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Kenyan Police Probing Links Between Politicians and Military Training

Police in Kenya are reportedly investigating possible links between politicians and an armed youth group discovered last week undergoing military training in a forest near the coastal city of Mombasa. The police believe the men were preparing to cause violence and chaos in coastal areas ahead of Kenya's presidential elections in December. VOA correspondent Alisha Ryu reports from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Media reports in Kenya say the police have a list of politicians, who are being investigated in connection to the activities of a little-known group called the Mombasa Republican Council.

Kenyan police spokesman, Eric Kiraithe, declined to comment on the investigations. But he warned that any politician found to be funding the group and inciting its members to take up arms will be arrested.

"What we are saying, as the police, is pursue political issues politically," said Kiraithe. "Do not take a bunch of young men and take them to the forest. You have broken the laws of this country and we shall arrest you and take you to be prosecuted."

Last week, the police raided a dense forest near the resort town of Diani, where police say they found more than 100 Republican Council members receiving military-style training.

Dozens of members, armed with machetes, attacked the police, wounding two officers. The police killed one man and arrested 25 others, including two witch doctors. The rest of the group escaped into the forest.

The police believe the Mombasa Republican Council has about 800 militant members, whose goal is to take over a 16-kilometer strip of the Kenyan coast by force and secede from the country.

Police investigators say the men in the forest were being specifically trained to raid local police stations and steal weapons.

A member of the Republican Council, Mwakombo Mwaduzuya, describes the group as a movement, which aims to protect the rights of the coastal people.

He says the coastal community is angry at the Kenyan government's long-standing practice of reallocating coastal lands to people from other parts of the country. He says the practice has left the indigenous politically marginalized, landless, and poor.

"We do not even have a national school," said Mwaduzuya. "There are places in Coast Province, where people drink water, not even from a well, but from just a pond. The coastals have had enough of this government. They have had enough of everything. We do not get any share from this national cake."

Kenyans have become deeply concerned in recent months over a resurgence of the violence that has plagued past Kenyan elections.

In a run-up to the 1997 polls, nearly 40 people were killed in clashes in Likoni, near Mombasa.

This year, land disputes have already killed more than 140 people in the Mount Elgon highlands on the border with Uganda and tribal politics is believed to be partly behind a string of brutal murders by the banned criminal Mungiki gang in central Kenya and Rift Valley.