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January 17, 2008
New Violence in Kenya
Riots broke out in an opposition stronghold as police waded into crowds, firing their guns indiscriminately:
The worst clashes were in Kisumu, Kenya’s third largest city and an opposition stronghold, where mobs of furious young men hurled stones at police officers, who responded by charging into the crowds and firing their guns. The clashes stem from a rigged election by President Mwai Kibaki who defeated the opposition candidate Raila Odinga thus sparking violence directed at the tribes of the respective candidates. That violence has left more than 200,000 displaced.
One of Kenya’s television stations broadcast images of a police officer in Kisumu shooting an unarmed protester who was dancing in the street and making faces at security agents. After the protester fell to the ground, the officer ran up to him and kicked him several times. Witnesses said the protester later died.
“There’s been war since the morning,” said Eric Otieno, a mechanic in Kisumu. “The police are whipping women, children, everyone. We were just trying to demonstrate peacefully.”
Eric Kiraithe, a spokesman for the Kenyan police, said the only people wounded by police officers were hooligans destroying property and robbing people. “What we are seeing are teams of young men trying to commit crimes,” Mr. Kiraithe said. “You cannot call this a demonstration.”
Doing their own analysis, the US embassy reports that there was so much fraud committed by both sides in the election, it is impossible to tell who won.
Kenya is a key economic cog in the prosperity of eastern Africa and any prolonged crisis could affect the entire region. The US, along with other western nations, has threatened to withhold foreign aid unless the situation can be resolved peacefully.