Former sect leader held after slum violence

Nairobi, Kenya - Kenyan police said on Monday a former cult leader was arrested after three people were killed in a gang clash over a planned political rally at Nairobi's Kibera slum supporting his run for parliament.

The rioting broke out in Kibera, East Africa's largest slum, on Sunday after police moved in to quell a standoff between supporters of former Mungiki sect leader Ndura Waruinge and a gang opposed to his political gathering.

Scores of people engaged in hours of running battles with each other and exchanged gunfire with police, who fired teargas and shot in the air to disperse the crowds.

Some people were shot, while others were beaten or stoned in the melee. At least three people died in the violence.

"He (Waruinge) has been arrested," Herbert Khaemba, the commander responsible for Kibera, told Reuters.

Waruinge, who had been ordered to a police station to make a statement, could not confirm this.

"I can't say I've been arrested and maybe I will be told," he told reporters outside the police station, before heading back in. "I'm a pastor and I cherish peace."

Waruinge, a Kikuyu like President Mwai Kibaki, plans to run in next year's general election for the parliament seat held by Raila Odinga, who is revered by many in his Luo tribe and is running for president.

Kibera, a sprawling, muddy hillside of tin-roof shacks overlooking Nairobi National Park, is in Odinga's constituency.

The Kikuyu and Luo, Kenya's largest and third-largest tribes respectively, have a rivalry over political spoils stretching back to Kenya's independence from Britain in 1963.

"The situation was provoked by agents of the state. Waruinge enjoys the support of the powers that be. This is part of a grand plan to rig next year's elections," Odinga told reporters.

Odinga, who has made a political career criticising the government and has been accused by rivals of inflaming tribal divisions in the past, said Kibaki was aware of the plan.

Waruinge is the former head of Kenya's outlawed Mungiki sect, a group that ostensibly espouses a return to traditional beliefs of the Kikuyu tribe. But police say Mungiki is involved in murder, extortion and racketeering.

The government declined to comment and police said they were not responsible for the killings.

"Our police were only armed with tear gas canisters. There was no policeman in civilian clothes. Civilians have guns. All over Nairobi there are arms in the wrong hands," Khaemba earlier told reporters.

Though Kenya, with East Africa's largest economy, is considered stable by regional standards, political violence is still common and has been heating up as the elections nears.

Politicians for years have stirred up tribal animosity and mobilised thugs to intimidate rival voters, especially in the poorest areas.

Roughly half of Nairobi's 3.5 million people live in slums and shanty towns where police rarely enter except to quell major disturbances.