President Mwai Kibaki's government accused rival Raila Odinga's party of unleashing genocide in Kenya on Wednesday as the death toll from tribal violence over a disputed election passed 300.
It is becoming clear that these well-organized acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing were well planned, financed and rehearsed by Orange Democratic Movement leaders prior to the general elections, said the statement read by Lands Minister Kivutha Kibwana on behalf of his colleagues.
Odinga's supporters, drawn mainly from his Luo tribe, have blamed the violence on Kibaki for provoking citizens by stealing a December 27 vote that international observers said fell short of democratic standards. Both sides alleged rigging.
Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe was targeted in the initial violence, but revenge killings by Kikuyus are on the rise in mayhem that rights groups say has been exacerbated by a police crackdown on rioting and looting.
Apparently offering an olive branch to the ODM, Kibaki invited all members of the new opposition-dominated parliament to a meeting at State House in Nairobi. But no opposition MPs attended as Odinga demanded outside mediation.
We cannot dialogue with a thief, he told reporters. We are not interested in talking with Kibaki without international mediation.
A statement by Kibaki's office later deplored the violence and vowed to secure roads so essential goods and services can reach people in the areas and other countries in the region.
Ghanaian President and African Union Chairman John Kufuor, urged by Western nations to mediate, was waiting to talk to Kibaki before deciding whether to go himself or send a team.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Kufuor would fly to meet Kibaki and Odinga on Thursday. Odinga plans a mass rally on Thursday that the government has banned on security grounds.
The use of the word genocide will horrify Kenyans, used to being viewed by the world as a stable democracy, an investment and tourist destination and oasis of peace in a volatile region scarred by the likes of the 1994 Rwanda genocide.
The turmoil delayed trading in the shilling currency, which then dropped to a six-week low. Stocks also fell and tea and coffee auctions were postponed.
CALLS FOR CALM
British Foreign Minister David Miliband and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for an end to violence and an intensive political and legal process to end the crisis.
Kenya is an important ally of the West in its counter-terrorism efforts, takes growing money flows from China, and is used to being the peacemaker -- rather than the problem -- in African hot-spots like Somalia and Sudan.
Since Kenyan independence from Britain in 1963, the Kikuyu have dominated political and business life in East Africa's biggest and fastest-growing economy.
Moody Awori, the vice-president who lost his parliamentary seat in the polls, said he knew Odinga believed he was robbed.
But have you given any consideration to the over 50 percent of Kenyans who voted for President Kibaki and who also believe he won? The country must go on, he told reporters.
As young men armed with machetes manned roadblocks in rural areas, a trickle of office workers in the capital Nairobi made it through police cordons to begin the new working year.
A local and an international rights group gave a death toll of more than 300 and accused Kenyan security forces of having bloodily repressed protests by opposition supporters.
As a reaction, some protesters are responsible for the assassination of Kikuyus, added the Kenya Human Rights Commission and the International Federation for Human Rights.
In a chilling chain reaction, there were growing examples on Wednesday of revenge killings by Kikuyu militants, including the notorious Mungiki gang.
On Tuesday, about 30 Kikuyus died when a mob set fire to the church where they had taken sanctuary in the western town of Eldoret -- reviving memories of the slaughter in churches of hundreds of thousands in Rwanda's 1994 genocide.
Kenya's Red Cross said it had recovered 17 bodies and treated 42 people who suffered serious burns at the church.
The Eldoret attack was one the worst oubursts of violence that has uprooted nearly 100,000 Kenyans, some of them fleeing across the border to Uganda.
Adding to the chaos, Kenya's electoral commission head Samuel Kivuitu said: I do not know when asked if Kibaki won.
It was Kivuitu who pronounced Kibaki the victor on Sunday, and his remark stunned Kenya and cast further doubt on the result. He said earlier that all sides had put pressure on him to release the result.
Nairobi slums were calm early on Wednesday but residents said Mungiki, a gang with roots in traditional Kikuyu rites, dropped leaflets warning of reprisals against Luos.
In Naivasha town in Kenya's Rift Valley, scores of people were injured on Tuesday in revenge attacks for the church killings, and about 300 terrified locals prepared to spend a second night camped at a police station and prison for safety.