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Kenyan Opposition Says It Seeks Peace, Criticizes Government


Leaders with Kenya's main opposition group have made a new appeal for peace in a bid to stop ethnic violence that has surged in recent days, leaving dozens of people dead. Nick Wadhams has the story from Nairobi.

The lawmakers from the Orange Democratic Movement told a news conference that the government of President Mwai Kibaki was "utterly evil" and that it was standing by as violence roils areas north and west of Nairobi.

The opposition lawmakers accused the Kibaki government of genocide, and insisted they had never encouraged their followers to strike back.

"We want to condemn in the strongest term possible the violence that has visited Kenya since the stolen verdict," said Henry Kosgei, a ODM member of parliament. "Let me state categorically that we as a party, we are for peace, we campaigned on the platform of peace and change, and we asked our electorate to use the vote as their weapon and this we are on record."

The government denies the allegations of genocide and says the opposition is encouraging the violence.

The latest government estimates suggest that about 900 people have been killed in violence related to the disputed December 27 election that international observers have said was flawed.

The recent violence has appeared to be more ethnic in nature, with Kikuyus, who generally support Mr. Kibaki, saying they must avenge victims of attacks who lived in opposition strongholds.

That in turn has touched off new riots in western Kenya, where opposition-leader Raila Odinga is popular.

The tension has hindered mediation efforts by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He met with Mr. Kibaki, Mr. Odinga and the visiting British minister for Africa, Mark Malloch Brown.

Malloch Brown told reporters that the anger of the two sides is "growing exponentially" and that Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga are very far apart.

The international community has been trying to pressure Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga to come to a solution. The European Union is warning it would cut aid to Kenya unless a peaceful settlement is reached.