For at least 35 Kikuyu men, women and children in the western Kenyan Rift Valley town of Eldoret their refuge turned into their tomb when a mob set fire to the church where they had sought shelter.
Kenyan Red Cross workers are doing all they can but the number displaced by the fighting in the region alone is now more than 70 thousand. It is difficult to say how many have died but police say the death toll since Sunday’s disputed presidential election stands at least 170.
The bloodshed has laid bare ethnic tensions that have festered for years, reviving traumatic memories of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide said aid worker Al Amin Kimathi: “This is a very, very scary scenario. Two hundred people dead in one go is a very, very worrying scenario that we now see the escalation towards a full blown civil war. You cannot be talking of anything less than a civil war situation.”
In Nairobi’s slums and shanty towns the situation has already descended into anarchy. Gangs of armed youths and vigilantes roam the streets.
President Mwai Kibaki – a Kikuyu – was sworn in on Sunday after official election results showed he narrowly beat opposition leader Raila Odinga from the smaller Luo tribe. Both sides have accused the other of massive vote-rigging.
The head of the African Union, Ghana’s President John Kufor, is due in Kenya today to assess the situation.