Kenya death toll rises to 55 as attacks escalate

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Raiders armed with automatic rifles, arrows and spears have killed another 22 people in central Kenya, police said Tuesday, raising the death toll in politically motivated violence this month to 77.
The latest violence broke out near the farming town of Njoro, where assailants have killed 22 people since Sunday, police spokesman Peter Kimanthi said. Police killed one attacker and 23 people were wounded.
Many have fled their homes in Njoro, a small farming town 160 miles northwest of the capital, Nairobi. The raids began Jan. 10 in the Ol Moran settlement, 75 miles to the northeast, where 55 people have died.
The attacks apparently are aimed at driving Kenya’s biggest tribe, the Kikuyu, off their land in Rift Valley province because they voted against President Daniel arap Moi’s Kenya Africa National Union party in the Dec. 29-30 elections.
Earlier this month, two of Moi’s Cabinet ministers openly threatened Kikuyu residents of the province in speeches at a KANU rally to celebrate their electoral victory.
Survivors of the latest attack say the assailants were members of the Kalenjin group of tribes which generally support Moi. They were armed with semiautomatic rifles, machetes, spears, and bows and arrows.
“Kikuyus are ready to lose 1 million lives, but we are not going to let them take even a single acre of our land,” said Kihika Kimani, an opposition parliamentarian.
The government has deployed paramilitary police to restore peace, and Kimanthi, the police spokesman, said four attackers were arrested.
Moi was re-elected to a fifth, five-year term in a chaotic election last month and KANU retained control of the 222-seat Parliament. The opposition complained the vote was rigged, but independent observers said it reflected the will of the people.
Renowned paleontologist Richard Leakey issued a plea to embassies and aid agencies Tuesday to help restore order and to assist the thousands of people who have been displaced by the fighting.
In 1992-93, similar violence in the area killed 1,500 people and displaced 300,000 others.