Kenya: diocese evacuates workers as violence escalates

 An operation to evacuate Catholic personnel trapped by ethnic violence was underway yesterday afternoon in the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru where a priest was brutally killed on Saturday. The diocese was moving to safety priests and other church workers from 10 parishes in the Kalenjin heartland where members of the Kikuyu and Kisii communities have been targeted in the ongoing post-election skirmishes. The death toll continued to rise Monday and more people were displaced as rival groups clashed in the Rift Valley, Nyanza and Western provinces. Over 800 people have been killed nationwide since the clashes broke out a month ago following the disputed re-election of President Mwai Kibaki. Suspected Kalenjin warriors on Sunday raided Burnt Forest, intending to kill displaced people camped in the town, but security personnel repulsed them, a Catholic priest told CISA. The warriors returned early on Monday and police killed seven of them, including two schoolboys. The priest expressed fears that the warriors, armed with bows, arrows, spears, machetes and petrol, were planning another attempt on the camp. Clashes persisted in Naivasha, where, according to Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), four more people were killed Monday. Other reports say 14 more bodies were collected, bringing the toll to at least 28.Thousands of people are camped at the local police station fearing for their safety. The chaos spread to neighbouring Gigil Town, where at least two people were killed, according to a witness who spoke to us from inside a Catholic parish compound. She said houses had been torched, businesses closed down and about 800 people had fled to the parish compound. A nun who spoke to us from a religious community a few kilometers outside Gilgil said the violence had trapped the community between Gilgil and Nakuru. Fighting in Nakuru and Naivasha at the weekend triggered riots in towns in western Kenya, the stronghold of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). Chaos erupted in Kisumu yesterday morning, with thousands of angry youths barricading roads and burning tyres apparently in anger over the killing of their tribesmen. Police shot in the air to disperse the demonstrators. Skirmishes were also reported in Kakamega, Busia, Migori and Kapsabet. Fr Fred Ogambi in Kisumu said youths chased away teachers and students from schools to ensure the institutions remained closed. The Provincial Education Officer had announced that schools would open for the first term on Monday. But Eldoret, scene of some of the worst violence in the immediate aftermath of the election, has been calm in recent days, except on Saturday when tensions rose after a Kalenjin man was stabbed. He had boarded a taxi and got into an exchange with the Kikuyu crew. About 13,000 displaced people camping at the Eldoret Show-ground are unlikely to leave soon for fear of being attacked again. Idleness in the camp and dismal leaving conditions have led some women to prostitution, Nixon Oira of the Eldoret Catholic Justice and Peace Commission said. In Nyahururu, "everything has returned to normal after a brief confrontation between police and youths on Sunday, said Fr Joseph Waititu. About 50 non-Kikuyu residents have sought refuge at the local police station. Source: CISA

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