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Vow to pursue Kenyans who sent 'hate texts'

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  • Government says it believes text messages helped incite violence
  • Kenyan journalists concerned the government is trying to curb press freedoms
  • Kenyan death toll reaches 1,000 amid post-election violence
  • 130 left homeless after children's home destroyed by looters
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NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) -- Kenya's government Tuesday announced it will find and prosecute anyone who sent "hate text messages" that helped incite ethnic tensions after the contested election in December.

The violence has left more than 1,000 people dead, according to Red Cross figures released Tuesday.

Speaking at a news conference in Nairobi, Kenyan Minister of Information Samuel Poghisio said the government has been tracking such text messages -- sent from inside Kenya and neighboring Uganda -- that the government believes helped to incite violence.

Without offering details on how many people they are tracking, Poghisio said those found guilty will be prosecuted.

The minister also said a government task team will also look into whether Kenyan media reports helped inflame ethnic tensions. The ministry allowed Kenyan TV and radio to resume live broadcasts on Monday.

Some Kenyan journalists expressed their reservations at the move, concerned the government is trying to curb press freedoms.

The announcement came as government and opposition politicians held discussions that could eventually lead to a power-sharing agreement.

The two sides resumed talks on Monday. Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is in Kenya to oversee efforts to resolve the crisis, was meeting with senior business leaders on Tuesday, a government spokesman said.

The diplomacy efforts followed reports of further atrocities in the troubled east African state.

Attackers smeared with clay and armed with spears, machetes, bows and arrows burned and looted a children's home for 130 children with troubled pasts, The Associated Press reported.

One child at the Sugoi-Munsingen Children's Home and School heard an attacker mention President Mwai Kibaki, who is accused of stealing the Dec. 27 election, during the incident last weekend in western Kenya, the agency said.

Peace efforts took a hit Monday as South African businessman Cyril Ramaphosa withdrew as the chief negotiator after the government expressed reservations about him.

Ramaphosa, was instrumental in talks to end apartheid in his own country, told The Associated Press he could not function as mediator "without the complete confidence of both parties."

A spokesman for Annan said he had "reluctantly accepted" Ramaphosa's withdrawal.

The latest discussions came as violence across Kenya pushed the death toll to more than 1,000, according to the Kenyan Red Cross.

At least 140 people have died since Friday when leaders of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement reached an agreement with the government to stem the violence that has taken on ethnic overtones.

As many as 350,000 people have been driven from their homes in bloody street battles that have broken out between supporters of President Mwai Kibaki -- a member of the Kikuyu tribe -- and opposition leader Raila Odinga, who belongs to the Luo tribe

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Following late December elections, Odinaga accused Kibaki of rigging the vote to win re-election, sparking the breakdown in civil order.

In the midst of the violence, the government faces new difficulties -- finding a way to get migrant workers back to their ancestral homelands, a senior U.N. official told CNN. Ethnic violence is forcing minority tribal members to flee, putting a strain on an already disrupted transportation system.

The quickly approaching rainy season could also add to a brewing humanitarian crisis if farmers -- sidetracked by the violence -- can't get their crops in before the rains come.

On Sunday, the opposition party asked the United Nations and the African Union to send in peacekeepers.

Odinga requested the peacekeepers during a meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

"The level of violence in Kenya is unprecedented. It's on a terrifying scale and it has not really diminished," Salim Lone, spokesman for the Orange Democratic Movement, told CNN from London.


"People who have lived together for generations have, after the fraudulent election, turned on each other," he said.

"The security forces seem incapable of stopping this carnage, and in some cases, they actually stand by while the killing goes on," Lone said. "For sure, international assistance is needed." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's David McKenzie contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

All About KenyaRaila OdingaMwai KibakiKofi Annan

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