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Kenyans pray for peace as refugees wait for aid PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 07 January 2008

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyans across the political divide prayed for peace on Sunday while aid workers sought to bring relief to an estimated 250,000 refugees from post-election violence that has also killed hundreds.
"Our leaders have failed us. They have brought this catastrophe upon us. So now we are turning to the Almighty to save Kenya," said Jane Riungu, leading her five children in their best clothes to a hilltop church outside Nairobi.
One week after the announcement of President Mwai Kibaki's re-election ignited protests, riots and looting around the east African nation, there was little sign of him meeting opposition rival Raila Odinga to sort out the crisis directly.
Would-be mediators, including Washington's top Africa diplomat Jendayi Frazer and South Africa's Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, shuttled between both camps.
And Ghanaian President John Kufuor was due to visit in coming days in his capacity as chairman of the African Union.
But a statement from Kibaki that he was ready to form "a government of national unity" was met with skepticism by the opposition. It says he stole the December 27 vote by fraud and is now occupying the president's seat illegitimately.
Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) wants Kibaki, 76, to quit and an international mediator to broker talks prior to a fresh election in three to six months. ODM was also accused of vote-rigging in its stronghold areas.
"We are not interested in Kibaki's solution to this problem ... He has nothing to offer as he did not win the election," Odinga said at his Orange House headquarters in Nairobi.
"It is an insult to the people of Kenya. I should be the one offering him the option of a coalition government ... We want a properly-negotiated settlement through an international mediator that will give a lasting solution to this crisis."
On the street, most Kenyans were preoccupied with getting their lives back to normal, amid skepticism about politicians whom they see as viewing power as a means of acquiring wealth rather than improving the lot of ordinary people.
At least 300 people have died, some in battles between police and protesters, others in ethnic violence.

Looting and criminality have also flared during the chaos, claiming yet more lives in a nation that had been seen as a relatively stable democracy and flourishing economy.
Violence simmered around the country, with 20 meters of train-track lifted up overnight in Nairobi's Kibera slum.


"Mere resolution of the presidential election dispute is not going to erase the ugly ethnic hatred that has finally been exposed," wrote commentator Gitau Warigi in the Sunday Nation.
"The facade of a peaceful Kenya has always been intended to obscure from view the deep fissures in the country. Sadly, it might take a generation or more to heal the fresh wounds generated by this disputed election."
In Protestant, Catholic and other churches around deeply religious Kenya, there were special prayers for peace and moments of silence for the dead on Sunday.
"Forgive us, oh Lord, for the innocent bloodshed in this nation," prayed Pastor Janet Mutinda at a Nairobi chapel which flew several Kenyan flags at half-mast.
"Forgive us for taking our peace for granted."

The Media Council of Kenya announced an hour-long "Prayers for Peace" broadcast on all major channels for Sunday evening.
One of the worst-hit areas was the ethnically mixed town of Eldoret and its environs, where 30 people -- mainly of Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe -- were burned to death after taking refuge from mobs of local Kalenjins furious at the election result.
Tens of thousands of refugees were camping out at churches, police stations and grassy fields around Eldoret, many left with nothing after their homes were torched. Others carried the few possessions they had salvaged -- clothes, mattresses, goats, grain, in some cases whole sets of wooden furniture.
Odinga, 62, had looked on course to win Kenya's vote until Kibaki was handed a narrow victory last Sunday.
International observers say the election fell short of democratic standards, and France accused Kibaki's government directly of rigging the result.
Source: Reuters

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