Opposition Lawmaker Gunned Down in Kenya

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Gunmen operating in the chaos of Kenya's post-election violence have killed an opposition member of Kenya's parliament, prompting opposition leader Raila Odinga to warn that the country may be headed toward anarchy.


It's been another day of deadly violence in Kenya. Opposition leader Raila Odinga warned the country was heading towards anarchy after gunmen killed a member of parliament from his party. It's not yet clear whether the killing was politically motivated or whether it was a criminal act.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is in the capital, Nairobi.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: The police are calling it a murder at the moment, but whether it was politically motivated or not, the effect of the killing of Melitus Were, known as Mugabe Were, it's that it has provoked more violence. Right here in the capital, Nairobi, in Kibera slum, which has already been a flashpoint, and Kibera is not far from where he lives, already there have been reported deaths there and more violence. And as ever here in Kenya in recent weeks, it seems to be ethnic violence, one tribe against another, one ethnic group fighting another.

MONTAGNE: So that killing, whether it's politically motivated or not, it's already led to more bloodshed, both in the slums of Nairobi and the Rift Valley, which is quite volatile right now. What exactly happened?

QUIST-ARCTON: In the Rift Valley it's hard to tell whether it's the killing of Melitus Were that has sparked the violence. But we're told that army helicopters have fired rubber bullets onto a crowd probably of Kikuyu youths who were apparently terrorizing a group of Luos who were trying to escape the violence.

Now, let me explain that. Kikuyu is President Mwai Kibaki's tribe, and Luo is the opposition leader Raila Odinga's tribe. And in the Rift Valley over the past four or five days there have been (unintelligible) absolutely horrific killings using bows and arrows, using clubs, using spears. And first of all it seemed to be the Luo versus the Kikuyu, and now it seems to be revenge killings by the Kikuyu on the Luo and the allied Kalenjin ethnic group. So the opposition leader says this country is lurching towards anarchy. It is certainly becoming lawless.

MONTAGNE: Remind us why it has come to this in Kenya.

QUIST-ARCTON: All this violence was fueled by a disputed presidential election result. The opposition said it has been cheated of the presidency. It has been robbed of victory. The president said he'd won and hastily had himself sworn in. Since that, and we're talking about a month now, that all hell has been let loose here.

We have the former U.N. secretary general, Kofi Annan, actually in the country trying to mediate peace and trying to get everybody to stop the violence. But it almost seems as if it is out of control because we're now talking about youths and gangs and mobs from the different ethnic groups fighting each other and, it seems, trying to settle scores and trying to deal with vendettas that date back generations over land, over privilege, over position, and over tribe.

MONTAGNE: And later today, leaders of the two rival parties will formally begin talks, and mediated by former U.N. head Kofi Annan. Is there any optimism about what this will achieve?

QUIST-ARCTON: Kenyans are very distressed, very frustrated, and very frightened. They had hoped that Kofi Annan's intervention would help and would restore some sort of order and get the two men who were at the center of this crisis, the president and the opposition leader, to the negotiation table. But many Kenyans now think that perhaps it's gone too far, that the violence has gone too far, that the ethnic enmity has gone too far. But Kofi Annan and his team are still trying to mediate and bring peace back to Kenya.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton speaking from Nairobi.

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