- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 3, 2008

ELDORET, Kenya (AP) — Young men from rival ethnic groups hunted each other through the streets of a western Kenyan town yesterday, burning houses and blocking roads a day after the country’s political foes agreed to try to end weeks of violence.

Western Kenya has been at the center of fighting that engulfed the country since an election that foreign and local observers say was rigged — and yesterday’s clashes underscored how difficult it may be to end the bloodletting, which has left hundreds dead.

Both leaders who signed Friday’s deal were still talking tough yesterday. President Mwai Kibaki accused his opponents of orchestrating the violence, and Raila Odinga, the opposition leader who says the presidency was stolen from him, said Mr. Kibaki’s “aggressive statements” were undermining efforts to quell the fighting.

With the two sides trading blame, as they have done repeatedly since the outset of the crisis, the fighting continued unabated yesterday with members of Kenya’s numerous tribes going after people from rival ethnic groups.

A Pentecostal church in the western town of Eldoret was burned overnight, and only smoldering ruins were left by daybreak. The pastor’s nephew, Peter Ndungu, said the church was burned because his aunt was from Mr. Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe.

Terrified Kenyans, meanwhile, continued to pour into camps for the displaced.

“It’s unpredictable,” said 28-year-old Joseph Njoroge, a Kikuyu, as he strained to push a cart piled high with furniture along a road lined by burned-out homes and businesses.

Men armed with bows and arrows came to his house, threatening to kill him in retaliation for the slaying of an opposition lawmaker Thursday. Police say that killing — the second of an opposition lawmaker in a week — was tied to a love triangle, but opposition supporters say it was political.

In the nearby town of Kericho, gangs of young men from the Kalenjin, Kikuyu and Kisii tribes hunted each other, setting homes ablaze and blockading roads with burning tires, said a police officer.

Such clashes have left more than 800 people dead and forced 300,000 from their homes since the Dec. 27 election, which pitted Mr. Kibaki, the incumbent, against Mr. Odinga. The violence has often degenerated into ethnic clashes over decades-old grudges about land and resources, with much of the anger — and attacks — aimed at the Kikuyu, who are resented for their long domination of politics and the economy.

Friday’s deal was mediated by Kofi Annan, the former U.N. secretary-general, and it laid out a plan to end the violence before moving onto the tougher political issues at the root of the fighting. Mr. Annan said it should take two weeks to decide the immediate crisis and up to a year for the deeper problems.

The agreement calls for illegal militias to be disbanded and for investigation of all crimes connected to the violence, including those purportedly committed by the police, who have killed scores of people.

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