Saturday, February 09, 2008
KIBAKI MUST RESIGN: VOWS ODINGA!
By KATY POWNALL, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 36 minutes ago
CHEPKIOYO, Kenya - Kenya's opposition leader demanded Saturday that the president resign and new elections be held, dropping a conciliatory stance that had brought hope for a political settlement to end weeks of postelection violence.
Raila Odinga, who accuses President Mwai Kibaki of stealing the Dec. 27 election, spoke in his traditional power base in western Kenya before cheering supporters at the funeral of a slain opposition lawmaker.
Kibaki "must step down or there must be a re-election — in this I will not be compromised," Odinga shouted in East Africa's common language of Swahili.
It was a sharp turnaround from comments he made in English two days earlier in the capital, Nairobi. He indicated he would not insist on Kibaki's resignation, saying "we are willing to give and take."
The next day, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan struck an optimistic note after mediating negotiations between the two sides, and Odinga's own political party said a power-sharing agreement was in the works. Annan said he hoped to complete work on a settlement early next week.
But Odinga returned Saturday to the themes that have rallied supporters, repeating a comparison of which he is fond: "You cannot steal my cow, and I catch you red-handed, and then expect me to share the milk because the cow is mine."
More than 1,000 people have been killed and 300,000 forced from their homes since the election, which Kenyan and foreign observers say was rigged. The fighting has pitted members of Kenya's rival ethnic groups against one another, gutted the economy and left the country's reputation as a budding democracy and a top tourist destination in tatters.
Only 8,000 people visited Kenya in January, far short of the 100,000 officials had expected, Ong'onga Achieng, the managing director of the Kenya Tourist Board, told hotel owners and travel agents meeting in the port city of Mombasa.
Saturday's funeral for legislator David Kimutai Too was the first mass public gathering since the government lifted a ban on rallies imposed after the election. Nearly all of Kenya's major opposition attended.
The opposition and international community had for weeks been urging the government to lift the ban, which had been enforced by police using live bullets, tear gas and water cannons. Scores of people were killed.
In lifting the ban Friday, Internal Security Minister George Saitoti urged legislators and others to hold meetings "to promote peace and national reconciliation" and not to use rallies as "avenues to incite violence."
But there was nothing conciliatory in statements at Too's funeral. Police say he was killed in a crime of passion, but the opposition insists he was assassinated.
"The blood of David Too must run to the door of those who stole the election," said Anyang Nyongo, secretary-general of Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement.
"We are not going backward. We only want Raila to lead this nation," said Najib Balala, another leading opposition politician.
On Friday, about 5,000 people fled a makeshift camp in the western town of Kericho, fearing there would be violence at the funeral in Chepkioyo only 10 miles away.
Those fears were not realized, but the mood of the crowd was deeply anti-government.
"I believe he was assassinated by the government to paralyze the opposition and make it weak," said Alfred Kipkoech, a 31-year-old shop owner.
Authorities say the traffic policeman who killed Too acted because he believed the lawmaker was involved with his girlfriend. The family denied that and accused police of a cover-up.
Associated Press writer Heidi Vogt in Nairobi and Philip Mwakio in Mombasa contributed to this report.