MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Deadly riots continued to rage across Kenya today over a presidential election that opposition supporters and international observers say was stolen. More than 100 people have been killed as police battled protestors in the streets.
The fighting has been ignited along tribal lines. Yesterday, the incumbent president of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki, was declared the winner by a slim margin over his rival, opposition leader, Raila Odinga. But Western observers say there is clear evidence of vote rigging.
Michael Ranneberger is the U.S. ambassador to Kenya. We've reached him in Nairobi. And, Ambassador Ranneberger, there are reports that you are among those who are urging a recount. Do you agree that this vote was fraudulent?
Ambassador MICHAEL RANNEBERGER (U.S. Ambassador to Kenya): Well, look, first of all, it's important to say that election day itself, December 27th, was virtually unraveled of how a democratic process should be conducted. Kenya has turned in record numbers, and the process was remarkably orderly.
The problem arose in the vote counting process after the polls has closed. There were inordinate delays. It appeared that some of the tabulation forms have been tampered with. There were anomalies on the numbers. But it was not generalized. It affected votes as there as we can figure out primarily in about 20 percent of the constituencies across the country over 210 constituencies.
So the overall problem was that the process, of course, was not sufficiently transparent and accountable.
BLOCK: Were you, in fact, urging Kenyan officials to run a recount?
Ambassador RANNEBERGER: No. What we were urging is that the electoral commission do the maximum possible to review and check the numbers. And we said at this point that the rule of law needs to be respected. So there are, of course, legal recourses to pursuing allegations of vote tampering.
BLOCK: So you would say this is a legitimate result? Despite the irregularities, you're confident that Mwai Kibaki was, in fact, the winner?
Ambassador RANNEBERGER: Well, what we're saying is that the process was not satisfactory. But ultimately, there is a body in Kenya to make this decision, and it is the electoral commission. And they made their decision. And so what we've said now in a democratic society, there are means of redress and they have to be pursued.
But let me just make one other point, if I could. First and foremost, I think it needs to be looked at in a political context and what we are saying is that the Kenyans on both sides of this divide, President Kibaki and rival Odinga, need to talk to each other and they need to work out a political way forward for the country.
BLOCK: Ambassador Ranneberger, as you say that though, events seem to be overtaking you. Can you describe the scene there in the capital of Nairobi? How widespread is the rioting that's going on?
Ambassador RANNEBERGER: Well, actually, Nairobi's fairly quiet tonight. Yesterday, there were riots in the couple of the large slums and one or two other parts of the city. And there had been problems in other parts of the country. A number of people have been killed. It's hard to say how many people at this point. What I have seen is a strong deployment of police to control the situation and things at least in Nairobi seem to be substantially calmer.
Now, today, in his swearing-in remarks, President Kibaki extended his hands, said he was reaching out to all Kenyans, to AfriComm, and today, rival Odinga made a very good statement, calling all Kenyans to reject violence and emphasized the need for peace and to emphasize the need to follow the rule of law.
So we're hopeful that those statements will help to further calm the situation in the day or two ahead.
BLOCK: The violence in Kenya has been breaking down along ethnic lines -President Kibaki from the Kikuyu tribe and rival Odinga is a Luo. And there are reports of tribal gangs going from house to house, dragging out victims. Are you hearing those reports as well?
Ambassador RANNEBERGER: Yeah, but, I mean, it's hard if you're not here to (unintelligible) situation. There have been instances, certainly, of violence between these groups. The imagination runs wild when you think of those things. There have been people killed as they say, but this is not something again to mask tribal violence or slaughter along those lines.
And to be very frank about it, I believe this violence that has occurred has actually jilted Kenyans. And it's jolted the leadership of both sides as well. And in a sense, it sobered them up. And I do think we're starting to see indications that they realized the need to come together for the good of the nation as a whole. I think both sides underestimated the degree to which this could become as potentially violent as it's become.
BLOCK: Okay. Michael Rannenberger, the U.S. ambassador to Kenya, speaking with us from Nairobi.
Ambassador Rannenberger, thanks very much.
Ambassador RANNEBERGER: No, thank you.
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