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Conspiracy theories rife in wake of Kenya bomb blasts

Kenya analysts say Sunday's Kenya bomb blasts are an attempt to rile the political environment ahead of a referendum on a new draft constitution. Conspiracy theories abound.

By Correspondent / June 14, 2010

General Service Unit paramilitary personnel search the area for clues at Uhuru Park, Nairobi, Kenya, Monday. Two bomb blasts ripped through the park in Kenya's capital during a packed political rally late Sunday, killing six people and injured more than 100.

Sayyid Azim/AP

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Nairobi, Kenya

The first salvoes appear to have been fired in a campaign to intimidate Kenyans from voting on a new constitution.

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Two explosions at a church rally Sunday killed six people and injured more than 100, leaving police officers scouring central Nairobi’s Uhuru Park on Monday for clues. No one has claimed responsibility for the Kenya bomb blasts, but there were quick allegations and conspiracies bordering on the bizarre.

Constitutional reform supporters blamed opponents; opponents blamed supporters; church leaders blamed the government; a government minister blamed the president and prime minister; and analysts blamed those who most want to keep the status quo.

“I suspect instead that this is an agent provocateur action designed to set up a scenario where people might be afraid to vote. It was clearly not intended to be a massacre. It’s a scare tactic,” says Mwalimu Mati, director of anti-corruption watchdog Mars Group Kenya.

The concern is that Sunday’s attack will not be the last. “Of course there can be more,” adds Mr. Mati.

Christian church leaders, who had organized the rally to bolster opposition to a new constitution that they say eases laws on abortion and Islamic courts, were among the first to point fingers.

"Having been informed over and over that the passage of the new constitution during the referendum is a government project, we are left in no doubt that the government, either directly or indirectly, had a hand in this attack,” the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) said in a statement with 14 other church organizations.

“Who else in this country holds explosive devices?"

Was it the Yes's or the No's?

It was the 'Yes' campaign who perpetrated the attacks, trying to bully the constitution’s opponents from voting, said Higher Education Minister William Ruto, the de facto torch-bearer of opposition to the draft.

“This is a sign some people want to force the constitution on Kenyans,” he told reporters as he toured Uhuru Park on Monday, apparently referring to President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, rivals during the 2007 national elections but united now in support for the new draft.

Mr. Ruto has fallen out with Mr. Odinga, a close ally during the 2007 elections. Ruto now appears set on leading the 'No' team in a bid to gather its supporters around him ahead of a bid for the presidency in 2012.

Considering Ruto's political aims, it's perhaps no surprise that he has also been accused of having a hand in the attacks. Anyang Nyong’o, leader of the 'Yes' campaign, has suggested that Ruto's group bombed their own rally to "attract sympathy." Outlandish as it may seem, this theory had Facebook, Twitter, and Kenyan blogs humming through Monday.

'Someone is trying to create a crisis'

Because the church organizations oppose the draft constitution, and also because Ruto appears to be manipulating opposition to the upcoming referendum as a way of bolstering his own 2012 candidacy, all the sudden finger-pointing is being met with a dose of skepticism.

“Suggestions that the government is behind the bombing of its own people, when their side is so far ahead in terms of referendum support, border on desperation,” says Hassan Omar Hassan, vice-chair of the Kenya National Human Rights Commission.

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