Political Standoff Fuels Ethnic Violence in Kenya Hundreds of people have died in post-election ethnic violence in Kenya. A hospital in Eldoret has received more than 70 bodies since election results were announced, including 17 burned alive in a church. Raila Odinga, who narrowly lost the presidential election, has called for protests Thursday.
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NPR's Gwen Thompkins reports on 'All Things Considered'

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Political Standoff Fuels Ethnic Violence in Kenya

NPR's Gwen Thompkins reports on 'All Things Considered'

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

And we're going to begin this hour in Kenya where an estimated 300 people have been killed since last week's disputed presidential election. President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner, but opposition leader Raila Odinga says he will not accept the legitimacy of Kibaki's win. Among the most horrific acts of violence was the burning of a church full of people in the town of Eldoret.

NPR's Gwen Thompkins visited the scene today and sent this report.

(Soundbite of Cow Mooing)

GWEN THOMPKINS: In Western Kenya, on the outskirts of a town called Eldoret, the harvest is in. The sugarcane fields have just the nubs left and a smattering of dry, brown leaves. It is quiet here and beautiful. And the sheep are ushering themselves down a country lane. But wait a minute. There are no people here. And the Assemblies of God church is in charred bits and pieces.

Patrick Yangaza(ph) and his Red Cross team have taken 13 bodies out of the ashes. Someone, he says, will come back to this area and want to bury them someday.

Mr. PATRICK YANGAZA (Red Cross): I know of African culture, people always want to bury their own. And the problem will be identification because (unintelligible). So I think we leave that to technology, but we will just do what we can.

THOMPKINS: Area residents were burned alive in the church Tuesday. They had come to the church for protection against their neighbors. In the aftermath of a disputed election that returned President Mwai Kibaki to office, those who voted for him have been the targets of attacks. But the police say this has never happened before in Kenya. No one has ever set fire to a church.

Ms. JANET KAMALIA(ph) (Resident): They are (unintelligible), the people who are burning, killing, beating, yeah. They are boys we went to school with. We used to be in the same class, the same school. We sat for our examinations together so they are not new people to us.

THOMPKINS: Janet Kamalia was there when it happened. Like Kibaki, she is a Kikuyu. And her family has been living in the area since 1965. And like nearly all Kikuyus nationwide, she supported Kibaki for his second term. But others in the area supported the challenger, Raila Odinga, a Luo. But many of the Kalenjin tribe, the Luhya, the Kisii and the Pokot were so disappointed with the result of the race that they told Kamalia that they would come for revenge against the Kikuyu.

Ms. KAMALIA: They, there's a sort of clay they put on their face, not to be recognized. But when our eyes met them, they were flushing.

THOMPKINS: Dr. Omar Ali(ph) is the acting director of the local research hospital where Kamalia's father died this morning. He was outside the church Tuesday and was beaten unconscious.

Doctor OMAR ALI (Acting Director, Local Research Hospital): This is the worst of, you know? I think this is the worst that I've seen. You know, it's really a pitiful state. I think no, you know, in our country, something like this should never happen.

THOMPKINS: Ali says since the election results were announced on Sunday, the hospital has seen all manner of injuries.

Dr. ALI: Oh, most of the injuries are panga cuts, you know, panga machete? Arrows, bows and arrows. You know, starting on the 31st of December, we've had 13 bodies being brought in. On the 1st, we had 34. And on the second, that's today, we had four bodies so far having been brought in. And there are about 50 still lying and waiting to be brought in. Yeah, they're scattered all over, yes.

THOMPKINS: At the Sacred Heart Cathedral, the bishop estimates that 8,000 to 10,000 people sleep in the open air on the grounds every night. Others have squeezed into police stations and schools.

But Peter Waweru(ph) is getting out. Waweru is a high school biology teacher who has been teaching in the area for 45 years. But he and his wife, Margaret(ph), have left everything behind, even their animals.

Mr. PETER WAWERU (Biology Teacher): We just left the wilds(ph). Wild - cow, sheep, goats, just everything, everything. We just came the way you see us.

THOMPKINS: They want to go to Nairobi, but trouble could be waiting for them there. Raila Odinga has called for his supporters to mount a massive demonstration downtown tomorrow despite a government ban on the gathering. Riot police are expected in full gear.

Gwen Thompkins, NPR News, Eldoret, Kenya.

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