The violence in Kenya following the disputed presidential election between incumbent Mwai Kibaki, and opposition candidate Raila Odinga has been a tragic turn of events in a country that has a well-earned reputation as a pillar of stability. According to press reports, more than three-hundred people have been killed and thousands have fled their homes.
In a joint statement, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband called on "all political leaders to engage in a spirit of compromise that puts the democratic interests of Kenya first."
The United States is deeply concerned about the ongoing violence in Kenya. Kenya's political parties should restrain their supporters and work to find a peaceful way to resolve their disputes. Kenya must be returned to peace so that a political solution to the election impasse can be found.
One sign of hope is emerging. Kenyan civil society has launched a nationwide media campaign under the message "Save Our Beloved Country." Throughout the country, this message was headlined across several major newspapers. Editorials are reinforcing it. Radio stations have defied the government's media ban on live broadcasts to host call-in shows asking listeners to send in their messages of peace. Television broadcasters are hosting live interviews focusing on the same theme. The U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, was interviewed on Capital FM, a local radio station, and reinforced the same message.
The highest priority for the United States is to end the violence and reduce tensions across Kenya. All political leaders in Kenya should take heed of Kenyan civil society's message of peace and take immediate steps to restrain their followers and resolve their political disputes through political means.
Fomenting and tolerating violence in unacceptable. It is now time for Kenya's political leaders to listen to the people and dedicate their efforts to seeking a peaceful political resolution of their disputes.