Kenya Riots Kill 50 in Church Blaze

Church set ablaze by Kenyan rioters protesting 'stolen' election.

ByABC News
January 1, 2008, 1:08 PM

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan. 1, 2008 — -- At least 50 people were killed today when an angry mob set fire to a church where 200 people sought refuge from tribal violence, and turned it into a deadly inferno.

The most horrific incident yet, in the post-election violence that has ripped through Kenya, came as four members of the electoral commission of Kenya reportedly called for an independent judicial review of the vote-counting process.

"We need an independent person or body to look at our activities. Then, we can tell Kenyans what went wrong if our colleagues agree," commission member Jack Tumwa said at a news conference with three of his colleagues, Daniel Ndambiri, Samuel arap Ng'eny and Jeremiah Matagaro, according to The Standard newspaper Web site.

Violence has been rising in Kenya since the closely fought election Thursday. When incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner, Sunday, in a narrow victory over challenger Raila Odinga, rioting broke out in Nairobi and other cities.

After today's attack on the church, a local reporter told the Associated Press that youths came to the building and fought with boys guarding it, "but they were overpowered," said the reporter. He said he saw up to 15 bodies. "They were charred. I could not look at the scene twice," he said.

Witnesses said more than 200 members of the Kikuyu tribe, of which Kibaki belongs, had fled to the church to escape attacks by the dominant Kalenjin tribe near the city of Eldoret.

The incident is reminiscent of tactics used in the Rwandan genocide of 1994, and isfurther evidence that the country is on the brink of imploding since Kibaki's disputed re-election.

Reports of violence against Kikuyus are surfacing all over the country as many of Kenya's 42tribes take out their anger over what they believe were rigged elections. So far, more than 200 people have died in the riots.

European Union election observers said the vote count could not be considered accurate and called for an independentinvestigation into the allegations of vote rigging in Kenya'spresidential election, giving Kibaki a second term.

"General elections in the Republic of Kenya have fallen short of keyinternational and regional standards for democratic elections," theobservation team said in a statement today.

Chief EU observer Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, told a pressconference today that while election observers were allowed access tothe voting, they were not allowed to observe the votesbeing tallied.

Odinga and his party, theOrange Democratic Movement, allege that the final vote numberswere tampered with to ensure Kibaki's re-election.

The EU observers noted discrepancies between the final presidentialvotes announced by the Election Commission of Kenya in Nairobi and thenumbers given at individual polling stations.

"We believe it is vital that an impartial investigation into theaccuracy of the presidential results is conducted, and the resultsfrom all polling stations are published to enable an independent auditto be carried out," said Lambdorff.

Though initially congratulating Kibaki on his re-election,State Department spokesman Tom Casey released a statement yesterdaystating that "the United States has concerns about irregularities inreporting the results, which should be resolved promptly throughconstitutional and legal remedies."

But neither Kibaki nor Odinga seems willing to budge.In a New Year's address to the nation last night, Kibakisaid the elections were "free and fair" and that security forces wouldcrack down on those who challenge "peace."

Odinga is determined not to concede and talks tothe press daily. Yesterday he called Kibaki a "dictator,"saying he was no better than Ugandan despot Idi Amin for "stealing" theelection from Kenyans.

Odinga is calling for a million protesters to attend a Nairobi rally Thursday to demand that Kibaki step down. But thegovernment has already declared the rally illegal, which could lead toOdinga's arrest and more bloodshed.

Human rights organizations have also expressed alarm at the Kenyangovernment's recent actions. Immediately after Kibaki'sswearing in Sunday, the government imposed a ban on all localbroadcasts and warned stations not to air any footage that could beseen as "inciting or alarming," or they would be shut down.

Amnesty international is calling for an investigation of policeactivity during the unrest. The human rights organization says it'sconcerned about reports of police shoot-to-kill orders and the largenumber of bodies being brought into morturaries around the countrywith bullet wounds.

International media has also condemned the election results and thegovernment's behavior. An editorial in the U.K. newspaper TheDaily Telegraph today called for Kibaki to be treated as any otherAfrican dictator and face sanctions and expulsion from the Britishcommonwealth.