Gunfire rang out in Nakuru on Saturday and armed gangs manned roadblocks in the western Kenyan town where at least 25 people have been killed in ethnic clashes since Thursday, witnesses said.
Paramilitary police patrolled the Rift Valley provincial capital, which had previously been spared post-election chaos that has killed around 700 people since disputed Dec. 27 polls.
Hostile youths armed with crude weapons stopped journalists at multiple roadblocks in the town, preventing them from reaching the scene of the shooting.
"There is nothing we can do. All those who are fanning the violence are staying comfortably in their luxury homes while we burn," said resident Urunga Maina, who rushed his nephew to hospital after he was hacked by a machete-wielding mob.
"We are being used as sacrificial lambs," Maina told Reuters. "What matters is that the politicians take what they want. They don't care about the wananchi (ordinary people)."
More than 100 injured people were admitted at the hospital, including one man with an arrow lodged in his head.
A doctor said he had recorded nine bodies, all with deep machete wounds. At the Nakuru morgue, relatives wept as police unloaded another 16 charred corpses from a truck.
The authorities had imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the town in a bid to contain pitched battles between tribal gangs.
The fighting has also seen the first deployment of Kenya's military since the start of a month of bloodshed that has horrified Western powers, damaged one of Africa's most promising economies and shattered the country's peaceful image.
And it undermined hopes of a solution after President Mwai Kibaki met his rival Raila Odinga on Thursday in their first talks since the troubles began. Odinga says the vote was rigged.
"KILLING OUR PEOPLE"
In bloodshed elsewhere, police said on Saturday that two men were hacked to death overnight in Naivasha, also in Rift Valley.
The latest clashes pitted members of Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe against Luos and Kalenjins who backed Odinga -- and looked to have largely caught the security forces in Nakuru unawares.
Benson Waliaula, 36, a security guard at a bank in the town, said he saw Kibaki supporters chase down one man and kill him.
"They tore his clothes off first then killed him with blows of a panga (machete). It took him some time to die. The police were just watching. There was nothing they could do," he said.
Witnesses said the Nakuru police mostly stayed in their barracks on Friday, apparently unsure how to contain the chaos.
Morris Ouma, a 25-year-old trader, told Reuters he had taken part in the fighting. "I didn't feel good about it, but they are killing our people. What shall we do?" he asked.
"We had to push them (the Kikuyus) away to protect our land. The enemy comes, so you have to be strong."
The latest wave of violence followed the first direct discussions between Kibaki and Odinga since the troubles began.
Those were brokered by former U.N. boss Kofi Annan, who flew to another restive Rift Valley town, Molo, on Saturday. Kenya's Standard newspaper said 18 people were killed there by poisoned arrows late on Thursday. Police rejected the report.
The talks between the country's two rivals on Thursday had raised hopes of an end to turmoil that has killed hundreds and forced another 250,000 from their homes.
But those were soon dashed when Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement responded angrily to Kibaki's description of himself as the "duly elected" leader of Kenya.
(Additional reporting by Daniel Wallis in Nairobi; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Jon Boyle)