In Kenya, the death toll from ethnic fighting, sparked by last month's disputed presidential vote, is mounting with the report that as many as seven more people were killed in the strife-torn Rift Valley Friday. VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu reports that fresh political tensions between President Mwai Kibaki and rival Raila Odinga have dampened hopes for an agreement that can end the country's nearly month-long crisis.
A murderous mob burned down dozens of homes early Friday in central Kenya and shut down businesses in the Rift Valley town of Nakuru in what residents say is violence related to the deadly ethnic clashes that erupted after the December 27 presidential vote.
A journalist with the local Daily Nation newspaper, Lauren Anyango, says the mob was largely made up of members of President Mwai Kibaki's ethnic Kikuyu tribe. They became the target of brutal ethnic attacks in the capital, the Rift Valley, and western Kenya when Mr. Kibaki was declared the winner of an election international observers called unfair.
The president has rejected opposition demands for him to resign or re-run the vote. Meanwhile, hundreds of Kikuyus have been hacked to death, shot with arrows, and burned. Tens of thousands of others have been chased from their homes and farms.
"Now, it is a revenge attack," Anyango said. "The Kikuyu community is attacking the Kalenjin community and others like the Luos, just in line with the post-election skirmishes. That is what is going on."
Anyango says the attack in Nakuru and in the nearby town of Molo killed seven people, all belonging to ethnic tribes that support opposition leader Raila Odinga and his Orange Democratic Movement party, also known as ODM.
Odinga's core support comes from members of his Luo tribe. But other tribes like the Kalenjin who resent what they perceive as Kikuyu domination of Kenyan politics, land, and business, have also embraced ODM.
On Thursday, hopes of a quick settlement of the dispute between the president and Raila Odinga were raised when the two men met face-to-face for the first time since the election in talks mediated by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
But the smiles and handshakes were quickly replaced by bitter accusations after Mr. Kibaki, in remarks to reporters, described himself as the legitimate leader of Kenya.
"After being sworn in as your duly elected president of Kenya, I will personally lead our country in promoting unity, tolerance, peace and harmony among all Kenyans," Mr. Kibaki said.
A senior opposition spokesman, Anyang Nyongo, called the remark provocative and says chances for more direct talks depend on Mr. Kibaki.
"It was unfortunate that Mwai Kibaki goofed," he said. "When he develops some good manners and he is ready to discuss with us, we shall start."
President Kibaki's political party has accused ODM leaders of planning and orchestrating attacks against ethnic Kikuyus, an accusation that was bolstered by the Human Rights Watch group in a report released on Thursday. ODM denies the charge.