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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 January 2008, 16:24 GMT
Inside Kenya's burning Rift Valley
Kikuyu house on fire

By Pascale Harter
BBC News, Eldoret

Anthony Nganga Kimani realises that as a Kikuyu he can never return to live in his village in the violence-gripped Rift Valley.

"My father was burned inside the church. So was my wife, when she was with my two-month-old baby," he says.

"She knew there was no way out. She threw the baby boy through the window to save him."

Ultimately, Anthony's wife also made it out of the church alive, albeit badly burned, and found the baby safe outside. But his father died in the flames.

Since that early horrific and shocking incident, the violence has spread across the Rift Valley and beyond.

Anthony Nganga Kimani
Anthony's wife threw their baby to safety through a church window
And as Anthony tells me his story, the police begin firing live rounds to disperse demonstrators opposed to President Mwai Kibaki.

Among the peaceful protesters are also those who have been burning Kikuyus out of their homes. And Anthony worries that, angered by the police, they might turn on the Kikuyus again: "I'm scared, because they burned the church," he says.

More than 850 people have now been killed in tit-for-tat tribal violence since the elections in the country. But why did the Kalenjins start attacking Kikuyus in the first place?


The demonstrators say it is because they are convinced Mr Kibaki rigged the election.

"We want to send a very strong message to Kibaki," says one.

Rift Valley
"Because we cannot get him, we are going to work on his tribe - which is the Kikuyu here.

"When Kibaki got into power, he began to assist Kikuyus. The rest of the Kenyans are left in poverty. So this fight is between the haves and have nots."

To take Anthony back to his village of Kembar to visit we are given an escort of 20 police officers.

Turning into the church compound, we see all that remains is charred rubble with flakes of corrugated iron. There is nothing left.

Anthony shows me the grave where he buried his father.

"You can see there are no flowers," he says.

"My neighbours have run away; they are in a nearby village."

And he sees an unwelcome sight as we leave - Kikuyu houses in flames.

'We will kill them'

When we go back the next day, without Anthony, we meet a group of boys who admit they burned the church, killing dozens of old men, women and children - including Anthony's father.

"I felt guilt - I was worried I had hurt my friends," says one.

Soldier sifts through ruins of the church burning that killed Anthony's father
We will start the war. We will divide Kenya
Kalenjin leader Jackson Kibbur
"I knew people who had died. I was worried.

"If Kibaki will not step down, those Kikuyus will not come back here. That's what we have decided - to stop them coming back.

"We will of course kill them."

Investigators for Human Rights Watch have accused members of Raila Odinga's party of orchestrating the tribal violence in the run-up to the election.

One of the church burners then tells me what was said at the local political meetings he went to.

"We are going to make sure that all the Kikuyus are out of the Rift Valley," he said.

"I was told to do this - it was something permitted by our elders."

Violence escalating

One particularly influential Kalenjin elder is Jackson Kibbur. I visited him in his house on the outskirts of Eldoret.

He denied inciting tribal hatred before the election - but said he will now be telling his community to "not sit down and see one tribe lead Kenya."

Kikuyus clamber onto a truck leaving Eldoret
Kikuyus are leaving their homes on trucks for safer areas
"We will fight. This is a war," he added.

"We will start the war. We will divide Kenya."

Now in Eldoret, Anthony has joined over 1,000 Kikuyu at a temporary camp guarded by a handful of police.

With violence escalating all around, he fears the camp is a target.

"I cannot say I feel safe, because somebody has chased me away - and yet they know who I am.

"I don't know what they are thinking. I don't know about tomorrow."

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