A key U.S. official says the United States will remain engaged in finding a solution to the political crisis in Kenya, following disputed elections in December that sparked violence and resulted in nearly 1,000 deaths. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer just returned from the East African nation and appeared before a Senate panel Thursday, as VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.
Assistant Secretary Frazer expressed U.S. support for international mediation efforts in Nairobi led by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. She told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee the United States will remain engaged.
"We have been working very directly diplomatically with the mediators themselves as well as the parties and the broader society," she said.
On Wednesday, the United States imposed a travel ban on 10 Kenyan businessmen and politicians for their alleged involvement with the violence.
Frazer did not identify those sanctioned, but said the United States made its decision based on a number of factors, including media reports.
"We monitor the radio, we look in newspapers," she added. "There is evidence of [that there are] those who are continuing to incite violence, and those would be the first targets of our efforts to put a visa ban on."
The violence in Kenya broke out after the December reelection of President Mwai Kibaki. Opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga says the election results were rigged to give Mr. Kibaki a second term.
Frazer said finding a solution to the crisis will be difficult, but she suggested not impossible:
"I think that yes, there are very deep-seated divisions that any politician can mobilize on an ethnic basis, I think there are deep concerns and grievances that have to be addressed," she noted. "But I do believe that Kenyan society can pull through this with responsible leadership."
The State Department official expressed support for an independent probe into the election. But she said she does not believe an accurate recount is possible. Responding to questions from Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, Frazer said she is concerned that ballots may have been altered or destroyed, despite her appeals to Kenya's electoral commission chairman Samuel Kivuitu to protect the ballots.
FRAZER: "I asked chairman Kivuitu when I was on the ground in those early days, where are the ballots, there may be an inquiry. We need to make sure that clearly no one is tampering with those papers."
CARDIN: "Do you have confidence that no one is tampering with them?"
FRAZER: "No, I don't have confidence that that is the case."
Frazer said the United States is reviewing its aid to Kenya in the aftermath of the violence.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives voted 405 to one to urge President Bush to restrict all non-humanitarian aid to Kenya unless the parties are able to resolve the political standoff peacefully.
"The people of Kenya voted for change. What they were given was the status quo. That is unacceptable," said Congressman Donald Payne, a New Jersey Democrat.
The Senate has yet to schedule a similar vote.