Up to 100,000 people face starvation in western Kenya because of election-related tribal violence, the World Food Program warned Friday, as rivals in last week's disputed presidential vote showed no willingness to talk.
President Mwai Kibaki and contender Raila Odinga, who had led through much of the vote-counting process, continued to hold uncompromising positions: The opposition called for a new election, and Kibaki agreed -- but only if the courts ordered it.
Odinga has described the courts as packed with Kibaki's cronies, and most analysts and diplomats do not see going to the courts as a solution, in part because cases are processed too slowly.
Opposition claims of vote- rigging triggered tribal violence that has killed about 300 people. European Union observers said the vote failed to meet democratic standards.
On Friday, the Daily Nation newspaper called on Kibaki and Odinga to "make peace happen."
"Despite the words of concern by both sides about the dangerous situation in Kenya and public statements that they are ready for dialogue, belligerence is still drowning out voices of reason," it said in an editorial.
Violence ebbed in Nairobi's slum districts and most areas across the country Friday, and only a few demonstrators turned out to try to march downtown for a rally called by Odinga. In the coastal city of Mombasa, police fired tear gas to disperse more than 1,000 protesters.
But opposition supporters remain angry, and there is still a high level of tribal tension. More than 180,000 Kenyans have fled their homes because of violence, the United Nations reported, and 500,000 will need aid this month, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which launched a $13.5-million appeal Friday.
The Rift Valley in the west, where 100,000 are in critical need of food, has seen tens of thousands flee some of the worst violence, including the burning of a church near Eldoret, a horrific attack that killed about 35 people who had sought refuge there.
"The level of hatred is very high. Violence of tribal origin is the worst; it knows no limits and is extremely difficult to quell," said Alexandre Liebeskind, deputy head of Red Cross operations for the Horn of Africa.
The failure to find a rapid solution poses another threat to Kenya: With its image as a haven of stability in Africa shattered and tourists warned away, the country's billion-dollar tourist industry has been hard hit.
The top U.S. diplomat for Africa, Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer, flew to Nairobi late Friday to try to bring the two sides together, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate from South Africa who has met with both candidates, said he hoped the crisis could be settled.
But other diplomats, who have been pressing for talks, are less optimistic.
"I think they will continue to posture in a fairly hard-line way," one Western envoy said. "I think you will see violence in the slums. There's real frustration and anger, and the longer this goes on, the longer the violence will continue."
The World Food Program plans to distribute food soon through the Red Cross, but 75 truckloads carrying 2,500 tons of supplies were stranded in Kenyan cities because of the poor security situation in the countryside.
Armed gangs from different tribes have set up roadblocks, and only convoys with military protection can move freely.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times