|At least six people were killed Friday in Nakuru town during clashes involving youth from the Kalenjin and Kikuyu communities.
|A fire engine goes up in flames after rioters set it on fire in Nakuru Town yesterday. Inset: Military officers put out a fire at a barricade in the middle of the Eldoret-Nakuru road. Photos/JOSEPH KIHERI
The post-election violence worsened in the volatile Rift Valley region only a day after bitter rivals President Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga shook hands publicly for the first time since the fiercely contested general elections and called for peace.
The violence paralysed business in the otherwise peaceful town, forcing the Government to send in soldiers to aid police officers who appeared overwhelmed by the situation.
The rampaging combatants, armed with poisoned arrows, machetes, clubs and other crude weapons, reportedly injured hundreds of people, torched houses, looted and destroyed property.
Consequently, the Government imposed a 7pm to 6am curfew in the Rift Valley town.
Roads in Kenya’s fourth largest town and the main gateway to western Kenya were barricaded by armed gangs bringing it to a virtual standstill in the morning.
Fighting started on Thursday night when Kisima and Kaptembwa estates on the western part of the town were raided and houses torched. The violence spread to the town centre yesterday where a man was lynched at the bus station. Police who rushed to the scene fired in the air, forcing people to flee in all directions.
Some matatu drivers removed their vehicles from the bus station. Motorists also removed their vehicles from parking bays and the streets were clear by 10 am.
Hundreds of hawkers who sell their wares in shop corridors also fled from the town.
A resident of Kwa Ndege area in Lanet who spoke to the Saturday 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.
A resident of Pipeline area said that he had also decided to remain at home for fear of being attacked. Policemen guarded banks whose doors remained open but there were hardly any customers.
Soldiers in three vehicles were deployed to the western side of the town in the morning where they helped to remove barricades erected on the Nakuru–Eldoret highway.
A contingent of GSU men also arrived in the town centre in the morning and took position to prevent looting of shops.
Flames and huge balls of smoke continued drifting into the cloudy sky all day as more houses were torched at Githima and Kaptembwa.
Some residents who had stayed indoors for most of the day tried to walk to the shopping centres to buy food but found the shops closed. Some people were seen slipping pieces of carton boards in under their shirts and dresses to protect themselves from flying arrows near Langa Langa Mwisho area. The Government later imposed a partial curfew that requires residents to remain indoors from 7pm to 6am.
A statement issued by the Rift Valley PC Noor Hassan Noor said that the order was aimed at enabling the security forces to deal with the armed gangs. He said the order will remain in force until the situation calms down.
A similar curfew was imposed on the town by the Government in February 1998 when ethnic clashes flared up in the district.
Mr Hassan said the security forces would be particularly vigilant at Shabab, Free Area, Kaptembwa, Ponda Mali and Kwa Rondah estates.
Among the casualties of the fighting was the town’s only fire engine which was burnt down. The engine, with 1,600-litre water capacity had been acquired by the council only recently.
It was burnt at Githima estate where firemen had gone to save some of the houses that had been torched by arsonists. None of the firefighters was hurt.
Two men were killed in the town in what was believed to be a revenge attack after a driver and his conductor were killed in Mau Narok.
One of them was stoned to death at the town’s main bus terminus, while the other was stabbed at the Shabab matatu stage.
The matatu operators were angered by the killing of their two colleagues at Mauche trading centre as they travelled from Mau Narok on Thursday at about 5.30pm. Some of the matatu crew thronged the Nakuru Municipal mortuary to view their mutilated bodies.
Nakuru Town was a no-go zone for most of the morning as youths barricaded roads leading into and out of the town.
Supermarkets, shops and other business premises remained closed after the youths threatened to loot and burn premises that opened their doors.
Public transport was paralysed within the town, while vehicles leaving or entering the area were also held up as a result of the barricades.
Reports by Kennedy Masibo, Michael Njuguna, Wanjiru Macharia, Kamau Watoro, Noah Cheploen and Cisa