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Kenyan Protesters Clash With Police For Second Day


Kenyan protesters fought with police on the second of three days of protests organized by opponents of President Mwai Kibaki. Nick Wadhams reports for VOA from Nairobi the protesters say at least seven people have been killed.

Police fired shots into the air at young men who set fire to a barricade of tires outside Nairobi's Kibera slum. The authorities refused to allow men to leave the slum in what appeared to be an effort to prevent opposition leader Raila Odinga and his supporters from holding a rally in central Nairobi's Uhuru Park.

Those on the roadblock were mostly young men who threw stones at police and tossed back tear-gas canisters fired into their midst.

Roland Peterson stood near the flaming tires wearing a bright white knit hat with the New York Yankees baseball team's logo embroidered on it.

"They do not know war. That is why we are trying to teach them how to fight. At the same time we are fighting for justice in Kenya. It was peaceful, but now they are killing our people, we cannot maintain peace while they are killing our people. We ought to fight," he said.

While the second day of protest saw violence in Kibera and other pockets around the country, the day's events certainly did not live up to the mass action that Mr. Odinga had called for. His Orange Democratic Movement is protesting what it says was a seriously flawed election on December 27.

International observers have said there were gross irregularities with the vote.

During a news conference, Mr. Odinga said seven people had been killed in the constituency of Kasarani, which includes the Mathare slum, which has seen a surge in violence in the past 24 hours.

Mr. Odinga told reporters police had turned the country into "killing fields of the innocent." He vowed to carry the demonstrations into a third day on Friday. But he said he had decided not to join a march to Uhuru Park in downtown Nairobi because his advisers had told him it was too dangerous.

The city center saw police fire teargas at small pockets of people but no major violence occurred there.

Those most affected by the three days of protest violence appear to be the poorest people. Many Kenyans across the country tried to go to work as normal, and there were signs that Kenyans were increasingly impatient with both leaders.

In Kibera, a group of women shouted down a man who approached reporters and told them that Kenya would only see peace once Mr. Odinga was named president. That reaction may be a bad sign for Mr. Odinga because Kibera is one of his key strongholds and the constituency that elected him to parliament.

Late Wednesday U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger said both Mr. Odinga and President Mwai Kibaki, who insists his re-election was valid, are ready for dialogue.

While the standoff in Kenya continued, the United Nations appealed for $42 million to help about 500,000 people affected by the violence. Officials estimate that at least 600 have been killed and more than 250,000 displaced.