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January 09, 2008

Kenyan tea estate vandalised in post-election violence

Looters in one of Kenya's major tea-growing areas in the Rift Valley struck Unilever's Chebown tea estate in a bout of post-election violence, causing workers at it and all the surrounding farms to flee.

A photographer at the tea estate said looters torched the farm's tractors and trucks, looted and burned its storage facility and tried to burn the tea plants, but were foiled by cold, moist weather. The attacks were on January 2 and 3, as the country was plunged into a bout of post-election violence after a disputed result announced on Dec. 30.

All of the labourers, who come from the Kisii people, had fled that farm and others nearby after attacks by members of the local Kalenjin people targeting them, the photographer said. Kisiis are seen as supporting President Mwai Kibaki, whom the opposition accuses of rigging a hotly contested election, which plunged the country into a week of violence. Some Kalenjins support the opposition, and mobs of young Kalenjin men went on a rampage across the Rift Valley, targeting tribes seen as pro-government.

Previous elections in the Rift Valley have seen ethnic clashes ignited by politicians keen to shore up their support.


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