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Kenya Demonstrators Demand President Act to End Recent Slum Violence - 2001-12-06

In Kenya, thousands of people have fled the capital's largest slum to escape violence that has claimed more than 10 lives. Demonstrators Thursday accused Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi of doing nothing to stop the violence.

Chanting "Moi stop the killings, you started it, you can stop it," representatives from a dozen women's organizations marched to the office of Kenyan President Moi to demand that he end the violence that has engulfed Nairobi's sprawling Kibera slum.

The women charge that it was a comment from the president - telling landlords to lower their rents - that sparked the violence between the residents of the slums and the owners of the dwellings. Much of the population in Kibera is made up of people from Kenya's Luo and Luya tribes. The landlords, however, are mostly Nubians, a predominantly Muslim group of Sudanese origin.

The women demonstrators were led by a member of parliament, Beth Mugo, whose constituency borders Kibera. Ms. Mugo said people are shocked that President Moi has not even commented on the crisis. "Moi should issue a statement retracting what he said before, which is what has triggered this problem, or he should visit the area," she said. "There is nothing that is more important than life, the life that is being lost there, women sleeping outside, women and children being raped. We are shocked that he hasn't said anything up to now."

Many of those who have fled Kibera have nowhere to go. Hundreds of families have been sleeping outside a local government office.

Normally teeming with activity, Kibera is now a virtual ghost town, patrolled by government security forces. But many residents of the slum say the security forces are part of the problem. At a news conference Thursday, several residents of Kibera accused members of the security forces of beating them and stealing their property.

There are also charges of rape. Mary Okumu, co-ordinator for El-Taller, a women's rights organization in Nairobi, said several women came to her for help Wednesday, saying their children had been raped by security forces. "I have four women yesterday who talked about police molestation, including the intimidation, touching their private parts," she said. "[Two of] those women [said] their children, a four-year-old and a nine-year-old, had been raped."

Nairobi provincial police chief Geoffrey Muathe dismisses these accusations. He says no one has lodged a formal complaint and that the security forces have been deployed to restore order in the slum.