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Dialogue Needed In Kenya


Violence continues to wrack Kenya in the wake of a flawed presidential election. More than six-hundred-fifty people have been killed in riots and ethnic fighting since the December 27th vote. Opposition leader Raila Odinga has accused President Mwai Kibaki of rigging the election in his favor. Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan is trying to help negotiate a settlement between the two sides.

The U.S. is facilitating the efforts of Mr. Annan. In a written statement, U.S Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer said, "It is imperative for President Kibaki and Raila Odinga to sit together directly and without preconditions to discuss how to end the post-electoral crisis in a way that reflects the will of the Kenyan people. Both should acknowledge serious irregularities in the vote tallying, which made it impossible to determine with certainty the final result, and both must take forthright steps to end violence and ensure respect for rule of law consistent with respect for human rights."

Assistant Secretary of State Frazer called on the Kenyan government to restore freedom of the press and assembly. The only way forward for Kenya, she said, is to embrace equitable power-sharing, end the violence, and agree on an agenda for constitutional and electoral reform. During this process, it is critical that all Kenyan leaders and institutions speak in a responsible and respectful tone.

In the meantime, said Assistant Secretary of State Frazer, "the United States cannot conduct business as usual in Kenya. The Kenyan people recognize that the post-electoral crisis has revealed longstanding problems that must not be ignored."

As a close friend and partner of Kenya, the United States will remain intensively engaged to help encourage resolution of the post-electoral crisis. "We are convinced," said Ms. Frazer, "that Kenyans will achieve this, and that the country will emerge out of this crisis a stronger and more just democratic society."

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