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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 January 2008, 18:09 GMT
Stop Kenya burning, says AU head
All that remains for one Kenyan school after being attacked

African leaders at their summit in Ethiopia have been told they must get involved with the crisis in Kenya.

African Union (AU) commission chairman Alpha Oumar Konare told them they could not just sit by. "If Kenya burns, there will be nothing for tomorrow," he said.

More than 850 people have died in political and ethnic clashes since last month's elections, which the opposition says were rigged.

In Nairobi, talks between government and opposition have been postponed.

Substantive negotiations started for the first time on Thursday but were adjourned until Friday after an opposition MP was shot dead by a policeman in the western town of Eldoret.

I call on the Kenyan people: stop the killings and end the violence now before it's too late
Ban Ki-moon
UN Secretary General

The police say the killing was a domestic dispute but the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) says he was assassinated.

The death of David Too has raised tensions in parts of the Rift Valley, the scene of serious violence this month.

Mr Konare - the AU's top executive - said it was the AU's duty to support the mediation process.

"Kenya is a country that was a hope for the continent," he said.

"Today, if you look at Kenya you see violence on the streets. We are even talking about ethnic cleansing. We are even talking about genocide.

"We cannot sit here with our hands folded."

'Special responsibility'

The peace talks in Nairobi are being led by the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

His successor, Ban Ki-moon - who is also at the AU summit - urged Kenyan leaders to find a peaceful way out.

"President [Mwai] Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga... have a special responsibility to solve the crisis peacefully," he told the summit.

"I call on the Kenyan people: stop the killings and end the violence now before it's too late."

He said he would go to Kenya himself on Friday to help with the talks. He has held discussions with Mr Kibaki in Ethiopia.

Violence first broke out after the 27 December presidential elections, which the ODM says Mr Kibaki's government rigged.

Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki at AU summit 31/1/08
President Mwai Kibaki is at the summit despite opposition protests

Mr Kibaki is among more than 40 leaders present at the AU summit in Addis Ababa, even though the ODM called on the AU not to recognise him.

Mr Odinga, by contrast, has not been invited.

Despite Mr Konare's plea, the official theme of the AU summit is industrialisation.

The AU has also chosen Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete to succeed Ghana's John Kufuor as its head.

But other subjects are likely to include

  • Sudan, where the AU and the UN have promised to create the world's largest peacekeeping force in Darfur
  • Somalia, where members are keen to strengthen the small Ugandan and Burundian forces in the country
  • the AU's own internal organisation

The BBC's Will Ross, who is at the summit, says many Africans hope other urgent issues such as Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo will also be tackled.

Seeking refuge in Nivasha

US denounces Kenya 'cleansing'
30 Jan 08 |  Africa
Profile: African Union
21 Nov 07 |  Country profiles

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