Page 3 of 3   <      

Tribal Rage Tears at Diverse Kenyan City

The International Criminal Court named several prominent Kenyans as suspects in the violence that followed the 2007 election. More than 1,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands were displaced during the turmoil.

"They were burning houses," said Joseph Mugweru, 50, who was at the church and saw them coming.

Some of the men at the church prepared to defend themselves; women, the elderly and children huddled inside. And as the fighters approached, Mugweru said, he noticed several of his neighbors among them.

"Even some were calling us by name," he said. "They were murmuring in their own language. Then they came all at once."

The men at the church were overwhelmed. Some of the people fled into the field, but others were forced back into the church and trapped. Then the flames came, and, according to one survivor, "people started falling on one another at the door."

"The fire was too much," the woman said, speaking on condition of anonymity because she feared another attack.

She said two babies, 3 days and 8 months old, were among the dead.

Red Cross officials pulled 14 bodies from the rubble, fewer victims than originally feared, though the count might rise. Most of the bodies were burned so thoroughly that it was difficult to determine their sex.

Three bodies were found outside with gashes to the head.

At a hospital Wednesday, dozens of survivors, including elderly men and babies, rested in a courtyard with burns on their faces, arms and legs.

One man said that although he was bitter, reconciliation with his old neighbors was still possible.

In Nairobi, international diplomats have been pressuring Kibaki and Odinga to reach a political compromise, though it was unclear whether Odinga's most strident supporters would accept anything less than their leader becoming president.

Inside the hospital, hallways were filled with hundreds more people with machete and arrow wounds. The bandaged survivors described marauding fighters sweeping through their neighborhoods, burning houses and beating anyone who did not flee.

Omar Aly, deputy director of the hospital and a resident of Eldoret for 20 years, said the fighting was "the worst I've seen."

"The emotions that have been generated are so intense," he said, referring to the convictions among opposition supporters that the vote was rigged. "People have been living together, and all of a sudden they are turning against their neighbors."

<          3

© 2008 The Washington Post Company