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Kenyans Must Find Political Solution to Current Crisis, U.S. Says
Kenya, a nation of nearly 34 million people, is an important friend of the United States, and an important mediator in regional civil strife and humanitarian crises elsewhere in Africa. And so in the current period of violence, the Kenyan
Kenya, a nation of nearly 34 million people, is an important friend of the United States, and an important mediator in regional civil strife and humanitarian crises elsewhere in Africa. And so in the current period of violence, the Kenyan leadership must work out a way forward, U.S. officials say. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that everyone in Kenya should remain calm while a political resolution to the crisis is found. The nation has been engulfed in civil strife since the December 27 disputed presidential election sparked widespread violence, leaving more than 800 people dead and approximately 250,000 people driven from their homes, according to news reports. The clashes have pitted ethnic groups against each other as opposition groups rally against the government of President Mwai Kibaki, who claimed victory over his chief rival, Raila Odinga. "The election was not one that inspired confidence in the Kenyan people. There needs to be a political arrangement, a political solution between the major opposition candidate and the president," Rice said January 29 in Washington. "We very much support what former [U.N.] Secretary-General Kofi Annan is doing, and I plan to talk with him later today or tomorrow about what more the United States and others can do to support his efforts." U.S. Ambassador Michael E. Ranneberger in Nairobi said recently the United States has consistently maintained that the current crisis, spawned by serious irregularities in the December presidential election, can be resolved only through a political settlement. "We will continue to add our voice to those of Kenyans across the ethnic and political spectrum calling for responsible behavior by all parties in the interest of the entire nation," he said. Annan, who is in Nairobi to mediate a settlement to the disputed election, arranged for Kibaki and Odinga to meet January 24 for about an hour in Kibaki's office. Annan was able to arrange another meeting between Kibaki and Odinga January 29, saying the political crisis could be resolved. "To the leaders gathered here today, I say that the people want you to take charge of the situation and do whatever possible to halt the downward spiral that is threatening this beautiful and prosperous country," Annan said, according to Reuters news dispatches. The immediate crisis could be resolved within four weeks and the broader issues within a year, he said. Ranneberger said that Annan and a group from the African Union provide an important opportunity to facilitate talks. "Now is the time for all responsible Kenyans, and friends of Kenya, to issue statements that will contribute to a solution of the current crisis, instead of exacerbating the problem," he said. Joel Barkan, a senior associate in the Africa Program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said recently that the historical origins of the current crisis run deep in Kenyan society, and it will take more than a re-count of votes or even the formation of a new government to resolve the crisis. "Despite many warnings and pleas for restraint before the election -- from Kenyan civil society, the Kenyan press, and the international community, including the United States -- an election that started well has ended in crisis," he said. "The way out of the crisis will ultimately depend on Kenya's political class recognizing what civil society and the diplomatic community has made clear -- that Kenya is indeed at the proverbial fork in the road." (EDITOR'S NOTE: This dispatch is reprinted from America.gov, the State Department's diplomatic news service to explain U.S. foreign policy. Currently, U.S. Central Command is responsible for coordinating Defense Department support to U.S. government policy in Kenya. Africa Command is scheduled to assume its geographic responsibiliites by September 30, 2008. Like all U.S. regional military commands, AFRICOM will follow, not lead, U.S. diplomatic efforts.)
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