- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 8, 2003

Kenya, twice the site of brazen attacks by Islamic terrorists in recent times, fears it may experience a "backlash" to any U.S.-led military strike in Iraq, the country's new foreign minister said yesterday.
With the United States and Britain gearing up for war against Saddam Hussein, "our fear in Kenya is about the very possible backlash," Stephen K. Musyoka said in an interview.
"Our hope is that any attack on Iraq does not bring an escalation in the kind of international terrorism from which we have already suffered."
Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network is blamed for the August 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi that killed some 220 people and for last November's attacks on an Israeli plane and a hotel favored by Israeli tourists in Mombasa that took 16 lives.
In both cases, the large majority of the victims were Kenyans.
"When the bulls fight, it is the grass that suffers," Mr. Musyoka said, quoting an old Kenyan proverb.
Mr. Musyoka, the highest-ranking Kenyan official to visit Washington since the Dec. 27 election that swept the party of longtime Kenyan leader Daniel arap Moi from power, said he found understanding for Kenya's vulnerability in talks this week with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other senior administration officials.
U.S. military officials last month announced a new joint task force with Kenya and five other Horn of Africa countries, backed by a 900-soldier force in Djibouti, to disrupt terrorist operations in the region.
"Certainly we found U.S. leaders very aware of our situation," Mr. Musyoka said.
He said Kenya has been exploited in part because Nairobi has tried to maintain good relations with Israel, with the Arab world, and with Washington and the West.
"We want to be the Switzerland of Africa," he said.
The Bush administration and European leaders have hailed the peaceful transfer of power in Kenya and the triumph of an opposition coalition headed by one-time Moi ally Mwai Kibaki. Mr. Musyoka, who served for a time as foreign minister under President Moi in the 1990s, was one of a number of senior officials of the ruling Kenya Africa National Union (KANU) who defected to Mr. Kibaki's cause in the months before the election.
With a 125-seat majority in the 210-seat parliament, Mr. Kibaki's National Rainbow Coalition now faces steep voter expectations to bolster the economy and sagging educational and social services while attacking endemic corruption.
"We know there are a lot of eyes focused on us, in Africa and around the world," said Mr. Musyoka. "We have to demonstrate we can implement the attributes of good governance, that we can make Kenya a place where there is zero tolerance for corruption."
The foreign minister met with International Monetary Fund and World Bank officials in Washington and said his country is preparing to apply for funding from President Bush's new Millennium Challenge Accounts, an aid program designed to reward countries that institute political and corruption reforms. Analysts say Kenya's economy, which grew by less than 1 percent in 2002, needs fresh international funding to be revived this year.
Mr. Musyoka hailed President Bush's State of the Union pledge to sharply increase U.S. funding to fight HIV/AIDS. An estimated 2.2 million Kenyans have AIDS, and just a tiny fraction can afford the latest anti-viral treatments used in the West.
He said the new Kenyan government has the political support to take a more active role in regional crises, notably the instability in neighboring Sudan and Somalia. The virtual collapse of central authority in Somalia has led to a surge in smuggling and criminal activity across the poorly policed border with Kenya.
"It is one of our top foreign policy interests to restore law and order in Somalia," said Mr. Musyoka, adding that Kenya and the United States have cooperated closely in the effort.

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