ELDORET, Kenya — Another opposition politician was gunned down in Kenya on Thursday, this time under dubious circumstances, in the second such killing in three days. The killing renewed fears of reprisal attacks in this country, which has been racked by post-election tribal violence.
A police officer shot and killed David Kimutai Too, a 40-year-old former teacher, in what government officials quickly labeled "a crime of passion" linked to a love triangle. Leaders of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement said it was an assassination aimed at stealing the party's slim parliamentary majority.
"The purpose of this killing is to reduce the ODM majority," said opposition leader Raila Odinga.
News of the killing temporarily suspended negotiations between Odinga's party and President Mwai Kibaki, whom Odinga accuses of stealing December's deeply flawed election. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said he would travel to Kenya on Friday to assist his predecessor, Kofi Annan, who has been leading the talks.
Police officials said that Too, one of a host of freshman opposition lawmakers elected to parliament in December, was with a woman in the western town of Eldoret when they were spotted by her live-in boyfriend, a traffic cop. The cop suspected that his girlfriend, also a police officer, was having an affair, and he shot both of them several times before fleeing on his motorcycle, police said.
Police arrested the assailant a few miles away, and he's expected to be arraigned on Friday. The woman later bled to death in a hospital.
"It was a private affair," said Eldoret's police commander, Kioko Muinde, dismissing assassination theories. "There's no politics when it comes to love."
That explanation — backed by a statement from the government spokesman in Nairobi — didn't wash with many in Eldoret, a town in the volatile Rift Valley that has seen some of the worst ethnic violence since the election. The clashes generally have pitted members of the Kalenjin tribe against Kikuyus, Kibaki's ethnic group, which many rivals believe control too much land in this region of postcard-perfect hillsides and fertile farms.
For one thing, residents said, traffic cops don't usually carry guns. For another, the timing was extremely suspicious — just days after another opposition lawmaker, Mugabe Were, was fatally shot in his Nairobi driveway in a crime that police are investigating.
Rioters instantly took to the streets of Eldoret on Thursday, setting four commercial trucks ablaze, erecting barricades around the city and burning the homes of Kikuyus in slums on the outskirts, witnesses said. By nightfall, at least one person had been shot dead by police, and 14 others were being treated for gunshot wounds, officials at the main hospital said.
Aaron Kipkirui, a spindly 20-year-old who was shot in the leg as he manned a barricade, said Too's killing was "premeditated, planned" by the government. His injury wasn't serious, so the young Kalenjin man headed home Thursday evening only slightly hobbled — and with a plan to retaliate.
"He's a Kisii," Kipkirui said, referring to the tribe of the lawmaker's alleged assailant. "We're going to burn the Kisiis."