WASHINGTON – President Bush said Thursday he will dispatch Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Kenya to demand a halt to the violence that has left more than 1,000 people dead.
Rice will accompany Bush when he visits Africa, beginning Saturday, with stops in Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia. The president pledged to make a long-term U.S. commitment toward Africa.
Bush said that during his trip, he will direct Rice to go to Kenya and support the work of former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, who is trying to mediate a political solution between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Since a disputed presidential election in December, weeks of bloodshed have killed more than 1,000 Kenyans and forced some 600,000 to flee their homes.
Bush said Rice will deliver a message directly to Kenya's leaders and people: "There must be an immediate halt to violence, there must be justice for the victims of abuse and there must be a full return to democracy."
The president made the announcement at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, during a speech previewing his six-day trip to Africa.
A senior State Department official said Rice and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer would travel on Monday to Nairobi where they will meet with Kibaki, Odinga and civic leaders.
Bush outlined an African trip that will spotlight U.S. efforts to fight disease, hunger and poverty. He aims to signal to the African continent that successful programs to combat malaria and HIV/AIDS will outlast his presidency.
In doing so, he will be prodding lawmakers back home who largely control the fate of those efforts.
"I'm going to witness the generosity of the American people first hand," Bush said. "It will give me a chance to remind our fellow citizens about what a compassionate people we are. And I will assure our partners in Africa that the United States is committed to them today, tomorrow and long into their continent's bright future."
Bush intends to draw focus to African nations that have turned the corner toward peace and democracy. Yet his trip coincides with violence and humanitarian suffering throughout the continent — in Sudan, Somali, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Congo and other countries.
The president made mention of those conflicts in a speech otherwise dominated by aid and investment, referring to them as security challenges.
"These are great challenges, but there is even greater cause for hope," Bush said.