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Kenya election riot death rises to 124

31 December 2007 | Kenya

At least 124 people have reportedly been killed in violence sparked by allegations of vote-rigging in Kenya's disputed presidential elections.

Kenya's national broadcaster KTN reported the death toll on Monday following two days of violence in the African nation.

Police officers detain an opposition supporter on Monday during riots at the Kibera slum in Nairobi.

Earlier, media reports said 46 bodies were taken overnight to a morgue in the western Kenyan city of Kisumu -- its third largest city and a bastion of defeated opposition challenger Raila Odinga.

Police fired warning shots and tear gas at opposition protesters in Nairobi on Monday, a day after President Mwai Kibaki was controversially returned to power.

Several officers, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said they were ordered to shoot to kill to halt the violence.

However, a government spokesman insisted that no such order was given, AP reported.

The streets of the Kenyan capital were almost deserted Monday as the government deployed riot police armed with shields and weapons to quell opposition protests.

Small bands of Odinga supporters were stopped from making their way to a rally in Uhuru Park -- a traditional site for political demonstrations in the center of the city. The rally was called by Odinga, who accused Kibaki of "doctoring" the vote after narrowly losing out to his rival.

Odinga told CNN on Monday that Kenyans were "in a state of mourning" following the result. "They are mourning the loss of democracy," he said.

Businesses in the city were shut down and a government ban on live television broadcasts imposed Sunday was still in place as Kibaki struggled to cope with the fallout from the vote.

A member of staff in the Imperial hotel in Kisumu told CNN by telephone that a curfew was in force on the streets.

The woman, who did not want to be named, said the city center was deserted except for armed police patrols. She said she and other hotel staff had been forced to sleep in the hotel overnight after police threatened to shoot on sight anyone who breached the curfew.

"I have not been home to my family. We do not know what is happening," she said.

A Kenyan woman interviewed by CNN on the streets of Nairobi said: "It's dictatorship. Can't you see that?"

Witnesses told CNN of widespread violence in the Nairobi slum of Kibera as angry Odinga supporters set fire to buildings and clashed with police.

Local media reported a number of deaths as a result of the rioting, as well as reports of police brutality.

The most closely-fought election in Kenya's history threatened to unravel Sunday as opposition officials shouted down the electoral commission chairman as he tried to announce the result.

The official count put Kibaki narrowly ahead of Odinga of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement -- 4,584,721 votes to 4,352,993.

The result was immediately called into question, however, with election observers from the European Union saying they had doubts about the legitimacy of the count.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said in a statement Sunday that Britain had "real concerns at the irregularities reported by the EU observers and others."

One international observer, who did not wish to be identified, told CNN that the vote count was "clearly cooked."

Analysts said, however, that it was probable that both of the main parties had been involved in electoral fraud.

Thomas Cargill, a specialist on African politics at the British think tank Chatham House, said it was difficult to imagine Odinga giving up his claims for the presidency without a fight.

"It is very worrying," Cargill told CNN.

Odinga called for his supporters to gather Monday in Uhuru Park to protest the result. The park is traditionally the location for political rallies as well as where the swearing-in of presidents takes place.

Kibaki, however, was sworn in hurriedly Sunday in a ceremony at the presidential palace.

His slim margin of victory is a marked difference from his win five years ago, in a landslide election. He had run on promises to fight corruption.

Since, he has seen his authority erode amid a number of high profile corruption scandals in his government.

He faced a serious challenge from Odinga, a flamboyant politician who hails from the minority Luo tribe and has won support from the rural and urban after promising to share the wealth among all the people.

A peaceful election and a smooth transition of power were seen as crucial for Kenya, a stable country in an otherwise-volatile region.

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quot-img-1Let me tell you if you don't because I know you don't know that all is not well with everything.

By: FRANCIS TAWIAH(Duis quot-img-1

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