More than one-thousand people have been killed in Kenya since the disputed presidential election of December 29th. Incumbent Mwai Kibaki [m-W-EYE kee-BAH-kee] was declared the winner over Raila Odinga [rah-EE-lah oh-DIHN-gah] of the Orange Democratic Movement. But international election observers said the election was so flawed it was impossible to determine a winner.
The roots of the current political conflict in Kenya go beyond one flawed election. Long-simmering grievances over unequal distribution of land have pitted members of the largely Luo [LOO-o] opposition against members of Mr. Kibaki's Kikuyu ethnic group and others perceived as supporting the government. Kikuyus have dominated political and economic life in Kenya for decades.<!-- IMAGE -->
The priority now is to end the ethnic violence, which has involved killings, looting, arson, rape, and killings by police. Both President Kibaki and Mr. Odinga have a responsibility to stop the violence. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs James Swan said, "And we expect them to live up to this responsibility."
Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga also need to agree on a political power-sharing arrangement. "Power sharing," said Mr. Swan, "is an essential element to a viable short-term solution for Kenya." To help bring that about, the U.S. supports the negotiations being led by former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.
In the longer term, said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Swan, "institutional reforms are needed so that critical Kenyan institutions like the judiciary and electoral commission can play the constructive roles they were designed to fill." The U.S. calls on Kenya's political leadership to honor their obligation to the Kenyan people and undertake these difficult but necessary reforms.