- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 31, 2008

The top U.S. envoy for Africa said yesterday that acts of “ethnic cleansing” had occurred as part of postelection violence in Kenya, but the State Department refused to back her comments, forcing her to qualify them later.

The department also played down another statement by Jendayi Frazer, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, related to a “review” of “all [U.S.] activities” in the country, saying that only a “working-level review” of a small amount of aid is being conducted.

“There was ethnic cleansing in Kenya. I listened to the victims,” Miss Frazer told reporters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she is attending an African Union meeting, adding that entire communities had been forced to leave their homes.

“If they resisted, they were killed. That sounds like ethnic cleansing to me,” she said.

Miss Frazer visited Kenya earlier this month after violence broke out in the wake of President Mwai Kibaki’s disputed re-election last month.



In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack declined to endorse the envoy’s characterization of the situation in Kenya, although he refused to “modify” it, either.

Miss Frazer, a friend of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a political appointee known for speaking her mind even when it may not be the diplomatic thing to do, did try to qualify what she had said earlier by adding, “My comments were based on what I was told by the victims themselves.”

Mr. McCormack said experts from the department’s Office of War Crimes Issues were compiling information about the events in Kenya, but had not yet come to any conclusions.

“If they do document any instances of atrocities, we’ll have to look at what next steps to take; but at this point, we are not there yet,” he said, noting that “ethnic cleansing,” unlike “genocide,” is not a legal term.

Miss Frazer’s remarks came as Kenyan police were given shoot-to-kill orders in an effort to quell the violence in which almost 1,000 people have died and nearly 300,000 have been displaced.

On Tuesday, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan began talks between Mr. Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, who asserted he was robbed of the presidency.

“We are in a process where we are looking at all of our aid to Kenya,” Miss Frazer said, adding that the United States is “putting on the table all of our activities in Kenya to review.”

But Mr. McCormack said it was premature to talk about a full-blown policy review, saying that officials are looking at just several million in security and other government aid the United States provides Kenya.

Most of the aid — hundreds of millions — goes for HIV/AIDS and other humanitarian purposes, he said.

Miss Frazer noted that “it will be counterproductive of us to stop the HIV/AIDS program when the population is in crisis.”

In New York, the United Nations’ special adviser on preventing genocide and mass atrocities warned Kenyan leaders they could be held accountable for violations of international law.

Francis Deng told Reuters news agency he was not saying that anything that had happened so far in Kenya amounted to genocide. “We’re not talking the g-word at this point, but the kind of atrocities we’re seeing could easily escalate to dangerous levels,” he said.

He said he was sending a staff member to look into the situation in the country. The official, Marylene Smeets, was expected to leave today.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

KENYA

Postelection violence exposes simmering tribal tensions. Here is a breakdown of the main ethnic groups in the nation of 37 million:

Kikuyu 22 percent

Luhya 14 percent

Luo 13 percent

Kalenjin 12 percent

Kamba 11 percent

Kisii 6 percent

Meru 6 percent

Other African 15 percent

Asian, European and Arab 1 percent

Source: CIA World Factbook

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