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'Ethnic cleansing going on in Kenya'

A US official says people in Rift Valley are forced out of their homes on the bases of their ethnicity.

world Updated: Jan 31, 2008 12:24 IST

The violence in Kenya's Rift Valley amounts to "ethnic cleansing" because people are being forced from their homes based on their ethnicity, the top US diplomat for Africa has said.

Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer said on Wednesday the displacement of the tribe was "clear ethnic cleansing in the Rift Valley", which has been the centre of the political violence in Kenya following December's controversial presidential election.

More than 800 people have been killed and 2,50,000 displaced in the bloodiest unrest since Kenya's independence from Britain in 1963.

Frazer, quoted by the BBC, accused local radio stations of inciting violence. She has visited the Rift Valley during the crisis and heard stories from victims being forced from their homes.

The earlier violence right after disputed elections in December was aimed at pushing the Kikuyu ethnic group, the tribe of President Mwai Kibaki, out of the Rift Valley, ancestral home to the Kalenjin and Luo groups.

The Kalenjin and the Luo, bitter over the loss of Raila Odinga in his bid for the presidency, were blamed for much of the earliest violence but the Kikuyu have also since pushed back.

Frazer was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the upcoming African Union summit, and has previously travelled to Kenya trying to help quell the crisis that erupted following Kibaki's re-election victory. Opponents and some international observers charge the polling was tainted by fraud.

Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan was to begin formal talks on Thursday between the two sides as he tries to broker a resolution to the crisis.

Kibaki and Odinga have charged each other's supporters with committing atrocities, including ethnic cleansing, following the election.

Human Rights Watch, a New York-based group, has accused the opposition of planning the violence in the Rift Valley that has spread to other parts of the East African nation.

Pressed by reporters in Washington about Frazer's characterisation of the situation in the valley, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said: "I'm not going to try to modify her statement.

"There's a serious issue of people being displaced for a variety of different reasons, including being forced from their homes based on ethnic identification," McCormack said.

The spokesman said the State Department has begun to compile information about any crimes or atrocities that have been committed so that the guilty parties can be brought to justice. He also said some US aid could be subject to cancellation because of the violence.

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