Kenyan Bloodshed Continues
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
I'm Michel Martin. And this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.
Coming up, the Mocha Moms on teaching kids about black history and making it fun.
But first, we want to talk about the situation in Kenya. We've been following the crisis there. Hundreds of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced after last month's presidential elections. The crisis began when the incumbent Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner amid accusations of widespread fraud.
Since then, the country has seen an escalating cycle of violence with attacks on members of the Kikuyu tribe to which Mr. Kibaki belongs and attacks on other tribes associated with the head of the opposition, Raila Odinga.
A number of international leaders have visited the country in an effort to broker a peaceful end to the situation. Today, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is in Kenya and announced that the two sides were ready to begin a formal dialogue, even as angry mobs continued attacks on their rivals and battled police.
Here to talk about the situation Jendayi Frazer. She's the assistant secretary of state for African affairs. She's also a former ambassador to South Africa. We caught up with her yesterday when she stopped in Washington briefly upon her return from Kenya, on her way to an African Union summit in Addis Ababa. Frazer talked about efforts to bring the two parties together.
Dr. JENDAYI FRAZER (U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs): The key now is to get them to agree to the modalities for the negotiation, what will be agenda, will it include constitutional reform, will it include electoral reform, what type of power sharing? So Kofi Annan has a big task ahead of him, but he certainly will have the support of the United States in carrying that out. And I do think that both sides, privately, they are much closer than they appear to be publicly, both Raila Odinga and President Kibaki.
MARTIN: There was a terrible incident over the weekend in the Rift Valley, where people were apparently herded into a home and burned alive. And this echoes another similar incident January 1st, and then there was retaliatory fighting in Kisumu over the weekend. Do you agree that this is, indeed, so-called tribal conflict being stoked by political conflict or there was something else at work here?
Dr. FRAZER: Well, it certainly is an instant in which the election itself and the result of it led to significant violence, but it's not the first time in Kenya's history that this has occurred. It happened in 1997 as well. And so, I think that its political leaders, politicians who are stereotyping and using hate language to get the population, the electorate on the streets and attacking each other. And so, there are deep-seeded causes of this. It's not simply the election. It also has to do with land distribution, sense of inequality among different ethnic groups.
MARTIN: Is there any vehicle for accountability available through the international community or any other means?
Dr. FRAZER: Kofi Annan has called for an investigation into the violence. Our ambassadors to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, has also - was the first one to call for an investigation into some of the killing, apparently by police, on the civilians during these demonstrations. And so, we do believe that there needs to be accountability.
MARTIN: You're on our way to the African Union summit…
Dr. FRAZER: Yes.
MARTIN: …in Addis, Ababa.
Dr. FRAZER: Yes.
MARTIN: What are some of the issues on the table there? I assume Kenya is one of them.
Dr. FRAZER: Well, Kenya will, certainly, will be on the table. I now have discussions with many other regional leaders because the crisis in Kenya is in impacting their economy. It has impacted our ability to bring African Union peacekeepers to Somalia because of the fuel shortages that have taken place because of this crisis and there will be a significant topic…
MARTIN: Because it's a key transportation hub, so a lot of goods…
Dr. FRAZER: Yes.
MARTIN: …and services go through.
Dr. FRAZER: Transportation, communication. Absolutely. It's definitely a key hub or regional hub. We will also, of course, deal with Somalia. There will be an opportunity to meet with the new Prime Minister Nur Adde, I mean, also to emphasize and put more focus on getting more African Union peacekeepers to go to Somalia. Right now, we have the Ugandans and the Burundians there. You know, we'll deal with the Congo. Secretary Rice had gone to Addis in December. My special adviser, Timothy Shortly, has played a key role in a framework agreement. We're trying to address the Kivus. The key is to have some type of institutional foundation for moving forward.
MARTIN: Finally, I wanted to ask about the president's upcoming trip to Africa next month, visiting Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia. A difficult time to make such a trip one could argue. What is his purpose? What signal is he hoping to send?
Dr. FRAZER: You know, in Africa, President Bush's agenda has been so robust. He's willing to, of course, put a focus on the significant efforts that this government has helped with African countries in the fight against HIV and AIDS; his new malaria initiative, which is focused on 15 countries; how we can continue to support economic growth and development. All of these countries that he's going to have had democratically elected governments. Liberia is, of course, a particular interest to the United States - both for Congress and the executive, we played a key role in helping that transition to democracy with President Johnson-Sirleaf winning the election. But really, U.S. Marines and U.S. diplomats helping to facilitate that. So to go there now to see this democratically elected first woman president, I think, shows the success. Really, it underscores the success of his Africa policy.
MARTIN: Ambassador Jendayi Frazer is the assistant secretary of state for African Affairs. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us, and good luck with your travel.
FRAZER: Thank you very much.
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