Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has called for reconciliation during a tour of the Rift Valley, the area hardest hit by post-election violence.

Mr Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who were on a joint visit to the region, said those displaced by the unrest would soon be able to go home.

A BBC correspondent said local people welcomed the visit, but felt resettlement should not be rushed.

About 1,500 people died in clashes after December’s presidential poll.

A further 600,000 were displaced, and 140,000 people are still homeless.

Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga recently formed a power-sharing government, ending months of political deadlock that followed the disputed vote.

President Kibaki and Mr Odinga will tour various trouble spots in the Rift Valley region for the next three days.

The two men began their tour in the town of Eldoret, the scene of some of the worst post-election violence, including the burning of a church.

“Please forgive one another for what happened so that once again you can start living as Kenyans and build one nation,” President Kibaki told a crowd gathered at a stadium in the town.

The BBC’s Wanyama Chebusiri in Eldoret says the two leaders were given a positive reception, but that local people feel the resettlement of displaced people should not be hurried.

Members of parliament in the area have cautioned against resettlement of displaced people before the underlying issues, especially over land ownership, are resolved.

Local leaders insist that youths who were arrested in connection with the violence should be released before the resettlement process begins.

They also want local administrators who were sacked for failing to prevent the fighting to be reinstated.


The Rev Maritim Rirei of the Anglican Church in Eldoret said the tour could not help grassroots reconciliation.

“People at the village level where the healing process should start from are still hostile to each other. The visit will not bring any difference,” he said.

Returning people to their original homes is proving difficult given the land disputes between rival ethnic groups ignited by the political violence, say correspondents.

Both leaders said they were committed to resettling the displaced.

“We do not want you people to continue living here and suffering,” the Associated Press quoted Mr Kibaki as telling a cheering crowd at a displacement camp in Eldoret on Thursday.

“We are here as leaders… We can solve all the problems in order for peace to exist,” Mr Odinga added.

The BBC’s Karen Allen in Nairobi says the Rift Valley contains fertile farm land and the government is keen to get people back on the land in time to plant crops.

Meanwhile, Kenyan medical workers have said that outbreaks of malaria, diarrhoea and dysentery have hit camps for the homeless, according to local media.

The outbreaks are being blamed on heavy rains and unsanitary living conditions. Many women and children are sleeping in the cold without blankets, a St John Ambulance official told the Daily Nation.

President Kibaki and Mr Odinga were allies in the 2002 election but fell out afterwards when the president did not name Mr Odinga prime minister after taking office, as they had reportedly agreed.

They stood against each other in elections in December 2007 but violence erupted when Mr Kibaki was declared the winner despite widespread fraud allegations.

Mr Odinga was sworn in as prime minister last week at the head of a coalition cabinet after lengthy negotiations over its makeup.

The rivals signed a deal in February which prescribed an equal share of power.