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Article by: Reuters
Published: 11 Jan 2008
|Kenya opposition to resume nationwide protests|
|Kenya's opposition said on Friday it planned to restart protests across the east African nation against President Mwai Kibaki's disputed re-election after the failure of African Union (AU) mediation.Opposition leaders will hold an afternoon news conference "to announce the immediate resumption of nationwide mass action against the irregular presidential results," Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) spokesman Tony Gachoka said.
Kibaki's government has made clear it will not tolerate opposition marches. Previous protests have led to bloody clashes between ODM supporters and security forces, adding to a total death toll of around 500 since the December 27 vote.
The unrest has tarnished Kenya's democratic credentials, damaged east Africa's largest and previously booming economy, hit supplies to neighbours, and unnerved Western donors.
An opposition source said ODM leaders would march to a Nairobi police station later on Friday, after their news conference, to give notice of plans for nationwide demonstrations starting on Wednesday.
"We are going to go through a very dark period in this country's history," he said.
This week's failure of African Union head and Ghanaian President John Kufuor to broker a deal has depressed Kenyans, who have lived through one of the worst chapters of their nation's post-independence history since the December 27 vote.
Kufuor flew out empty-handed on Thursday night, but said former U.N. head Kofi Annan, another Ghanaian, would lead a group of eminent Africans in another push to resolve the crisis.
ODM said Annan told Odinga, who says Kibaki robbed him of victory by fraud, that he would fly in on Tuesday.
Analysts say Odinga has, however, lost momentum in recent days as Kibaki entrenches himself by appointing half a cabinet, carrying out state functions, and recalling parliament.
Aides for the 76-year-old president, a veteran of Kenyan politics and member of the nation's largest and most powerful Kikuyu tribe, say the opposition's refusal to meet Kibaki face-to-face shows it is not interested in dialogue.
But ODM say they will only meet if an international mediator is president.
Kibaki and Odinga, a 63-year-old former political prisoner and wealthy businessman, have not met since the vote, even though they have had close ties in the past including when the opposition leader sat in Kibaki's cabinet from 2002-05.
Around Kenya, there is widespread frustration that the poor have largely paid the price of the unrest while the political elite have stayed in comfortable and well-guarded compounds.
As well as the death toll, which aid groups say will rise to well over 500 and Odinga told Reuters was already nearing 1,000, more than a quarter of a million Kenyans are homeless from ethnic clashes in the days after Kibaki's December 30 swearing in.
"Our leaders are stuck in mortal combat, unable to rise above their ambitions and put the interests of the country and the people first," wrote Daily Nation columnist Lucy Oriang.
The West, including the United States and Kenya's former colonial ruler Britain, has expressed displeasure at irregularities in the presidential vote count, and is pressing for some sort of power-sharing agreement.
Kibaki has said he will consider a coalition, while Odinga would prefer a re-run of the election.
In the latest statement from abroad, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband urged both sides "to engage without any pre-conditions" and "agree on a way to share power so as to reflect the clear democratic will of the Kenyan people."
With key sectors like tourism and commodities affected by the crisis, analysts say the full impact on one of Africa's brightest economies depends wholly on how long it lasts.
"Sentiment is likely to benefit from any resolution to the current impasse, although it is highly unlikely that confidence will bounce back to pre-election levels," Standard Chartered analyst Razia Khan said.