|Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga has ruled out taking a new post of prime minister in President Kibaki’s Government as a solution to the post-election crisis.
At the same time, Kenya’s fourth most important town, Nakuru, has witnessed escalating violence since 1am with houses being torched and roads barricaded by rival gangs.
In an interview with Reuters, Mr Odinga said the only three acceptable options would be Kibaki’s resignation, a vote re-run, or power-sharing leading to constitutional reform then a new election.
“I never said I was considering taking up a position of prime minister under Kibaki,” Odinga told Reuters in an interview.
Some media and diplomats have suggested that could be a way out of the impasse in the aftermath of Kenya’s December 27 vote. Conflict triggered by a dispute over the results has killed more than 700 people, displaced 250,000 and jeopardised one of Africa’s brightest economies.
The ODM leader met Kibaki for the first time in the crisis – thanks to the mediation of former UN boss Kofi Annan – on Thursday.
But Odinga said he was offended by Kibaki’s comments afterwards that he was Kenya’s “duly-elected” president.
“Those remarks were unfortunate, calling himself duly-elected and sworn-in president. That is the bone of contention. We want negotiations with integrity,” he said.
Asked if he would, however, meet Kibaki again, Odinga replied: “Yes, sure. But I would ask him to desist from making those kind of embarrassing remarks, which will definitely undermine the process of mediation.”
In his first comments on the contents of the closed-door meeting, the ODM leader said it was a constructive step.
“In the meeting, we held useful discussions. We were able to give as much as we took,” he said.
“The issue of post-election violence was discussed. We also expressed concerns, not just about the communal violence, but about the excessive use of force by the police.”
The government accuses opposition leaders of stirring up violence against Kibaki’s Kikuyu ethnic group, while the ODM says police have been killing innocent protesters.
Each side has accused the other of genocide.
Odinga, who called off street protests when Annan arrived on Wednesday, said mass action was still a possibility.
“It is an option that will be looked at among other peaceful protests, like boycotts, strikes and so on. There’s a whole package that is considered,” he said in the telephone interview.
In Nakuru, Kenya Army soldiers have been called out to beef up security in Nakuru town after rival militia blocked key roads and destroyed property in fresh escalation of violence.
Screaming and wailing rent the air at Kisima and Kaptembwa Estates in the western part of Nakuru Town all night on Thursday as armed gangs torched houses.
The houses were still burning when residents of other parts of the town reported for work only to be greeted by smoke and violence.
A Nation reporter in the town reported seeing two trucks and three landrovers full of Kenya Army soldiers being deployed in the trouble-spots around the town.
A few traders who had opened their business premises closed down as a result of a stampede started from the Nakuru Bus Station where a man was stoned.
The police fired shots in the air, forcing people to flee in all directions, some opting to walk back to their residential estates.
Some bus drivers removed their vehicles from the bus station and parked them at the railway station, a few hundred metres away.
Motorists also removed their vehicles from parking bays and there were hardly any vehicles in the streets by 10 am.
Hundreds of hawkers who sell their wares in shop corridors within the town centre had also melted away.
Some residents of Lanet and Free Area in the eastern part of the town returned home after they heard that some young men had barricaded a section of the Nakuru-Nairobi highway.
A resident of Kwa Ndege area in Lanet who spoke to the Nation on the phone said he opted to stay at home for fear of running into trouble. About nine houses have been burnt in the area during the last two days.
Policemen guarded banks whose doors remained open but few people were seen entering the banks or the ATM enclosures after the stampede.