Across Pacific Magazine
Kenyan Opposition Leader Charges "Genocide on a Grand Scale"
By Jeremy Reynalds
Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
NAIROBI, KENYA (ANS) -- Children's bodies were piled in a Nairobi morgue, churches burned and police on horseback chased pedestrians through the streets as Kenya's political crisis continued for a fifth day Thursday.
In a story on CNN's web site, Matthew Chance, Paula Newton and David McKenzie reported the country's attorney general called for a recount and an independent investigation into the Dec. 27 election in which incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner over opposition candidate Raila Odinga.
There were violent protests after the results were announced Sunday, and the number of dead has surpassed 300 people.
CNN reported that at a Nairobi morgue on Thursday, Odinga toured freezing rooms of the dead and saw the bodies of babies and children piled on shelves, according to an Associated Press (AP) report. It was unclear when those in the morgue died, but Odinga supporters said some died on Thursday.
"What we have just seen defies description," CNN reported Odinga told journalists after visiting the morgue. "We can only describe it as genocide on a grand scale."
Odinga called off a "million man" rally planned for a Nairobi park on Thursday, but not before police clashed with his supporters heading to the event.
Images provided to CNN by I-Reporter Duncan Musicha Waswa showed riot police on horseback chasing citizens on Nairobi's Bunyala Road. Those going about their daily business raised their hands to avoid conflict with the police, Waswa told CNN.
Odinga supporters carried white flags, olive branches and protest signs as they tried to get to Uhuru Park, where the rally was to have been held.
Government forces used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowds.
"We are a peaceful people who do not want violence," CNN reported William Ruto, a top official with Odinga's party told the AP. "That is why we are peacefully dispersing now."
Odinga called the meeting despite a government ban on such gatherings, having been forced to abandon his first attempt on Monday soon after the beginning of the conflict.
Despite this week's two failed gatherings, CNN said the opposition Orange Democratic Movement now hopes to hold one Friday to protest the result of the elections.
CNN reported that also Thursday, Archbishop Desmond Tutu began meeting with opposition officials, including Odinga, in an attempt to mediate the election dispute.
"We've come to express our solidarity with the people of Kenya to express our sympathy at the carnage that has happened, hoping that we will be able to encourage the leadership to take action that would stop that carnage," Tutu said.
CNN said it was not immediately clear if the Nobel laureate would also talk with Kibaki's party.
In a Thursday news conference, CNN reported that Kibaki appealed for calm. He condemned the "senseless violence," which he said is causing an "unnecessary loss of lives, destruction of property, and displacement of innocent ... from their homes."
"I am ready to have dialogue with concerned parties once the nation is calm and the political temperatures are lowered enough for constructive and productive engagement," CNN reported he said.
In Washington, CNN reported the State Department said Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer, was headed to Nairobi to put pressure on leaders to stop the bloodshed.
Odinga's supporters had slowly made their way to Uhuru Park for the rally, but were met by government security forces.
"There are fewer protesters here than there are guards," journalist David McKenzie said from the Nairobi slum of Kibera before the rally was canceled. He added, "But earlier, tear gas was thrown at them, and then there were running battles up and down the street ... with water cannon spraying and dispersing the people here."
There were also reports of government troops firing live rounds above protesters' heads, as the smoke of tires being burned in protest began to choke the air over the capital. Flames also could be seen leaping from some of the shacks that fill the capital's slums.
At least one church was burning. As many as 75,000 people have been internally displaced by the violence, CNN reported the government said on Tuesday.
In a story by Jeffrey Gettleman in the New York Times (NYT), the paper reported that the government and opposition leaders blame each other for the bloodshed, trading accusations of genocide and ethnic cleansing. They have set such strict conditions on negotiating that nothing has succeeded in getting talks started.
The NYT reported that Kenya's two biggest newspapers printed the identical banner headline on Thursday. It read, "Save Our Beloved Country."
Kenya's attorney general, Amos Wako, said on Thursday afternoon that an independent body should investigate the disputed vote tabulations, which gave the president, at the 11th hour of the counting process, a razor-thin margin of victory. Western officials and opposition leaders have also been calling for such an inquiry.
However, the NYT reported that it is unclear if Kibaki will agree to this. A few hours after the attorney general spoke, the president reiterated at a news conference that he had won the elections fairly and would not relinquish power.
"I will personally lead this nation in healing," he said.
The NYT said Alfred Mutua, the government's top spokesman, said that Wako was just making a suggestion, and that an independent investigation into election irregularities "was not necessarily going to happen."
"The president prefers the court system," the NYT reported Mutua said, meaning the opposition could file a complaint in court, which the paper said most people in Kenya believe is pointless. But, he added, "the president has nothing to hide."
Jeremy Reynalds is a freelance writer and the founder and director of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter, http://www.joyjunction.org or http://www.christianity.com /joyjunction. He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is "Homeless in the City: A Call to Service." Additional details about "Homeless" are available at http://www.HomelessBook.com He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
ASSIST News Service (ANS)
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