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Five die in Kenya as opposition vows more protests

NAIROBI - Kenya's opposition said on Saturday it would resume protests next week over a disputed election, and five people were killed in politically-fuelled ethnic violence in the country's Great Rift Valley.

The deaths bring to at least 28 the number of people killed in the last four days, in a combination of ethnic violence and police action against three days of opposition demonstrations the government has banned.

Children play on vehicles destroyed during post-election violence in Nairobi's Kibera slum January 19, 2008. Kenya's opposition said on Saturday it would resume protests next week over a disputed election, and five people were killed in politically-fuelled ethnic violence in the country's Great Rift Valley. (REUTERS/Radu Sigheti)

In the latest flare-up, a group of Kalenjins raided a camp in the Rift Valley village of Kipkelion, 180 km northwest of Nairobi, police said.

"A group of armed warriors attacked a village, leaving five people dead and property destroyed. These were refugees in a camp, people thought to have supported (President Mwai) Kibaki," Rift Valley Provincial Police Officer Everett Wasige said.

Several hundred people had taken refuge at the camp, located near a monastery, after three weeks of attacks across the Rift aimed at people seen to support Kibaki, mostly from his Kikuyu tribe and the Kisii ethnic group.

The opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) dominates the Rift, and most of the 250,000 people who fled politically-fuelled ethnic clashes came from there. Police say the Rift accounts for 70 percent of the deaths since the vote.

Kenya's paroxysm of violence has seriously damaged its democratic reputation and harmed investor confidence in one of Africa's strongest economies.

More than 650 people have been killed since Kibaki won the disputed Dec. 27 election, in killings that have laid bare the underlying tribal sentiments behind Kenya's politics.

Both ODM and the government accuse each other of genocide.

Also on Saturday, ODM reversed its plan to call off demonstrations.

"We are resuming our peaceful public rallies on Thursday," ODM Chairman Henry Kosgey told reporters. "We will use all available means to bring down the Kibaki regime."


ODM leader Raila Odinga on Friday had said the opposition would take its fight off the streets and use other channels, including talks with African leaders and economic boycotts.

Odinga says Kibaki stole the closest-ever election in the east African nation from him. International observers say the count was so chaotic it was impossible to tell who won, and the government says the ODM also rigged votes.

The protests are a high-stakes tactic to pressure the government, already being threatened with aid cuts after images of police shooting and beating protesters drew widespread criticism. The government has rebuffed the threat.

But many Kenyans say ODM's strategy could backfire, as the protests have bred chaos that disrupted schools and closed businesses, and shown Odinga staying off the streets while his supporters face the might of government security services.

EU aid commissioner Louis Michel, who met with Kibaki and Odinga, urged both sides to start talks to end their standoff.

"Mass meetings that can lead to aggression which can also lead to powerful responses. I urge the parties to look for a solution. Now is the time for ceasefire," Michel told reporters.

Police commissioner Hussein Ali said on Saturday he was sending a team to investigate the police killing of two unarmed protesters in the western city of Kisumu, captured in dramatic TV footage. The investigators' report is due on Feb. 1.

The video shows an officer shooting two young men from a group that had thrown stones, one of whom made faces at him. After bullets hit the two, the officer walks over and then twice kicks one of the men after he tried to stand up.

Police have said that they only shot rioters and looters, and maintain the protest ban is to prevent more property damage.

Several African leaders are shuttling between Kibaki and Odinga's camps, and former U.N. head Kofi Annan is due to arrive on Tuesday to begin talks.

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