Rice: Deal in Kenya will enhance U.S. relations

/ Source: The Associated Press

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Kenya’s rival politicians Monday that a power-sharing solution to a bloody political crisis would enhance the country’s relationship with the United States.

Rice’s visit was greeted with anticipation by many Kenyans but wariness by others. Kenya’s foreign minister warned Sunday that any solution imposed by outsiders would ultimately fail.

“I’m going to emphasize that there is a lot to be gained in a relationship with the United States through resolution of this political crisis,” Rice said while on her way to Kenya on Monday.

“It simply isn’t going to be business as usual until this crisis is resolved,” Rice later told reporters after meeting with former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is mediating peace talks.

Washington is pressing Kenya’s rivals to share power to end the turmoil that has engulfed much of the country since a flawed Dec. 27 presidential vote. Rice was to meet later with President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, who says the election was stolen from him.

“To the president, President Kibaki, I will say power-sharing means real power-sharing and the United States, as a friend of Kenya, expects that power-sharing to take place to show that you can make the electoral and constitutional reforms that frankly should have been made several years ago,” she said before her meetings.

She added: “To Mr. Odinga, I will be saying that we understand that the election was problematic, the United States has said that, but again power-sharing does need to take place.”

President Bush told reporters Sunday that the United States was looking at “how best we can help the process. Not what we should do to dictate the process but what America can do to help the process move along.” Bush is in neighboring Tanzania, the second stop of a five-nation Africa tour.

Wracked by violence
In the nearly two months since the vote, Kenya has been wracked by violence, much of it pitting ethnic groups that supported the opposition against those tied to the president’s party. More than 1,000 people have been killed and some 600,000 forced from their homes.

While Kenya’s political leaders have welcomed help from abroad in trying to end the crisis, the foreign minister insisted Sunday that any solution must come from Kenyans themselves.

The result of the talks “must be a Kenyan solution. Anything less will be superficial and perhaps counterproductive,” Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula, who is on the government’s negotiating team at the talks, told reporters.

No one, he warned, should “make a mistake of putting a gun (to) anybody’s head.”

Targeted U.S. sanctions?
On Saturday, the top U.S. State Department official for Africa, Jendayi Frazer, warned that the United States is considering targeted sanctions against anyone who stands in the way of a power-sharing deal.

Annan announced last week that the rivals had agreed to an independent review of the election. But Odinga and Kibaki remain deadlocked on proposals to share power, and the two sides have not agreed on whether to hold a rerun election, as the opposition has demanded.

A preliminary agreement signed Thursday calls for an independent review committee to investigate the 2007 presidential election and issue a report in three to six months. The deal also calls for the two sides to draw up a new constitution within a year, which could pave the way for a prime minister’s post or another way to share power.