Kenya's opposition calls off rallies

Updated: 2008-01-07 22:59

NAIROBI, Kenya - Kenya's opposition leader on Monday canceled nationwide protests, saying he wanted to avoid new violence and give mediation a chance to resolve the election dispute that has killed nearly 500 people in political and ethnic bloodletting.

People push to receive food distributed by the Kenyan Red Cross in the Mathare slum, in Nairobi. Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga called off nationwide protests over disputed presidential elections to give mediation efforts a chance as the death toll from unrest rose above 600. [Agencies]

Jendayi Frazer, the chief US envoy for Africa who has spent three days negotiating with President Mwai Kibaki and the opposition, said Kenyans "have been cheated by their political leadership and their institutions." In particular, she said the electoral commission was flawed and needed to be reformed.

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The commission chairman has admitted that he is not sure the election was won by Kibaki.

Frazer said that the turmoil had not shaken US confidence in Kenya as a regional hub. She said the United States favored whatever solution Kibaki and the opposition leader, Raila Odinga, come up with to resolve the deadlock and halt violence.

Odinga called off protests planned for Tuesday at a news conference after meeting with Frazer. Kibaki's government, accused by Odinga of stealing an election last month, had said the proposed Tuesday demonstrations were illegal and could provoke violence.

Reports of ethnic killings continued to stream in from the countryside, with an official in neighboring Uganda confirming 30 Kenyan refugees were thrown into the border river by attackers, and were presumed drowned.

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