.NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – As Kenyans die by the hundreds in gritty city slums and rolling cornfields in the countryside, their fate rests with two men who appear more intent on the struggle for power than on the turmoil it has set off.
One is a 74-year-old political veteran, Mwai Kibaki, a London-trained economist who has been part of every Kenyan government since the East African nation’s independence from Britain in 1963.
The other is Raila Odinga, born into politics 45 years ago when his father was fighting for Kenya’s independence. An engineer trained in the former East Germany, Odinga has had a long and adversarial relationship with Kenya’s governments, including serving six years in detention for alleged treason in a 1982 coup attempt.
Kibaki, declared winner of Dec. 27 elections in a vote tally that international and local observers said was rigged, is determined to remain president, playing out an old story on a continent where few surrender power graciously.
Odinga, a lawmaker and factory owner whose father was Kenya’s first vice president, first ran for president in 1997. He served as a Cabinet minister in Kibaki’s administration for two years before being booted out in 2005 for fighting a draft constitution that would make Kibaki more powerful.
As former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived Wednesday to lead flagging international mediation efforts, neither man appeared ready to compromise.
“Let’s face it. Our leaders don’t care how many people are felled by police bullets, hacked to death or burnt alive,” Macharia Gaitho, managing editor of the country’s leading Nation Media Group, wrote in an editorial.
In his nightmares, Gaitho writes, he sees Kibaki “balancing precariously on a gold and diamond-bedecked throne that is threatening to topple over because it is standing unsteadily on a mountain of decapitated human bodies.”
Odinga appears “climbing over the bodies, knee-deep in blood, with his arm outstretched to grab the throne.”
Both men blame each other for the bloodshed.
Annan did score a small victory Wednesday, persuading Odinga to call off protests that had been planned for Thursday in defiance of a government ban. Scores of Odinga’s supporters were gunned down by riot police during earlier demonstrations.
In rural western Kenya, Odinga’s supporters have been hunting down people of Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe.
The official toll stands at 685 dead, but it is probably much higher.