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Last Updated: Friday, 4 January 2008, 16:09 GMT
Kenyans' lives turned upside down
A family in a car fleeing their home in Kenya

By Noel Mwakugu
BBC News, Nairobi

Kenyans are bearing the brunt of the bloody post-election crisis as pressure mounts on President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to hold talks.

Thousands who had travelled to the west of the country and the Rift Valley region for the Christmas holidays and to vote in the disputed 27 December poll remain stranded for a third week now.

Public transport has been shut down by vehicle owners weary of hooligans who have barricaded major highways, while fuel hikes have put prices beyond the reach of many private motorists.

Unless this situation is resolved I can assure you there will be no fuel in the town by the weekend
Petrol dealer Yusuf Warsame

My colleagues and I took three days to make what is usually a five-hour journey from the western city of Kisumu to the capital, Nairobi. There was palpable relief in the car as we finally drove through the Nairobi office gates.

Each attempt to leave Kisumu had been thwarted by violence along the main road to Nairobi, where cars were stoned or, in extreme situations, torched by rioters.

The situation is calmer now, but if motorists are not escorted by policemen, they have to pay "toll charges" to armed youth to access the highway.

To avoid it altogether, they must make their way through neglected and bumpy roads crossing the dense western forests.

Food rations

Kisumu has seen some the worst violence, with more than 100 protesters allegedly shot dead by the police. Petrol stations are selling available diesel at about $5 (2.50) a litre up from $1 (50p).

Families who fled threats in Nairobi with their belongings in an Air Force base
There is a sense of fear and grief among those that fled
"Unless this situation is resolved I can assure you there will be no fuel in the town by the weekend," Yusuf Warsame, a petrol dealer, told the BBC.

Fuel transporters from the port city of Mombasa have halted their trucks to stay clear of potential arsonists, and fuel depots in the interior are not operating as staff have not made it back to work.

Food rations in many homes outside Nairobi are running short as most shops remain closed.

"At the moment we are surviving on fresh or sour milk and bread. We cannot get vegetables or flour," Stanley Serum, a resident of Narok town just outside the world-famous Maasai Mara national park, told the BBC News website.

In the capital, long lines of shoppers are queuing at tills in supermarkets that opened on Friday for the first time since the riots.

However, heavily armed policemen dressed in full anti-riot gear are patrolling the city streets and are keeping vigil at the Uhuru Park garden where the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leaders had planned a rally and prayers.

Running shoes

Some residents who have been holed up in their homes throughout the week have taken an advantage of the calm to make their way to the few banks that have opened for business.

"Today I am happy to have reached the bank after trekking for about 15km from home. Now I will be able to replenish my food stock in the house," Purity Njeri said.

People buying vegetables by the side of the road
People ventured out on Friday in search of food

In town, the dress code for the few people who have reported to work has changed.

On normal weekdays, many Kenyans dress in elegant suits and smart shoes but these have been swapped for jeans and trainers.

"In view of the situation I have to be prepared to run if riot policemen charge or trek home if public transport is unavailable. I cannot do that in a suit," administrative worker Charles Otieno explained.

The air of uncertainty has left parents worried about whether their children should resume school next week.

"We want our leaders to nurture this precious commodity called peace," pleaded Francis Ng'ang'a, general secretary of the National Teachers' Union's general secretary.

Many students are among some 100,000 people who have been displaced from their homes in the ethnic-related violence.

For the families camped out in a Nairobi Air Force base, surrounded by their hastily saved belongings, life is unlikely to be the same again.

Having fled the Mathare slum flowing threats, they have lost their homes and livelihoods.



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