Violence rocked most parts of Mombasa mainland as rowdy youths engaged hundreds of riot police in running battles that saw one man shot on the head and scores injured. Sounds of teargas, gunshots and burning tyres filled parts of Maweni, Kisauni, Bombolulu and Changamwe as GSU, AP and regular police battled crowds headed for Makadara grounds for a protest rally. Protesters in Kuresoi burnt several houses at Karirikania farm, as hundreds others flashed twigs placards at Keringet, Olenguruone and Kiptagich trading centres.
A Slow Start in Search for Peace
By Standard Team (January 4, 2008)
International efforts to find peace and a political solution to the crisis facing the country intensified on Thursday, even as violent protests brought Nairobi and other major towns to a halt.
President Kibaki, whose declaration as winner of the December 27 hotly contested poll plunged the country into chaos, called a press conference and told any aggrieved party to go to court.
And ODM, for the second time in a week, cancelled a rally scheduled for Uhuru Park but quickly announced that it would proceed on Friday at the same venue starting at 10am in order "to sustain the pressure and enable Kenyans get what is rightfully theirs".
President Kibaki, speaking at the first news conference since being sworn-in on Sunday, declared: "Yule hajatosheka ana haki ya kwenda kortini na kufuata sheria (Those who are not satisfied have the right to go to court and follow the law)".
The Head of State, who addressed local and international journalists at State House, Nairobi, pointed an accusing finger at his opponents, saying those with vested political interests orchestrated the violence that has paralysed the country.
Kibaki, however, said he was open for dialogue but only after the violence has been contained. He spoke moments after Nobel laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who jetted into the country early on Thursday to broker a deal between the warring factions, said he was still unable to get an appointment with the Head of State.
"There is no need to tally the presidential votes because it is not a worthwhile exercise owing to the state of the records," Tutu said at the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) in Westlands, Nairobi.
This was after Attorney General, Mr Amos Wako, called for a fresh tally of votes — a position earlier pushed by ODM — by an independent body to end the post-election chaos.
In a statement faxed to newsrooms, the Government’s chief legal adviser stated: "It is necessary, and here I agree with the Catholic Bishops and others, that a proper tally of the valid certificates returned and confirmed should be undertaken immediately and on a priority basis by an agreed and independent person or body".
The Government’s chief legal adviser, who also spoke of a government of national unity as one of the possibilities that could break the deadlock, said only the courts could nullify the elections after the Electoral Commission of Kenya declared Kibaki the winner.
Meanwhile, prospects of an international mediation starting any time soon looked bleak when Raila and the ODM Pentagon met Tutu early in on Thursday, and accused Kibaki of rejecting mediators who have offered to help resolve the impasse over the presidential vote outcome.
The Lang’ata MP-elect told international journalists that his team had identified former United Nations secretary-general, Mr Koffi Annan, South Africa’s Tutu and Ghanaian President and African Union (AU) chairman, Mr John Kuffour, to mediate but the Government was dragging its feet.
Obama Adds his Voice
The Illinois Senator, Mr Barrack Obama, added his voice to growing international calls to Kibaki and Raila to dialogue and peacefully resolve the impasse.
"Now is a time for President Kibaki, opposition leader Odinga and all of Kenya’s leaders to call for calm, to come together and to start a political process to address peacefully the controversies that divide them," Obama, who’s of Kenyan descent and a presidential hopeful in the US elections, said.
Another impassioned plea for peace came from former Sierra Leone President, Dr Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, who led the Commonwealth observer team.
But on Thursday, as the politicians dithered, Nairobi again soaked the brunt of the chaos as over 4,000 police officers fought demonstrators and politicians for the better part of the day to keep them from Uhuru Park, the venue of the one million-man rally.
It also emerged that so far, more than 300 people have lost their lives and close to 100,000 others displaced in various parts of the country.
Scenes not seen in Nairobi since the violent pro-democracy demonstrations of 1991 were replayed all morning and part of the afternoon with thousands of demonstrators battling with police.
The chaos in Nairobi left at least five people dead, according to police, while the death toll kept going up in other parts of the country where election-related violence has persisted since Sunday.
In Kibera, an AIC church building was burnt down and the local law courts partly razed as demonstrators tried all efforts to outwit riot police and get into Uhuru Park.
Bursts of gunfire and exploding teargas canisters were heard on Karanja Road from early morning and on Ngong Road, where police on horseback, on foot and others using water canons fought hard to keep off the rioters.
Streets Choking in Teargas
Also choked in clouds of teargas were parts of Thika and Juja roads.
The height of confrontation was at Hurlingham Shopping Centre, where police stopped Pentagon members Mr Musalia Mudavadi, Mr William Ruto, Mrs Charity Ngilu and Mr Joseph Nyagah from marching to Uhuru Park.
The leaders engaged police in an exchange of words before they agreed to cancel the meeting.
"Kenyans should not get tired as we press for our rights. We know it is not going to take one or two days but we shall endure to the very end," Mudavadi said.
Ruto called on the Police Commissioner, Maj-Gen Hussein Ali, to respect the law and let Kenyans carry on with a peaceful demonstration.
Ngilu engaged a senior police officer in a heated argument demanding to know why his officers were using force to disperse the crowd.
Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o pleaded with the demonstrators to retreat, but the charged supporters would not hear any of it and started chanting for Ugenya MP-elect, Mr James Orengo, to come and lead them to Uhuru Park.
Some of the party supporters followed Nyagah towards Valley Road, where police lobbed teargas canisters to disperse them.
Meanwhile, Uhuru Park was under siege all day as officers drawn from the regular, administration and the GSU units sealed off all entrances.
They formed a human perimeter fence round the ground as other officers patrolled the recreation ground on horseback.
The officers, armed with guns, wooden batons, teargas canisters and shields, arrived at the grounds as early as 5am.
German Ambassador Walter Lindner and the Head of the European Union Delegation, Mr Erick van der Linden, drove to Kibera to witness the events.
Lindner said the German Foreign Affairs minister, Dr Frank-Walter Steinmeier, had spoken to Raila and Foreign Affairs minister Raphael Tuju, and urged that there should be no bloodshed because of the Uhuru Park rally issue.
Other towns and areas rocked by chaos included Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret, Kuresoi, Nakuru, Kakamega and Bungoma.
In Kisumu, two MPs-elect — Kisumu Town West’s Olago Aluoch and Kisumu Town East’s Shakeel Shabbir — were arrested in connection with the protests but were later released.
Violence rocked most parts of Mombasa mainland as rowdy youths engaged hundreds of riot police in running battles that saw one man shot on the head and scores injured.
Sounds of teargas, gunshots and burning tyres filled parts of Maweni, Kisauni, Bombolulu and Changamwe as GSU, AP and regular police battled crowds headed for Makadara grounds for a protest rally.
Protesters in Kuresoi burnt several houses at Karirikania farm, as hundreds others flashed twigs placards at Keringet, Olenguruone and Kiptagich trading centres.
Originally appeared in East African Standard.