Death Toll Rises as Kenyan Police Battle Protesters

Supporters of defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga protest on Monday.

hide captionSupporters of defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga wave a Kenyan flag during violent protests in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday. Odinga's supporters say the election was rigged.

Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty

Kenyan police battled crowds of protesters Monday, as opponents of President Mwai Kibaki took to the streets of Nairobi to decry the Kikuyu leader's allegedly fraudulent re-election.

Officials said 103 people have been killed in the violence resulting from Kibaki's surprise win over Raila Odinga in the tightest presidential election in Kenya's history. Elections chief Samuel Kivuitu said Kibaki beat Odinga by 231,728 votes.

Odinga called on 1 million people to gather Thursday in Nairobi's Uhuru Park — where protesters converged to demand multiparty democracy in the early 1990s. He later postponed the rally to Monday after police warned the opposition party not to hold it.

Kibaki, 76, was sworn in almost immediately after the results were announced. Within minutes, the slums exploded into fresh violence.

Suspicions over rigging were fueled by the fact that the opposition took most of the parliamentary seats in Thursday's vote, but Kibaki still won the election.

Police fired tear gas, and several officers said they had orders to shoot to kill. A government spokesman denied such an order was given.

Police Use Force

Opposition supporters from the Luo ethnic group said they would risk death to protest what they called a stolen election. Demonstrators were beaten back with tear gas and water cannons, and police fired live rounds over their heads in Nairobi's burning slums.

"We have been rigged out, we are not going to accept defeat," said 24-year-old James Onyango, who lives in Nairobi's Kibera slum. "We are ready to die and we're ready for serious killings."

Odinga, the fiery opposition leader who came in second according to the official results, compared Kibaki to a military dictator who "seized power through the barrel of the gun."

"We are calling for mass action," said Odinga, who had been leading early results and public opinion polls. "We will inform police of the march. We will march wearing black arm bands because we are mourning."

An Associated Press reporter saw a man who had been shot in the head being carried in a blanket. Men around him said he had been shot by police. Police were not immediately available for comment.

Teams of riot police fired shots into the air and tear gas into homes and businesses; in one home, a woman and her four young children ran out, retching.

"We were just hiding from the shots," said Dorothy Nyangasi, who frantically poured water over the eyes of her 6-month-old old son, Daniel.

Opposition supporters blocked a road into Nairobi's city center with burning refuse. Police with batons and riot shields hit and detained protesters in Kibera.

One 14-year-old girl said police had shot her brother and another man in the stomach. Shortly after she spoke to reporters she was arrested and taken away crying in a marked police vehicle.

U.S. Expresses Concern

U.S. officials expressed concern over serious problems during the counting of votes.

"Those alleging vote tampering may pursue legal remedies and should be able, consistent with respect for freedom of speech, to make their case publicly. We call on the judiciary to play its role expeditiously," a statement from the U.S. embassy in Kenya said.

Kenya is one of the most developed countries in Africa, with a booming tourism industry and one of the continent's highest growth rates. Many observers saw the campaign as the greatest test of this young, multiparty democracy and expressed great disappointment as the process descended into chaos.

Kibaki's supporters say he has turned Kenya's economy into an East African powerhouse, with an average annual growth rate of 5 percent. He won by a landslide in 2002, ending 24 years in power by the notoriously corrupt Daniel arap Moi. But Kibaki's anti-graft campaign has largely been seen as a failure, and the country still struggles with tribalism and poverty.

The election violence had a disturbing tribal undertone in the slums, where youths shouted ethnic slurs. Kibaki, from the Kikuyu tribe, has been accused of maintaining the tribal patronage system of the Moi years. Odinga is a Luo, another major tribe.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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