Kenyans seek holy providence for peace

NAIROBI - Kenyans across the political divide prayed for peace yesterday while aid workers sought to bring relief to an estimated 250000 refugees from post-election violence that has also killed hundreds.

NAIROBI - Kenyans across the political divide prayed for peace yesterday while aid workers sought to bring relief to an estimated 250000 refugees from post-election violence that has also killed hundreds.

"Our leaders have failed us. They have brought this catastrophe upon us. So now we are turning to the Almighty to save Kenya," said Jane Riungu, leading her five children in their best clothes to a hill top church outside Nairobi.

One week after the announcement of President Mwai Kibaki's re-election ignited protests, riots and looting around the east African nation, there was little sign of him meeting opposition rival Raila Odinga to sort out the crisis directly.

Would-be mediators, including Washington's top Africa diplomat Jendayi Frazer and South Africa's Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, shuttled between both camps.

But a statement from Kibaki that he was ready to form "a government of national unity" was met with scepticism by the opposition. It says he stole the December 27 vote by fraud and is now occupying the president's seat illegitimately.

Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) wants Kibaki, 76, to quit and an international mediator to broker talks prior to a fresh election in three to six months.

"We are not interested in Kibaki's solution to this problem ... He has nothing to offer as he did not win the election," Odinga said. "It is an insult to the people of Kenya. I should be the one offering him the option of a coalition government ... We want a properly negotiated settlement through an international mediator that will give a lasting solution."

On the street, most Kenyans were preoccupied with getting their lives back to normal, amid scepticism about politicians who they see as wanting to hold power as a means of acquiring wealth rather than improving the lot of ordinary people.

At least 300 people have died, some in battles between police and protesters, others in ethnic violence. Looting and criminality have also flared during the chaos, claiming yet more lives in a nation that had been seen as a relatively stable democracy and flourishing economy.

In Protestant, Catholic and other churches around deeply religious Kenya, there were special prayers for peace yesterday. - Reuters

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