Both sides in Kenya’s disputed election have accused each other of ethnic violence as tens of thousands have fled their homes fearing further clashes.
At least 250 people have been killed, including 30 in western Kenya burned to death while sheltering in a church. Many Kenyans have been taking refuge from armed mobs and looters as fears mount of further attacks and reprisals. The African Union chairman is due in Kenya, as the US and UK add their voices to AU calls to end the violence. Mwai Kibaki, who was officially re-elected president in Thursday’s vote, and opposition leader Raila Odinga, who says he was robbed of victory by fraud, have both called for an end to the killing. A government spokesman told the BBC that Mr Odinga’s supporters are “engaging in ethnic cleansing” in an “organised, calculated manner”.
Mr Odinga has countered in an interview with the Associated Press that Mr Kibaki’s government was “guilty, directly, of genocide”. The majority of those killed in the church were Kikuyu, the same tribe as Mr Kibaki, and there have been reports of people being targeted on the basis of their ethnicity. Abbass Gullet, secretary general for Kenya’s Red Cross, told AFP that only those from “the right ethnic group” had been allowed through barricades in some places. Correspondents say that although the election was more about economic and political issues than tribal ones, there is a danger that as the violence escalates it will take on more of an ethnic dimension.
Aid agencies are warning of a “humanitarian catastrophe” if the crisis is not defused. African Union chairman John Kufuor is due to meet with Mr Kibaki on Wednesday amid growing international pressure to find a solution to the crisis. The visit comes as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and UK Foreign Minister David Miliband issued a joint statement pointing to reports of “serious irregularities” in the vote count.
“The immediate priority is to combine a sustained call from Kenya’s political leaders for the cessation of violence by their followers with an intensive political and legal process that can build a united and peaceful future for Kenya,” the statement said.