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Police disrupts ODM rally

afrol News, 3 January - Kenyan police have disrupted a planned million match rally in protest against the declaration of President Mwai Kibaki by firing tear gas and water cannon. The opposition avoided a bitter confrontation in the capital Nairobi and called off the rally.

A senior opposition official of the main opposition Orange Democratic Movement of Raila Odinga asked the protesters to disperse simply because the party does not want violence.

Odinga, who accused the government of stealing his victory, had called for a million match rally in Uhuru Park [Freedom Park] in Nairobi. Though the rally was outlawed by the authorities, Odinga insisted that he would go ahead with it.

He said the rally would be an important avenue to send a message of peace, especially at a time when the government had controlled airwaves.

The riot police would not allow opposition supporters to storm Uhuru Park. A tense stand-off ensued after the police had blocked the crowds from proceeding, sealed Uhuru Park as well as keep protesters at bay.

But the police could not stop protesters from storming the city centre. Attired in white scarves, the protesters who were chanting "no Raila, no peace," sat on the main road, blocking traffic. At this stage, the police decided to fire water cannon and tear gas to disperse them.

There was also a confrontation between the police and irate youths in Mombasa.

The post-electoral unrest, which sparked off on Sunday, had claimed the lives of 300 people as well as displaced 70,000.

The brutish violence, which is described as the worst in history, has also caused substantial damage to businesses and the Kenyan economy. Nairobi Stock Exchange was forced to close operation few hours after it had opened on Thursday morning.

Vice President, Moody Awori, who was among several Kibaki-backed officials that lost their parliamentary seats to the opposition, had appealed to Odinga and his party to put off the protest so that they would avoid putting the lives of Kenyans' at risk.

He asked them to "overcome their anger, bitterness and all negative emotions for the sake of our country."

Both sides accused each other of fanning genocide and ethnic cleansing in a country with many tribes.

The ODM officials said they would not challenge the results in the courts. The party had snubbed President Kibaki's invitation to all parliamentarians to crisis meeting at state house, asking him to leave office.

Kenyan authorities, who described the crisis as purely an internal problem, said they don't need any international mediation.

However, the Chairman of African Union, President John Kufuor of Ghana and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, have both flown to Kenya to ease tensions between the government and the opposition.

Meanwhile, Uganda has become the first African country to congratulate President Kibaki on his election victory.

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