Opposition Seeks Peacekeepers as Youth Gangs Clash in Kenya

CHEBILAT, Kenya -- Gangs of youths from rival ethnic groups armed with clubs, bows and machetes clashed in Kenya's Rift Valley on Sunday, shouting war cries, firing salvos of arrows and pelting one another with rocks.

As police appear seemingly powerless to intervene, in most cases, Kenya's opposition called for African Union peacekeepers to deploy and restore order.

"We need African Union peacekeepers to bring calm and peace. Given the ethnic dimension of the conflict, it would be more neutral than to selectively place the army," Orange Democratic Movement spokesman Tony Gachoka said.

The government was not immediately available for comment.

Scores of people fled ethnic attacks on their homes in heavily armed police convoys.

A reporter saw police fire shots to disperse a gang manning a roadblock, allowing a busload of refugees to flee to safety, a day before former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was due to reopen talks trying to end a bloody political crisis.

Annan persuaded the rival parties on Friday to agree to take quick steps to end the violence, but ethnic tension remained explosive over the weekend. Aid workers estimate at least 20 people have been killed in clashes since Thursday.

"We're just keeping the peace around here," said Charles Cheriot, at a roadblock where youths sharpened machetes on rocks and lined up arrows they said were poisoned. "The police have taken sides. We just patrol."

At a hospital in the southern Rift town of Kisii, scene of the latest clashes between Kalenjin and Kisii ethnic groups, staff said injured people were streaming in.