Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki asked President Bush Monday for more American help in stabilizing Somalia, an East African neighbor that terrorism experts say is a concern because of the lawlessness there. “I emphasized that in order to maintain the democratic gains and to sustain the war against terrorism, it is essential that Somalia stabilizes,” Kibaki said at a joint news conference with Bush.
InsertArt(2033512)“IN THIS respect, it is important for the U.S. to increase its involvement in this search for peace in Somalia,” he added, “It is pertinent that all parties involved in the peace process remain engaged. I requested the U.S. government to assist in this regard.”
Bush made no public commitments on expanding the American role in Somalia, where 18 U.S. soldiers died in a fierce street battle 10 years ago, a clash that spurred the exit of American peacekeepers during the Clinton administration.
But Bush said he hoped that “Somalia will continue to work with Kenya to bring unity and reconciliation to a badly divided land.”
“The establishment of an effective representative government in Somalia will help stabilize the region and dispel the hopelessness that feeds terror,” Bush said.
The two leaders faced reporters as part of a state visit by Kibaki. It was just the fourth state visit Bush has hosted since becoming president, underscoring the importance that he attaches to America’s ties with Kenya.
TARGET OF TERROR
Terrorism, and Kenya’s efforts to combat it, took center stage during the visit.
Last November, a car bomb detonated in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa killed three Israeli tourists and at least 10 Kenyans. The attack has been blamed on al-Qaida. Almost simultaneously, surface-to-air missiles narrowly missed an Israeli charter jet taking off from Mombasa airport.
“In Nairobi and Mombasa and beyond, terrorists have made Kenya a battleground,” Bush said. But, he added, “The president affirmed the fact that the Kenyan people refuse to live in fear.” He cited steps Kenya has taken to fight terror, including arresting suspects. “My government will continue to give them the help they need to do so,” Bush said.
Bush and Kibaki also discussed peace efforts in Sudan, where Kenya is trying to broker a permanent truce. Formal negotiations resume this week.
Earlier Monday, Bush praised Kenya’s “historic election” last year as a major step toward democracy while pledging to help the African nation fight terrorism.
“There can be no compromise with this evil, and the government of Kenya is a vital ally in the ongoing war against terror,” Bush said, standing next to Kibaki on the South Lawn of the White House.
The two leaders were also discussing Kenya’s democratic breakthrough over the past year and its problems with terrorism and AIDS. It is estimated that an average of 700 Kenyans each day die of the disease.
“My government is determined to uphold democratic values, human rights, good governance and the rule of law, and to empower people,” Kibaki said.
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