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African Union boss headed to Kenya for crisis talks

world Updated: Jan 02, 2008 12:13 IST
Daneil Wallis
Daneil Wallis
African union on KEnya violence

Young men armed with machetes manned roadblocks in Kenya on Wednesday as world powers stepped up efforts to end a wave of tribal violence over a disputed presidential election that threatens to tear the country apart.

Adding to chaos that included the torching of a church packed with panic-stricken villagers, the head of Kenya's electoral commission was quoted as saying he did not know whether President Mwai Kibaki had won the vote.

The statement attributed to Samuel Kivuitu, who announced on Sunday that Kibaki had narrowly beaten opposition rival Raila Odinga, could not be immediately verified.

The African Union (AU) chairman is due in Kenya on Wednesday for crisis talks with Kibaki after the death toll neared 250 in the east African nation, the region's biggest economy.

Western powers have called for calm and warned citizens against visiting a popular tourist destination that had been regarded as one of the most stable democracies on a volatile continent.

In the most grisly incident in a spasm of ethnic clashes, about 30 members of Kibaki's Kikuyu ethnic group were burned alive on Tuesday when a mob set fire to the church where they were hiding near Eldoret town.

Pictures of the area in western Kenya filmed from a helicopter by the Red Cross showed plumes of white smoke billowing from dozens of blazing homesteads.

Young men with machetes, rocks and bows and arrows could be seen manning crude checkpoints on highways.