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Kenya Opposition Calls 3 Days Of Protest
Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga hold his poster at a barricade in Kisumu, western Kenya, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008. Kenya's president has named half his Cabinet, angering opposition leaders who accuse him of stealing an election and now undermining attempts to mediate a power-sharing agreement to end a crisis that has left more than 500 people dead. After the Cabinet announcement Tuesday, riot police fired over the heads of young people who had set up a road blocks of burning tires in the town. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
By ELIZABETH A. KENNEDY
NAIROBI, Kenya, January 12, 2008 - Kenya's main opposition party said Friday it plans three days of mass rallies next week to protest President Mwai Kibaki's disputed re-election, which has sparked waves of deadly violence across the East African nation. Police said they would not permit the protests.
The African Union president, who had been trying to mediate a compromise between the opposition leader Raila Odinga and Kibaki, left Kenya on Friday after failing to persuade the two even to meet.
More than 500 people have died in protests and ethnic violence since the Dec. 27 elections and ensuring vote tally that foreign observers say was rigged. The election returned Kibaki to power for another five-year term; Odinga came in second.
Police have banned all rallies since the violence broke out, and have used tear gas, water cannons and live bullets fired over people's heads to block previous attempts to assemble.
"Kenyans are entitled to protest peacefully at this blatant violation of their fundamental rights," said Anyang Nyongo, secretary-general of the Orange Democratic Movement.
He also said economic sanctions should be imposed on the government because "it would be irresponsible for anybody to trust this government with a single cent."
Nyongo announced rallies in more than 20 locations for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
But Police Commissioner Mohamed Hussein said next week's rallies will not be permitted.
Both sides traded blame Thursday for the political deadlock. According to the government, Kibaki "offered dialogue," but Odinga was not responsive. Odinga said Kibaki refused to sign an agreement to establish an interim coalition government and conduct an inquiry into the Electoral Commission of Kenya.
A government spokesman acknowledged Kibaki had not signed, saying he was not involved in the consultations.
Odinga has said he would meet Kibaki only in the presence of an international mediator. Kibaki wants direct talks.
The European Union, the United States and Britain have been pressing for Kibaki and Odinga to meet. Britain has not recognized the new government of Kenya, and for that to happen the Kenyan government would have to "clearly represent a credible expression of the will of the people," British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told reporters in London on Thursday.
Kenya has turned over dozens of people to the U.S. and Ethiopia as suspected terrorists. It also allows American forces to operate from Kenyan bases and conducts joint exercises with U.S. troops in the region. The U.S. is a major donor to Kenya, long seen as a stable democracy in a region that includes war-ravaged Somalia and Sudan. Aid amounts to roughly $1 billion a year, the U.S. Embassy said.
Another blow was dealt to the credibility of the results when the disgraced electoral commission chairman denied responsibility for an official advertisement in leading newspapers detailing the tally of those results by constituency.
"I did not submit this report or authorize my name to be used for its publication," Samuel Kivuiti was quoted as saying in Friday's edition of The Standard newspaper.
He questioned the timing of the three-page advertisement, wondering why his commission had "rushed" to publication.
"It seems like some outside force has pushed for its publication," he said.
Kivuiti had declared Kibaki the official victor in the race but then said he was not sure that the incumbent had won and that he had made the announcement under a lot of pressure.
Associated Press writers Michelle Faul and Malkhadir M. Muhumed contributed to this report from Nairobi.