- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 12, 2008

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The opposition yesterday called for three days of rallies to protest Kenya’s disputed presidential election, igniting fears of more deadly violence. Police said they would not allow the demonstrations.

The calls for rallies in 28 places across the East African nation came after days of international mediation failed to break a deadlock between President Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, who came in second after a tally foreign observers say was rigged.

Now, it seems, the opposition sees little recourse other than taking to the streets.

“Kenyans are entitled to protest peacefully at this blatant violation of their fundamental rights,” said Anyang Nyongo, secretary-general of Mr. Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement. Rallies are planned for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Mr. Nyongo also called for economic sanctions, saying it would be irresponsible for international donors to “trust this government with a single cent which is going to be used to oppress the people and to perfect the art of stealing both the vote and our national resources.”

Police, citing a government ban on rallies in the wake of the Dec. 27 election, said the protests would not be allowed. Police and opposition supporters have clashed in previous attempts to demonstrate, with security forces firing tear gas, water cannons and live bullets over people’s heads.

More than 500 people have died in protests and ethnic violence since the election.

Diplomatic moves to defuse the crisis quieted yesterday with the State Department announcing the departure of leading Africa diplomat Jendayi Frazer. State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters the United States would continue to work toward a solution. He said Washington hoped any demonstrations would be peaceful and that the leaders would resolve their differences.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has agreed to take over mediation but is not expected in Nairobi before Tuesday, his office in Geneva said. The chairman of the African Union, Ghanaian President John Kufuor, left Thursday after failing to persuade Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga to agree to meet.

Mr. Odinga has said he would meet Mr. Kibaki only in the presence of an international mediator. Mr. Kibaki wants direct talks.

The European Union, the United States and Britain also have been pressing for the two leaders to meet.