Kenya's leader hints at coalition deal

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The Independent Online

Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki has signalled that he is prepared to enter into a coalition government with his rival, Raila Odinga.

Last night's move followed a meeting with the South African Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. "There is a great deal of hope," Archbishop Tutu said.

Mr Kibaki's spokesman also signalled a willingness to agree to a re-run of the election, if the courts decide it is necessary. The opposition Orange Democratic Movement's secretary general, Anyang Nyongo, called for fresh polls within three months but the party is refusing to take the issue to court. Kenya's justice system is notoriously slow and corrupt. Mr Kibaki appointed six new judges two days before Christmas, a move that some Kenyan analysts believe was linked to a possible post-election court challenge. France's Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, became the first foreign official to openly say that last week's presidential election was fixed. "Were the elections rigged or not? I think so, many think so, the Americans think so, the British think so, and they know the country well," he said.

Opposition plans for a rally in central Nairobi's Uhuru Park were abandoned as it became clear that its supporters' appetite for another confrontation with paramilitary police prepared to use teargas and water cannons was limited.

Opposition supporters streamed out of Kibera, Nairobi's largest slum, yesterday morning but they were not interested in demonstrating. Instead, they were looking for food. "We are tired and hungry," said Syrus Wanyama, a 26-year-old man with two children.

A semblance of normality appeared to return to much of Nairobi. But in the slums, home to around two-thirds of Nairobi's three million population, the constant unrest is beginning to take its toll. Armed gangs have been marauding Kibera at night. In his small, one-room mud hut, Mr Wanyama searched underneath the family's only mattress and pulled out a machete, a large glass bottle and an ornate wooden table leg studded with nails.

"When it comes to night these are my best friends," he said. Along with other young men along a stretch of rubbish-strewn dirt tracks, Mr Wanyama spends the night guarding his property. His wife, Josephine, their four-year-old daughter and six-month-old son, take refuge with hundreds of other women and children in a nearby primary school.

Politicians on both sides have spent the week spreading mixed messages. Despite calling for calm, leaders of both parties have accused the other of inciting violence. The word "genocide" has been thrown around with reckless abandon. "The rhetoric is crazy," said Maini Kiai, chairman of the Kenya National Human Rights Commission. "They've got to drop the genocide talk."

Elsewhere, police clashed with more than 1,000 protesters in Mombasa, one of the country's most popular tourist destinations. In western Kenya, the Red Cross said at least 100,000 were in need of basic food and medicine following attacks against members of Mr Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe.

The medical aid agency Merlin warned of a medical emergency in the western town of Kisumu, where up to 100 people are believed to have died. "If peace isn't restored within the next few days, extreme hunger and severe dehydration are very real threats," said Merlin's Wubeshet Woldermariam.

Election strife

* 27 December

Voters turn out in record numbers for the election.

* 28 December

Half of Mwai Kibaki's cabinet lose seats. Raila Odinga takes a commanding lead.

* 29 December

Allegations of vote-rigging.

* 30 December

EU election observers locked out of tallying rooms. President Kibaki announced as the winner and sworn in within 30 minutes. Nairobi's slums erupt.

* 1 January

Mob burns down church in Eldoret, dozens are killed. Electoral commission chair admits he does not know if Kibaki won.

* 3 January

Riot police prevent opposition supporters gathering at Uhuru Park for planned demonstration. Attorney general calls for independent inquiry into election result.

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