Kenya: Helicopters Bomb Protesters
New Vision (Kampala)
29 January 2008
Posted to the web 29 January 2008
KENYAN military helicopters opened fire Tuesday above feuding gangs in a western town of Naivasha, and 13 died in fresh clashes elsewhere as the murder of an opposition Member of Parliament sparked new chaos.
Nine people died in tribal fighting in western Kenya and four were killed in a Nairobi slum, police and medical sources said, as riots and ethnic clashes flared across the country.
Gunmen killed the newly elected ODM legislator, Melitus Were, at his home in the early hours and ethnic violence continued to spread. He was shot twice in the head as he reached the gate of his house shortly after midnight. The police called it “murder”.
But ODM leader Raila Odinga, who claims he was robbed of the presidency, accused “our adversaries” of having a hand in the fatal shooting in Nairobi of a lawmaker from his party.
“We suspect a foul hand of our adversaries in this,” Odinga told a news conference. “We hope and expect that investigations are going to be carried out by the law enforcement agencies, but as you can see, the country is drifting into a state of anarchy.”
Hours after Were’s death, rival ethnic gangs began fighting in Nairobi’s Kibera slum, not far from where he was shot.
The police dispersed mourners with teargas, some of whom had taunted officers at Were’s house in a middle-class suburb on the edge of Kibera slum. In Naivasha, three Kenyan military helicopters opened fire above fighting ethnic groups.
Reuters said its reporters on the scene said the helicopters dive-bombed the crowd several times, firing what the police said were rubber bullets at a mob of about 600 people brandishing machetes and threatening members of another tribe. The incident came as police trucks prepared to evacuate about 300 Luo refugees to safety. It was not immediately clear whether anyone was hit.
A witness saw seven corpses, some with cuts on the head and neck. One of them lay in agony on the ground after being forcibly circumcised, before dying.
Unrest also simmered across the volatile Rift Valley, with mobs ransacking homes, burning belongings and threatening people trying to flee Naivasha town, north of the capital. Plumes of smoke rose from different parts, as members of Kibaki’s Kikuyu group hunted down Luos, Luhyas and Kalenjins thought to be opposition supporters. The Police opened fire to disperse one mob trying to attack a truck carrying refugees.
The ethnic violence has taken a new twist with the Kikuyu forcefully circumcising the Luo.
The Luo tribe, unlike the rival Kikuyu tribe, does not practice male circumcision.
The “forced circumcisions” are often outright penile amputations performed with rusty machetes by angry mobs.
Meanwhile, talks between Kenya’s feuding political factions officially began yesterday, mediated by former UN chief Kofi Annan.
“There is only one Kenya. We all have multiple identities but I hope you see yourselves as Kenyans first,” said Annan, sitting between Kibaki and Odinga for the opening session in Nairobi’s County Hall broadcast on live television.
The talks began with prayers and a minute’s silence in the memory of Were.
Vision Reporter And Agencies