In the midst of rallies in Iowa and café stops in New Hampshire, Senator Barack Obama has been on the phone, attempting to resolve the political crisis in Kenya that has claimed approximately 500 lives and displaced nearly 200,000. He spoke with both the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki, and the opposition leader, Raila Odinga. Obama also phoned the State Department to push for urgent diplomatic action.
In a statement on Wednesday, January 2, Senator Obama invited the two parties to come together and to peacefully address their differences. He also appealed to the citizens of Kenya , saying, “The way forward is not through violence — it is through democracy, and the rule of law. To all of Kenya’s people, I ask you to renew Kenya’s democratic tradition, and to seek your dreams in peace.” The statement was translated into Swahili and aired on Voice of America’s East Africa program.
The United States government sees Kenya as a hub for US access to the region and as a democratic example to unstable governments in Africa. It is on the ‘front lines’ of the war against terrorism and has been a US ally for many years. While the events of late have strained the world’s confidence in African democracy, AFJN urges the leaders of both parties to find a mutually agreeable solution to political and ethnic divisions. Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer, visited Kenya and firmly stated that the election violence “hasn’t shaken our confidence in Kenya” as a regional player.
Obama, born of a Kenyan father, is one of few junior Senators strongly involved in African affairs. AFJN encourages more members of Congress to push for an equitable resolution to the conflict in Kenya.