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AU chief pushes ahead with Kenyan talks amid fresh violence

African Union chief and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete pushed ahead yesterday with talks to end the Kenyan political crisis as fresh violence was reported in the Rift Valley region.
Kikwete chaired talks between President Mwai Kibaki, opposition chief Raila Odinga and former UN secretary general and chief mediator Kofi Annan in a fresh bid to resolve the two month crisis.
Former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, assisting Annan in the mediation, attended the talks in the presidential office.
Odinga accuses Kibaki of rigging the December 27 presidential election, and the contested outcome sparked violence across the country that claimed more than 1,500 lives.
Hundreds of thousands of people have also been uprooted, mainly in the capital's slums and Kenya's fertile western region, regarded as the country's breadbasket.
Two people were shot with arrows and more than 20 huts torched in fresh violence that erupted in the western Molo district overnight.
"They were attacked and shot with arrows when more than 100 youths raided villages and torched houses. They are admitted to Molo district hospital," said Rift Valley police commander Joseph Ashimala.
Police said most of the houses torched belong to people who had been evicted in December and returned a few days ago.
"Most of them had just re-settled back to their homes, but were attacked soon after and their houses torched. They are now homeless," said another police commander.
Ashimala said they had boosted security in the powderkeg region, the scene of sporadic tribal fighting since 1992.
Kenya's opposition had planned protests for yesterday aimed at pushing the government into a power-sharing agreement, but Odinga called them off at Annan's request.
Annan on Tuesday suspended negotiations between government and opposition representatives, citing lack of progress on the details of a prime minister's post as part of a political settlement.
Kibaki has said the post of prime minister and two deputies will be created under the current constitution pending a comprehensive constitutional review in 12 months.
Meanwhile opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) top official William Ruto accused the government of failing to restore law and order as well as intimidating opposition supporters in a fresh salvo against the government.
"There are arbitrary arrests of innocent citizens. It is a systematic and consistent attempt by police to persecute and intimidate ODM supporters in the Rift Valley," Ruto told reporters in the Rift Valley capital Nakuru.
"There is an attempt by the government to insinuate that the violence in the Rift Valley was pre-planned, but the truth is the government-led failure in containing the situation," he added.
"Do not use innocent citizens as scapegoats to explain the security situation in the country. No amount of intimidation and harassment will stop Kenyans from asking for their rights. Fear cannot be used to govern Kenyans," he added.
Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula on Wednesday rejected any imposed solution to end the crisis that has shaken the east African nation, once seen as an island of stability in a region beset by conflicts.
"Our international friends, as we have stated before, are welcome to make suggestions and to support the dialogue process but not to impose solutions," he said in a statement.

 

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