US diplomat in Kenya in bid to resolve crisis

The leading US diplomat for Africa is in Kenya today to encourage a peaceful resolution after a disputed presidential election sparked days of deadly riots.

The leading US diplomat for Africa is in Kenya today to encourage a peaceful resolution after a disputed presidential election sparked days of deadly riots.

Jendayi Frazer was to meet with opposition candidate Raila Odinga and has requested a meeting with President Mwai Kibaki, who was re-elected after a poll that international observations say was seriously flawed.

“She’s meeting with Mr Odinga and we have requested a meeting with President Kibaki,” said US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. “I see no reason why that won’t happen.”

He said Ms Frazer’s mission is designed to complement other international efforts to encourage a peaceful resolution.

Some 300 people have been killed and 100,000 made homeless in violent protests and clashes since the December 27 vote.

The turbulence has taken an ugly ethnic twist, with other tribes pitted against President Mwai Kibaki’s Kikuyu people, and brought chaos to a country once considered an island of stability in violence-plagued East Africa.

Yesterday, Mr Kibaki said he will accept opposition calls for a rerun of the election only if a court orders it, as thousands in the capital’s slums queued for food after days of riots left them cut off.

In Nairobi, Mr Odinga’s supporters vowed that street protests would continue, but none materialised. Instead, armed soldiers with riot shields patrolled.

The UN World Food Programme said it was scrambling to take food to 100,000 displaced people in the Rift Valley area. The agency said lorries were slowed because of insecurity.

Trouble has spread from Nairobi, the capital, to the western highlands and to the coast. In the coastal tourist city of Mombasa yesterday, police hurled tear gas to scatter more than 1,000 protesters.

Yesterday, Mr Raila’s party demanded new presidential elections.

“This is about a democracy and justice,” said Anyang Nyongo, secretary-general of Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement. “We shall continue to defend and promote the right of Kenyans so that the democratic process should be fulfilled.”

Government spokesman Alfred Mutua said “the government doesn’t reject or accept this. Only the court can call for the rerun of the election”.

Kenya’s high court, its members largely appointed by Kibaki, could annul the vote as illegal, which would force a new vote.

South African Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu held talks yesterday with Mr Kibaki and with Mr Odinga on Thursday, and said both “indicated they are open to the possibilities of negotiations”.

“There is a great deal of hope,” Mr Tutu said.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that the Kenyan elections “were totally rigged”.

Mr Kouchner, speaking on France’s RTL radio, did not say what evidence he had for that conclusion, but said it was shared by “the Americans, the British, who know the country well”.

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