Killing of Second Legislator Ignites Protests in Kenya
Friday, February 1, 2008
ELDORET, Kenya, Jan. 31 -- A second opposition lawmaker was shot dead Thursday in Kenya, this time in the western city of Eldoret, sparking a brief blaze of demonstrations across the volatile Rift Valley and sinking the edgy nation even deeper into a violent, post-election crisis.
Police officials quickly characterized the killing of David Kimutai Too as a "crime of passion," saying he was shot by a traffic officer whose girlfriend was having an affair with Too. The woman, who was riding in a car with Too, also was shot and killed.
But opposition leader Raila Odinga just as quickly cast Too's killing as the second political assassination in three days, saying that Too and opposition lawmaker Mugabe Were, who was gunned down in his driveway Tuesday in Nairobi, were killed to erase the opposition's slender majority in parliament.
Odinga has accused President Mwai Kibaki of rigging the country's Dec. 27 presidential election, a charge bolstered by international observers who have said the tally was so flawed that it is impossible to know who won.
"The death of the second member of parliament is part of the plot to reduce the Orange Democratic Movement's majority," Odinga said, referring to his party in a statement issued within an hour of Too's death.
After the shooting, Odinga's supporters poured into the streets in the western towns of Kisumu, Kapsabet and Eldoret, waving machetes, yelling about justice and revenge, and blocking roads with roaring bonfires. Then truckloads of police arrived and dispersed them with baton beatings and bullets.
Meanwhile, thousands of civilians fled their homes anticipating the sort of ethnically driven reprisals that have already displaced more than 300,000 people across the country since the election.
Here in Eldoret, the day's wounded were rolled on white-sheeted gurneys into the hospital, where a spokeswoman scribbled down their names and injuries: 14 shot by police, three cut with machetes and one battered with stones.
"We are ready for anything," said Alice Lumumba, the spokeswoman, as doctors and nurses rushed by.
After Too's killing, former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan temporarily suspended the mediation he is leading between Kibaki and Odinga in Nairobi, the capital.
At a summit of African leaders in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, the current U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, urged Kenyans to stop the violence "before it's too late."
Ban was to meet with Kibaki on Thursday afternoon in Addis Ababa and said he would meet with Odinga in Nairobi on Friday.