Kenyans burned to death in church as election chaos continues

By staff writers
January 1, 2008

More than 30 people have been burned to death in a church in western Kenya after they sought refuge from the mounting violence over last week's elections - which has claimed more than 250 victims, according to official estimates.

An angry mob attacked and set fire to the church in the town of Eldoret where hundreds of people were hiding, say police and eyewitness reports documented by the BBC and news agency reporters.Dozens more are reported to have been taken to hospital with severe burns.

A pastor in Eldoret, Boaz Mutekwa, told the BBC that there were around 400 people taking refuge in the building, which is an Assemblies of God church - part of the growing Pentecostal movement in Kenya.

Mutekwa said that the church was set on fire at about 7am GMT, and that most of the victims were members of the same Kikuyu ethnic group as the newly re-elected President Mwai Kibaki.

The latest horror follows in the wake of a European Union (EU) election monitor report claiming that the recent presidential poll "fell short of international standards". Chief EU monitor Alexander Graf Lambsdorff said the tallying process "lacked credibility".

Other independent monitors have reported intimidation, corruption and bureacratic errors. Four Kenyan election commissioners also expressed unease at the result, but the government continues to deny any irregularities.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown today called for fresh talks between government and opposition in order to avert a crisis.

Though charges of corruption have surrounded the current Kenyan President and his predecessors Arap Moi and Jomo Kenyatta, who led the independence struggle against the Britsih in the 1950s, the Western-friendly state has until now been seen as a beacon of relative stability in a fractured region.

However some church and human rights activists say that the current developments are an explosion of anger culminating from what one described to Ekklesia as "years of injustice and inequality bubbling under the surface."

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