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Kenyan Opposition Leader Calls for New Election

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Kenyan Opposition Leader Calls for New Election

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Kenyan Opposition Leader Calls for New Election

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

After their meeting, I spoke with opposition leader Raila Odinga. He did not strike a conciliatory note - far from it. Instead, he gave Kenya's president two options.

Mr. RAILA ODINGA (Kenyan Politician; Opposition Leader): The one is Mr. Kibaki will just step aside and allow me to be sworn in as the president. The second one is a rerun of the presidential elections. If there's any doubt who won the elections as the election commission would like people to believe. Then we are ready for a rerun of the presidential elections.

BLOCK: So you're ruling out power-sharing. If Mr. Kibaki stays as president, you're saying the only two options that are acceptable to you would be if he steps down as president or agrees to rerunning the presidential election.

Mr. ODINGA: Yes, presidential elections within three months' time will settle this issue once and for all.

BLOCK: But Mr. Kibaki is insisting that he is - whether you agree with him or not - the duly elected president of Kenya. What would possibly make him agree to step down or have new elections?

Mr. ODINGA: His country's aflame, and there'll be no peace in Kenya until this matter is settled satisfactorily.

BLOCK: Mr. Odinga, you said that Kenya is aflame and there will be no peace. Those words could be interpreted by your followers as essentially license for them to go and keep on with the violence that your country has seen since this elections in December. Why not send a message of this is a time that we need to be looking for peace and putting down our weapons?

Mr. ODINGA: That's exactly what I've been doing all the time. So even today, when (unintelligible). I even called for peace and that the people should handle themselves peacefully, but, as you know, there can really be no true peace without justice.

BLOCK: Mr. Odinga, you know well that the human rights group, Human Rights Watch, has accused your party - the Orange Democratic Movement - of orchestrating attacks on members of Mr. Kibaki's ethnic group - the Kikuyu. They say the attacks were not spontaneous, that they were planned, they were incited by opposition leaders. What do you say to that accusation?

Mr. ODINGA: No, nothing could be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is that this is most unfortunate and we have condemned it in the strongest tone possible. But I want to say that there has been no premeditation. What you have seen countrywide has been spontaneous reaction of the people to the rigging of elections, and this is what will need to be addressed.

BLOCK: But in terms of the violence between ethnic groups, what you're saying flies in the face of what human rights groups are saying, which is that opposition leaders arranged for trucks, for bands of youth to go around attacking members of other tribes, supplied them with weapons, paid for the weapons, that this was not just a passionate outpouring of anger. It was orchestrated by the opposition.

Mr. ODINGA: Where is the evidence? This is a propaganda put out by the government, talking about genocide. The people have just reacted angrily. It was nothing that was premeditated or preplanned at all.

BLOCK: Mr. Odinga, I want to ask you about an editorial that ran this week in the leading newspaper in Kenya - The Daily Nation. The writer is saying that this basically is all about power. And he faults President Kibaki but he also faults you. And he says this.

(Reading) Climbing over the bodies knee-deep in blood with his arm outstretched to grab the throne, I see opposition leader Raila Odinga still furious that he was denied the biggest prize of all.

Mr. ODINGA: Every Kenyan knows that I won the elections. I mean, there's no doubt in the mind of the people here. Now, what you want to ask is what does this portend for democracy in Africa? You know, democracy has a price; dictatorships, they don't go out easily. And unless it is sorted out to the satisfaction of the people of Kenya, I am sure that it will spell doom to democracy in our country.

BLOCK: Mr. Odinga, thanks for talking with us.

Mr. ODINGA: Thank you very much.

BLOCK: That's Raila Odinga, leader of Kenya's opposition party, The Orange Democratic Movement, speaking with us from Nairobi.

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