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Kenya mobs set fire to churches despite unity plea

ICC Note

In growing unrest following election in Kenya , another church is set on fire by mobs in the capital city Nairobi . Though no one is killed this time, 50 people were killed when Assembly of God church was burned in Eldoret, a city in Western Kenya .

By Rob Crilly, and Jonathan Clayton

January 4, 2008 Kenya (TIMESONLINE) – Jennifer Titus went to choir practice yesterday, just as she does every Thursday. Thirty minutes later she was on her knees begging for her life as a mob set her church alight around her.

“I had to plead with them to let me out,” she told The Times, as smoke billowed from the roof of the Africa Inland Church in the sprawling Nairobi slum of Kibera. “I was praying and tears were coming down my face.”

Churches are in the front line of Kenya ’s post election bloodshed. More than 30 people, mostly women and children, died on Monday when the church in which they were seeking sanctuary was set ablaze in the northwestern town of Eldoret . It was burnt by gangs claiming that Raila Odinga, the opposition candidate, had been cheated of the country’s presidency by the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki, who claimed a narrow win in deeply controversial circumstances.

Yesterday about 50 young men grew frustrated that a huge security cordon thrown around the slum prevented them from attending a banned opposition rally in the city centre. They vented their fury on the place of worship attended by Ms Titus, a 20-year-old unemployed woman in a threadbare skirt, and her equally impoverished fellow worshippers.

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This time no one was killed. Church members from various tribes escaped and vowed to defend its charred remains from looters who have spread chaos across Kenya in post election violence which is now believed to have killed 375 people.

Joshua Deya said: “Burning our church will not make Raila Odinga president.” His comment echoed that of many other Kenyans of all tribes and political persuasions who, faced with the descent into bloody chaos of one of Africa ’s most wealthy and hitherto stable countries, appeared to step back from the brink yesterday.

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