Kenya’s defeated presidential candidate has called for nationwide protests against last week’s disputed election.
Raila Odinga failed to beat the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki. But, his supporters claimed vote-rigging and fraud, and launched angry demonstrations which have left at least 120 people dead.
From the western border with Uganda, to the capital Nairobi, and Mombasa on the Indian Ocean, protesters vented their anger at what they see as a stolen victory, and were met by an equally-determined police response.
Despite international alarm, President Kibaki vowed to step up security even further, and deal decisively with the rioters. His beaten opponent, Raila Odinga, promised to fight on: “Democracy is expensive,” he said. “But we are prepared to pay the ultimate price to liberate this country from the shackles of a cabal of dictators who have no respect or regard for the rights of the people of this country.”
Some of the worst violence hit the western town of Kisumu, which is a stronghold of Odinga support. At least 21 bullet-riddled bodies were reported at one mortuary, and protests against the president’s re-election quickly descended into looting and theft.
It is the worst unrest in Kenya since independence in 1963. And it is in stark contrast to the elections of five years ago, when President Kibaki defeated the dictator Daniel arap Moi. That was an vote applauded internationally as true democracy in an often-turbulent region.