NAIROBI, Jan 18 (Reuters) – At least 13 people were killed in Kenya on Friday when police opened fire in a Nairobi slum and ethnic groups clashed during protests against the disputed re-election of President Mwai Kibaki.
The worst bloodshed was in the huge Kibera slum, an opposition stronghold, where at least seven people were killed and a dozen wounded by police automatic gunfire. The French medical charity MSF called it a “massacre”.
Police also opened fire and lobbed tear gas in the port of Mombasa, where one person was killed in protests after Friday Muslim prayers, and the southern town of Narok.
Friday’s deaths were the worst toll from three days of protests called by opposition leader Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) against Kibaki’s re-election.
At least 21 people have been killed in the demonstrations, which were due to end on Friday. About 650 people have been killed since the disputed Dec. 27 election.
The opposition and human rights groups accuse the police of using excessive force and firing indiscriminately at unarmed protesters. Police say they only shoot at rioters and looters.
Reuters journalists counted seven bodies from the Kibera shooting, including a man with the back of his head blown off and 15-year-old girl, Rosina Otieno. Both were carried to the nearby Masaba hospital morgue in a white pickup truck.
Otieno’s aunt, Martha Mtishi, told Reuters: “If they can kill a little girl let them kill us all.”
At least 11 wounded people were brought to the hospital. “We need more doctors because … we cannot handle an emergency of this magnitude,” hospital administrator Joe Momanyi said.
Outside the hospital a crowd shouted: “Murderers and killers.”
A Reuters reporter saw police shooting protesters in Kibera. One man in a red baseball cap and black T-shirt dropped to the ground, blood gushing from his knee.
Protesters built a burning barricade in the slum, and boys hiding in shacks and firing stones from slingshots played a cat-and-mouse game with police. “They were trying to uproot railway lines. The police came to stop them and started shooting. They started howling and running away,” said James Muga, an unemployed 45-year-old as repeated bursts of automatic gunfire rang out.
In southwest Kenya, officials said five people were killed on Friday in clashes between Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe and Maasai anti-government protesters in Narok town, gateway to the Maasai Mara game reserve. They were killed with arrows and machetes.
Maasai and Kikuyu had been fighting in the area since Thursday with homes and shops burned and at least 23 wounded, the police said. Riot police had to be sent in to clear barricades erected by Maasais, a Reuters journalist said.
The opposition said police fatally shot two protesters in Mombasa, Kenya’s Indian Ocean port. Officials could confirm only one death there.
In Kibera, MSF official Ian Van Engelgem told Reuters: “We have seen violence over the last two weeks but today it has really exploded. Young guys — 13 years — have died, young women, young men, this is unbelievable … this is like a massacre.”
Odinga visited Masaba hospital and told reporters: “You have seen what we have seen, a shocking thing … this government is determined to finish anyone who is opposed to what they have done.”
Kenya’s swift slide into crisis has dented its democratic credentials, horrified world powers, scared off tourists and hurt one of Africa’s most promising economies.
A statement by envoys from nine countries including Britain, the Netherlands and Australia, urged Kibaki and Odinga to meet for direct talks without delay or preconditions, and called on Kenya’s security forces to show restraint. “We have seen clear and disturbing footage of the use of lethal force on unarmed demonstrators,” it said.
ODM said earlier it would call off street protests after Friday and switch its campaign to small strikes and boycotts of companies run by Kibaki allies.