Kenya's prime minister has called for the presidential runoff election in Zimbabwe to be postponed, saying there is no chance for the contest to be free or fair after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai dropped out of the contest citing growing violence toward opposition party supporters. As Derek Kilner reports for VOA from Nairobi, Prime Minister Raila Odinga called for African Union mediation in Zimbabwe's crisis.

At a forum in Nairobi sponsored by a Kenyan NGO working on democracy issues, Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula sharply criticized the conduct of Zimbabwe's government in the run-up to Friday's runoff presidential election.

"Kenya's stand is no longer in doubt," he said. "Our stand is very clear on this issue, that we support the people of Zimbabwe and therefore we support the postponement of the elections in Zimbabwe and urge that this is the resolution that should come from this meeting: that the elections scheduled to take place on Friday this week be postponed, until the conditions are created that will enable conducting of free and fair elections."

In the March 29 general election, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change won a majority in parliament, but Mr. Tsvangirai failed to secure an outright victory over incumbent President Mugabe in the presidential vote. 

Mr. Odinga spoke as southern African leaders gathered in Swaziland to discuss the crisis in Zimbabwe. Mr. Odinga said he had spoken by phone with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who also chairs the African Union, urging the regional body to issue a strong statement on Zimbabwe and to appoint a mediator for the crisis.

Mr. Odinga said he suggested Botswana's former president Ketumile Masire, or Nigeria's former president Olusegun Obasanjo as possible candidates.

Mr. Odinga said the African Union needs to take action urgently, warning that Zimbabwe could quickly descend into further violence, invoking the image of Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

Mr. Odinga claims that Kenya's presidential elections in December were rigged to deny him victory against incumbent Mwai Kibaki. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, Mr. Odinga has, until recently, been one of only a handful of African leaders to speak out strongly against President Robert Mugabe's handling of Zimbabwe's elections. 

"We are faced with a looming disaster because right now you cannot say that Mugabe is the president of Zimbabwe because he lost an election, he lost an election and if he now proceeds to go and conduct a sham election and declare himself as president, of course that is not going to be acceptable," said Odinga.

In recent days, however, more African leaders have begun to express their concern with the situation. In a sign of the shifting mood, Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula, a supporter of President Mwai Kibaki who has defended Kenya's handling of its own elections, joined Mr. Odinga in criticizing the Zimbabwe vote, questioning why Zimbabwe was bothering with an election when the government had already said it would not accept defeat.