KIGALI - The Swedish Minister for International Development and Cooperation, Gunilla Carlsson, also called on Kenya to urgently find an acceptable solution through dialogue for the country to return to its peaceful and democratic path.
“The situation in Kenya is really alarming; the violence must stop and there should be a political solution. But the good news is that the negotiators are trying to help the different parties to come together,” she said.
She said her country would provide assistance to help reconcile the warring parties if the current crisis persists.
Carlson left on Friday after a two-day official visit during which she held discussions with several officials.
About 600 people have been killed in the ethnic and political unrest sparked by the announcement of President Mwai Kibaki’s re-election in the December 27 poll.
Swedish Ambassador to Rwanda Anna Brandt said on Friday: “We still strongly have hope in the negotiations going on, but Sweden will provide assistance in reconciling the two parties should the crisis continue,”
Sweden currently provides about $50 million annually to Kenya in various development sectors and project support.
Sweden’s announcement follows days of heightened anxiety following the collapse of efforts by Ghanaian President John Kufuor, who is also African Union chairman, to bring President Kibaki and Raila Odinga, to the negotiating table.
Some of Africa’s prominent personalities led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, are expected to visit the country soon to mediate the talks.
Meanwhile, the US has issued a diplomatic warning to Kenya, saying it will stop conducting “business as usual” if the current political crisis persists.
However, it was not immediately known what changes or action the US was considering, as its diplomatic relations with Kenya are so far intact.
A statement by US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Dr Jendayi Frazer, also called on the government to restore the public’s right to assembly and media freedom.
This seemed to be an indirect reference to the government’s reluctance to lift the ban on live television coverage which has attracted worldwide condemnation and its refusal to permit countrywide protest rallies called by Raila’s ODM.
Also, the UN has warned up to 500,000 people in Kenya will need humanitarian assistance in the weeks ahead if the country’s political crisis intensifies.
The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said 255,000 had been forced from their homes and that malnutrition was now a growing risk. Earlier, the main opposition party said it would resume its nationwide campaign of mass demonstrations this week.
Kenyan police said they would not allow the three days of protests to go ahead.
Meanwhile, the first sitting of Kenya’s newly elected parliament tomorrow is expected to be a stormy affair as legislators face off following disputed presidential elections that threw the country into turmoil.
The political crisis in East Africa’s biggest economy has killed 500 people since President Mwai Kibaki’s re-election at December 27 polls which his rival, Raila Odinga, says were rigged.
Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) won 99 seats in parliament to 43 for Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU), meaning Kibaki will have to try to get bills approved by legislators who believe his government is illegitimate.
“It will be a battleground where all manner of wars are going to be fought,” Mutakha Kangu, a political analyst and constitutional lawyer, told Reuters.
Additional reporting by agencies