Kenyan opposition orchestrated ethnic violence, rights group says
( dpa ) - Kenya's opposition planned and organized ethnic-based violence in the aftermath of disputed polls that set off a wave of fatal clashes nationwide that has killed nearly 700 people and displaced 250,000, an international rights group said Thursday.
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said officials from the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and local leaders stoked Kenya's deep-rooted tribal tensions in a bid to foment violence and that camps for the displaced uprooted by the unrest remain at high risk of attack.
"In many communities, local leaders and ODM mobilizers arranged frequent meetings following the election to organize, direct and facilitate the violence unleashed by gangs of local youths," said a statement by the advocacy group.
ODM and the government of President Mwai Kibaki have exchanged accusations of genocide and ethnic cleansing, with the opposition charging the police with using excessive force on a specific tribe.
HRW said some one local leader in the Rift Valley, the epicentre of the bloodletting, even rented out a lorry to drive gangs of youths around villages to facilitate the burning, looting and killing.
Fighting in Rift Valley has largely been between the Kalenjin tribe against the Kikuyu, the same ethnic group as Kibaki and that which has traditionally wielded the levers of power in Kenya.
Thousands in the region have been displaced and in the most horrific incident, a mob torched a church housing fleeing Kikuyus, killing more than a dozen.
HRW warned that some communities were collecting money to buy automatic weapons and camps for the internally displaced were the next to be targeted.
"Plans have already been made to attack camps of displaced Kikuyu and the two remaining neighbourhoods in Eldoret town where many Kikuyu homes remain intact," the statement said.
Kenya was plunged into debilitating chaos after presidential elections held peacefully last month were deemed flawed by the opposition.
The unrest marks a disturbing change in the country known for its fabled game parks and pristine coastline, and which is praised as a beacon of hope in a volatile region.