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Kenya's Attorney General Seeks Vote Verification

Gwen Thompkins talks with Renee Montagne on <em>Morning Edition</em>

Kenyans on their way to a rally in Nairobi walk past a burning barricade set up by supporters of presidential candidate Raila Odinga on Thursday. The rally was postponed until Tuesday.
Roberto Schmidt
Kenyans on their way to a rally in Nairobi walk past a burning barricade set up by supporters of presidential candidate Raila Odinga on Thursday. The rally was postponed until Tuesday.

Kenya's attorney general called for an independent verification of votes in the presidential election Thursday, as police and protesters clashed in the fifth day of violence.

Ethnic violence stemming from the election dispute has left 300 dead and displaced 100,000, as rampaging crowds torched buildings.


"Because of the perception that the presidential results were rigged, it is necessary ... that a proper tally of the valid certificates returned and confirmed should be undertaken immediately" by an independent body, Attorney General Amos Wako said.

Defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga called off a rally Thursday to dispute the re-election of President Mwai Kibaki, but that did not prevent clashes between police and protesters on their way to the demonstration.

Dispute Sparks Ethnic Violence

Riot police fired tear gas and water cannons to beat back the crowds headed for the rally at a Nairobi park. Odinga's supporters said they will hold a rally on Tuesday.

"We are a peaceful people who do not want violence," William Ruto, a top party official told hundreds of supporters through a megaphone on a Nairobi street. "That is why we are peacefully dispersing now."


It was unclear whether the call was widely heard, however.

Kenya's electoral commission said Kibaki won the Dec. 27 election, but Odinga says the vote was rigged.

The political dispute has degenerated into ethnic violence nationwide pitting Kibaki's influential Kikuyu tribe against Odinga's Luos and others, and has shaken Kenya's image as a tourist-friendly oasis of stability in a region that includes war-ravaged Somalia and Sudan.

Kenya's main newspapers ran headlines urging people "save our beloved country."

"It's got to stop," U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger said on Kenyan Television News. Kibaki "needs to speak out and Odinga needs to speak out and bring this thing to an end," he said.

Though both sides say they are ready to talk, the Odinga and Kibaki camps have mostly traded accusations that the other is fueling ethnic violence. Odinga says he will not meet with Kibaki unless he concedes he lost the presidency, something Kibaki is unlikely to do.

Tutu Meets Odinga

In a bid to help ease the crisis, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace laureate, flew to Nairobi and met Odinga. Speaking to reporters afterward, he said there is a possibility that Odinga is ready for mediation.

Tutu gave no details but said he hoped to also meet with Kibaki. Government spokesman Alfred Mutua said Kibaki had no plans yet for such a meeting.

The office of Uganda's president, Yoweri Museveni, said he had spoken to the two rivals, also trying to ease the unrest. But Museveni also earlier congratulated Kibaki for being re-elected.

The independent Kenya Human Rights Commission urged Kibaki to agree to an independent review of the disputed ballot count, saying: "Kenya will not survive this moment unless our leaders act like statesmen."

Confusion has surrounded the dispute. The head of the country's electoral commission, Samuel Kivuitu, said he was pressured by both sides to announce the results quickly. On Wednesday, the Nairobi newspaper The Standard quoted Kivuitu as saying, "I do not know whether Kibaki won the election."

Government spokesman Mutua said clashes had affected only about 3 percent of the country's 34 million people.

"Kenya is not burning and not (in) the throes of any division," he said, adding that security forces had arrested 500 people since skirmishes began.

Vice President Moody Awori said on a local television station that the unrest was costing the country $31 million daily. Uganda says many gas stations there have shut down because of shortages of fuel, most of which is imported by road from Kenya's Indian Ocean coast.

The human rights commission and the International Federation for Human Rights issued a joint statement saying that more than 300 people had been killed nationwide since the vote.

The Norwegian Refugee Council estimated more than 100,000 people have been displaced. Around 5,400 people have fled to neighboring Uganda, said Musa Ecweru, that country's disaster preparedness minister. Several hundred people also have fled to Tanzania, officials there said.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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