NAIROBI, Kenya – U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Kenya's rival politicians to share power Monday, stepping up weeks of international pressure and holding out better relations with the United States as an incentive.
Rice, on a one-day trip to Kenya, was the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit since the flawed Dec. 27 presidential election unleashed weeks of bloodshed. The violence has killed more than 1,000 people and tarnished the image of Kenya, a U.S. ally in the War on Terror in Africa.
"I frankly believe that the time for a political settlement was yesterday," Rice said after meetings with President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, who says the election was stolen. She also met former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, who is mediating peace talks.
Earlier Monday, Rice said she would "emphasize that there is a lot to be gained in a relationship with the United States through resolution of this political crisis."
Rice said the United States was ready to help rebuild destroyed homes and resettle the displaced — but only once there was a deal to end the crisis.
"I want to be very clear: The current stalemate and the circumstances are not going to permit business as usual with the United States," she said.
The election, which foreign and local observers say was rigged, returned Kibaki to power for a second five-year term after Odinga's lead evaporated overnight. The controversy has stirred up grievances over land and poverty that have bedeviled Kenya since independence in 1963.
Much of the fighting has pitted other ethnic groups against Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe, long resented for dominating politics and the economy. The violence at the hands of thugs armed with poisoned arrows and machetes has been shockingly brutal in a country once considered among the most stable in Africa.
Washington is pressing Kenya's rivals to strike a power-sharing deal to end the turmoil that has engulfed much of the country. Rice was clear about what Washington wants to see in Kenya, repeatedly stressing the need for a power-sharing deal.
"They need to share power and share responsibility for the governing of this country," she said.
Over the weekend, the top U.S. State Department official for Africa, Jendayi Frazer, warned that Washington is considering targeted sanctions against anyone who stands in the way of a power-sharing deal.
Annan announced last week that the rivals had agreed to an independent review of the election and to draw up a new constitution within a year, which could pave the way for a prime minister's post or another way to share power. Talks were to continue Tuesday.
But Odinga and Kibaki remain deadlocked on proposals to share power, and the two sides have not agreed on whether to hold a repeat election, as the opposition has demanded.
While Kenya's political leaders have welcomed help from abroad in trying to end the crisis, the country's foreign minister insisted that no solution be imposed from the outside.
The result of the talks "must be a Kenyan solution. Anything less will be superficial and perhaps counterproductive," Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula, who is on the government's negotiating team at the talks, told reporters Sunday.
Although Rice's calls for power sharing have been clear, she said Monday that "this is not a matter of dictating a solution to Kenyans."
"It is Kenyans," she said, "who are insisting that their political leaders find a solution to this crisis."