Kenya protesters set fire to building

NAIROBI, Kenya &

Dozens of protesters set fire to a government office building today in a melee following a memorial service organized by the opposition for victims of Kenya's election violence. Workers crawled to safety from a window in the smoking building, just as former U.N. chief Kofi Annan was due to start a mediation mission here.

Annan is the latest international figure to try to intervene in the standoff between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition candidate Raila Odinga, who claims Kibaki won re-election Dec. 27 through fraud. Foreign observers say the vote tally was deeply flawed, and the government says 685 people have been killed in an explosion of postelection riots and ethnic fighting.

The violence has pitted protesters against police, but there also have been clashes between members of Kibaki's Kikuyu ethnic group and other tribes. During today's memorial service, Odinga said Kenya's 40-plus tribes should not be at war with one another.

"This is a war between the people of Kenya and a very small bloodthirsty clique clinging to power," he told about 800 people in the capital, Nairobi.

Young people outside threw rocks and taunted police, and police fired tear gas as the crowd left the service. Protesters then set fire to a government-owned telecommunications company's office building. Several workers inside the building crawled out of a ground-floor window as about 50 people threw rocks at the building. Plumes of black smoke drifted from the building.

"We don't know what happened," Mary Bwire, a secretary at the office, told The Associated Press. "Suddenly there were stones everywhere. We all hid under tables."

Beatrice Michael Achieng, 35, was at a mortuary today that was the starting point of the opposition's memorial procession. She was collecting the body of her 13-year-old daughter, who was shot outside their home in a Nairobi slum.

"I think the protests should stop. I don't want to hear about Raila. I don't want to hear about Kibaki. My daughter is gone and we need peace," Achieng said. "I am feeling very bitter and angry at the police. "

"I haven't eaten since the day my daughter died. She was my first born and I've even thought of hanging myself."

Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement has called for another "peaceful protest" on Thursday, in defiance of a ban and despite the deaths of at least 24 people in three days of protests last week &

most blamed on police.

But Odinga's spokesman, Salim Lone, said today that ODM would be willing to reconsider.

"If Mr. Kofi Annan asks ODM to cancel the rally, we will of course consider it very seriously," he said.

Police in Kenya's western Rift Valley Province reported a mob burned a man to death in his car because he could not speak his attackers' language. The attack happened Tuesday in Molo town, 170 kilometers (100 miles) northwest of Nairobi, just after the man dropped his children at school, said Everette Wasike, the Rift Valley Province police chief.

Both sides in the dispute have traded accusations of who is behind the violence, with the government and the opposition each saying they will take the other to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, has also called for an impartial investigation into violations. "The killings have to be investigated expeditiously and impartially, and anyone found responsible for human rights abuses must be brought to justice," she said in a statement.

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