of President Kenyatta’s words yesterday, now is the time for Kenyans to work together in peace to build their nation and forge their shared future.

"We join the Kenyan people in mourning those who have died, calling on those with influence to exercise restraint at this difficult time to ensure calm, and to honour the Kenyans who turned out in such number to vote to determine their future.”

As with previous votes in 2007 and 2013, this year's elections have exposed the underlying ethnic tensions in the nation of 45 million people, the economic engine of East Africa and the region's main trading hub.

In particular, Odinga's Luo tribe, who hail from the west, hoped an Odinga presidency would break the Kikuyu and Kalenjin dominance of central government since independence in 1963. Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's first president, is a Kikuyu.

Most of the trouble has been in the western city of Kisumu, an Odinga stronghold, and the large, ethnically mixed slums on the outskirts of Nairobi.

The bodies of nine young men shot dead in the capital's run-down Mathare neighbourhood were brought to the city morgue, a security official said. A young girl was also killed by a stray bullet in Mathare, according to a witness.

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said it had treated 54 patients, including seven for gunshot wounds.