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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 January 2008, 22:42 GMT
Odinga denies 'ethnic cleansing'
Protests in the Kibera slum of the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Wednesday
Inter-tribal violence has sparked claims of ethnic cleansing
Kenya's opposition leader has denied his supporters have engaged in ethnic cleansing, blaming government forces for targeting certain communities.

Raila Odinga was responding to accusations by Justice Minister Martha Karua that his group had planned to carry out systematic ethnic cleansing.

Mr Odinga told the BBC his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) had done all it could to prevent such violence.

He was speaking on the first of three days of protests over a disputed poll.

Police fired live rounds and tear gas in clashes with opposition party supporters who were defying a protest ban.

Clashes broke out Nairobi, Mombasa and in western Kenya, where three people were killed.

'Mayhem'

President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the 27 December poll, but the results were rejected by the opposition and called into question by international observers.

More than 600 people have died in unrest since, and another quarter of a million have been driven from their homes.

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga
What we have been seeing is basically a response by members of the public to the police action
Raila Odinga
Opposition leader

In an interview last week with the BBC's HARDtalk programme, Ms Karua said the government had suspected that Mr Odinga's ODM party was "planning mayhem if they lost".

But she said they had not expected "the magnitude [of the violence] and for it to be ethnic cleansing".

Asked whether she was accusing the ODM leadership of "calculatedly planned ethnic cleansing", she answered: "Absolutely yes, that's what I'm saying categorically."

In his interview on Wednesday, also with the BBC's HARDtalk, Mr Odinga called these allegations "outrageous".

"She knows where the truth lies - that all that we are having is as a result of the order that the government has given to the police: to shoot particularly members of certain ethnic communities.

"So what we have been seeing is basically a response by members of the public to the police action, which has resulted in the killing of very many people who are members of other communities than the one that she comes from," Mr Odinga said.

Fresh violence

Mr Odinga said his party had condemned one of the most notorious incidents - the torching of a church in the western town of Eldoret on 1 January.

Map of Kenya

But he said the attack on the church had been an attempt to avenge earlier attacks.

Pressed on whether the ODM leadership could have done more to prevent inter-ethnic violence, he said: "No, we could not have done more than we've done ourselves."

The violence continued on Wednesday, the first of three days of protest called by the ODM.

Mr Odinga was himself caught up in the clashes, when he tried to reach a rally at Nairobi's Uhuru Park but was forced back by tear gas.

Residents in the city's Kibera slum told the BBC three people were being treated for gunshot wounds, but police denied firing at crowds in the area.

Meanwhile, in Mr Odinga's hometown of Kisumu, the BBC's Karen Allen saw two bodies being carried away after police opened fire on some 300 people trying to march into the town centre.

Our correspondent later reported another person had died as a result of the violence.

Other clashes were reported in the port city of Mombasa and Eldoret.

UN appeal

Mr Odinga called the deployment of security forces "an indication that the government is terrified of its own people".

Later, he called on the international community to isolate Mr Kibaki's "illegitimate" regime.

Attempts at outside mediation between Mr Odinga and President Kibaki have failed with the latest, a bid by Kofi Annan, postponed when the former United Nations chief fell ill.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has launched a humanitarian appeal to raise $35m to help Kenyans affected by the violence.

According to John Holmes, the UN's emergency relief co-ordinator, said the money was needed to provide food and shelter.


Nairobi map


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