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Diplomatic Initiatives Multiply in Attempt to Resolve Kenya Crisis


A delegation from the East African regional bloc IGAD has concluded a visit to Kenya to discuss the current political crisis. As Derek Kilner reports from Nairobi, recent days have seen a flurry of diplomatic statements and visits addressing the political deadlock and violence that has gripped Kenya since a disputed December election.

The IGAD delegation, which included ministers from Ethiopia, Uganda and Somalia, met with former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan who is leading a mediation effort between the government and opposition, and also met with members of the negotiation teams for the two sides.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga's camp objected to a planned meeting of IGAD foreign ministers, saying that President Mwai Kibaki is not the legitimate head of state.

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin announced the delegation's support for Annan's team, describing the dangers of holding multiple mediation efforts.

"The IGAD region has been at the recipient end of such proliferation of initiatives complicating already complicated crisis whether it is the Ethiopia - Eritrea border dispute or the crisis Somalia or that of Sudan," said Mr. Mesfin. "So we have pledged to Kofi Annan and his team that the IGAD leaders are fully behind their initiative and their efforts."

Western nations, while also expressing support for Annan's mediation, have raised their involvement in the crisis in recent days. U.S. ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger told Kenyan television station KTN that the United States may deny visas to 10 Kenyan politicians and businessmen suspected of fomenting violence.

"We've sent letters to about 10 individuals, and these are people on both sides, who we believe are involved in those kinds of activities," explained Amb. Ranneberger. "And we have warned them that their visa status could be affected."

U.S. officials say the visa status of additional Kenyans is also under review.

Canadian High Commissioner to Kenya Ross Hynes told KTN that Canada may also impose travel restrictions

"The Canadian law precludes the admissibility into Canada of people who are found to have been responsible for subverting democratic processes and democracy," said Hynes.

British officials say they are considering similar measures.

On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to urge President George Bush to limit non-humanitarian aid to Kenya if the government does not act to reduce violence. The bulk of American aid to Kenya goes to HIV/AIDS programs which would likely not be affected.

And in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations African Affairs subcommittee, the top American diplomat for Africa, Jendayi Frazer, called for an independent investigation into the post-election violence in Kenya.

The European Commissioner for Humanitarian and Development Aid, Louis Michel, was also in Nairobi on Thursday for meetings with the negotiators, calling for compromise between the two sides.

Meanwhile, U.N. Undersecretary for Human Rights Louise Arbour has dispatched a three-week fact finding mission on human rights abuses.

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