U.S. envoy: Violence in Kenya is 'ethnic cleansing'
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 9:51 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 9:51 a.m.
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - The top U.S. envoy to Africa called the violence in Kenya "ethnic cleansing" and said Wednesday Washington was reviewing its hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the country.
Jendayi Frazer said neither President Mwai Kibaki nor his chief rival, opposition leader Raila Odinga, is doing enough to stop the bloodshed that has claimed more than 800 lives since the disputed Dec. 27 presidential election.
Frazer said the violence she saw during a visit earlier this month to the country's western Rift Valley pitted the Kalenjin, who support Odinga and his Luo people, against Kibaki's Kikuyu people.
"The first wave of this violence, it was primarily in the Rift Valley, and it was Kalenjin pushing out Kikuyu. But that may now be spreading to Kikuyus pushing out Luos and Kalenjins," Frazer told reporters on the sidelines of an African Union summit.
"What I was talking about in terms of the ethnic cleansing that I saw was the immediate aftermath of the election, in which there was an organized effort to push people out of the Rift Valley."
Frazer said she did not consider the killings a genocide.
Kikuyus were the major victims of the first explosion of violence after the announcement that Kibaki had won the election, which the international community and election monitors agree was rigged.
Hundreds of Kikuyus have been killed, and members of the group account for more than half of the 255,000 chased from their homes, most in the Rift Valley.
The valley is the traditional home of the Kalenjin and Masai people. British colonizers seized large tracts of land to cultivate fertile farms there. When much of that land was redistributed after independence in 1963, President Jomo Kenyatta flooded it with his Kikuyu people, instead of returning it to the Kalenjin and Masai.
Kikuyus, who are Kenya's largest ethnic group, are also resented for their long-standing domination of politics and the economy.
Frazer said neither Kibaki nor Odinga, who says he won the election, have done enough to halt the violence. She said speeches made by both had proved counterproductive.
"I think both sides have spent quite a lot of time, and unhelpful time, in the public," she said.
Frazer said the United States was reviewing all its aid to Kenya, expected to amount to more than $540 million this year, even though most goes to the people not to the government. She acknowledged that most U.S. funds in Kenya are used to fight AIDS and malaria and go to non-governmental organizations.
"It will be counterproductive of us to stop the HIV aid support when the population is in crisis," she said.
Nevertheless, "we are in a process where we are looking at all of our aid to Kenya," Frazer said, reiterating that the U.S. is "putting on the table all of our activities in Kenya to review."
The United States previously had said it would not threaten deep aid cuts.
The European Union and other countries, including Canada, have already warned that they will cut aid if the rival sides do not make progress in resolving the crisis.
Australia added to the pressure Wednesday, with Foreign Minister Stephen Smith saying his country would restrict diplomatic activities with the Kenyan government and continue to review its aid program, which amounted to $6.4 million in 2006-07.
"In this current situation, it cannot be business-as-usual between Kenya's leaders and the international community," Smith said.
Kibaki's government has said it will not be blackmailed over foreign aid and can survive without it. Foreign aid accounts for only 6 percent of the country's budget.
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