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Kenyans Select President, But Opponent Vows Fight


I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, we will talk about the Reverend Al reboot - Reverend Al Sharpton, that is. For some people he's still just a loud-mouth provocateur, but for others he's become a trusted analyst, activist, and ally. NPR correspondent Corey Dade recently spent a very busy day with him and he'll tell us what he found out in just a few minutes.

But first to politics overseas. Kenya has a new president-elect. Uhuru Kenyatta, was declared the winner of the latest presidential elections over the weekend.


PRESIDENT-ELECT UHURU KENYATTA: My fellow Kenyans, today we celebrate the triumph of democracy. The triumph of peace. The triumph of nationhood. Despite the misgivings of many in the world, we have demonstrated a level of political maturity that surpassed expectations.

MARTIN: The country's election board says Kenyatta got 50.07 percent of the vote. That's just above the threshold to avoid a run-off. His leading rival, Raila Odinga, the current prime minister, says he will fight the result in court. We wanted to hear more about this so we have called Jendayi Frazer. She is the former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. She served in that role in the George W. Bush administration. She also served as U.S. ambassador to South Africa.

She's been considered the leading architect of U.S. policy toward African over the last decade. She's now a distinguished professor at Carnegie Mellon University and she's with us once again. Welcome back to the program, Ambassador. Thank you so much for joining us.

JENDAYI FRAZER: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: So Mr. Kenyatta is obviously a very famous name as the son of Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of Kenya after independence from Britain, but who is he in his own right? And what was the basis of his candidacy, besides his famous name?

FRAZER: Well, he's been in politics for quite some time. He ran for the presidency of Kenya in 2002 and lost overwhelmingly to Mwaie Kibaki and then went into the opposition. In this grand coalition government that's just coming out of government, he was the finance minister and the deputy prime minister. And so for at least 10 or more years he's been doing politics. He's also quite a successful businessman in Kenya.

MARTIN: He's been described as Kenya's richest man.

FRAZER: That's what people have said. I don't know what his wealth is, but Forbes recently had him on its list of, you know, millionaires and basically labeled him that. And then they said, well, actually it's his family's wealth, not his personally, and so they took him off the list.

MARTIN: OK. Many people may remember that the last election cycle in Kenya was marred by, you know, terrible street violence which was believed to have been sparked by disputed election results. Many people may remember that you traveled there shortly after the election to try to help negotiate a conclusion to this after Bishop Desmond - Archbishop Desmond Tutu was there, of South Africa, for example.

Mr. Kenyatta is facing charges at the International Criminal Court which accuses him of participating in this, or paying for, fomenting some of this violence or being behind some of this violence. Now, the trial was delayed because of the election, but what is your take on this?

FRAZER: Well, I was quite surprised, frankly, about the original indictment because, as you said, I was there right at the beginning of January 2008 and was dealing with both sides - that of Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki, which Uhuru was part of that side. And throughout my negotiations with them and working with him, he never advocated any violence and in fact was very concerned about the violence that was taking place from the opposition side.

And he felt that we needed to put more attention on stopping that violence than anything else. Of course we said no, we have to stop the violence but we also have to get a process in place in which the determination of this election can be decided. Because Kenya's institutions at that time had essentially failed and the independent electoral commission said they didn't know who won.

MARTIN: Now, I know you don't speak for the International Criminal Court, but what's the basis of their case then? And what's your opinion of it?

FRAZER: Well, their case - the case that they make is that Uhuru Kenyatta was at a meeting at state house in which they planned to use the mungiki, which is a criminal gang, to either protect kikuyus who were being attacked or to do reprisal attacks. Now, the case has fallen apart and I say that because it's always been based on hearsay.

And then there was this witness number four who was supposed to be an eyewitness to the events that took place in this supposed meeting. Now the prosecutor just yesterday dismissed the case of one of the co-conspirators and essentially said that this witness number four had lied, was changing his testimony, and perhaps had taken bribes - or she actually said he had taken bribes.

And so she is now - of the three people who were charged with being in as part of this conspiracy - Uhuru, the former police chief, and the former head of the civil service - they've dismissed the case of two and left the case of Uhuru Kenyatta. And so it's an extremely weak case.

MARTIN: You've said publicly you think it's based on hearsay; it's a very weak case. But it seems that the person who succeeded you at the State Department, the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson - who's announced his resignation; he's moving on to return to private life - seemed to suggest kind of - or intimate that Kenyatta was a flawed candidate. And one assumes it's because of this. Why do you think there's such a difference of opinion about this?

FRAZER: Well, he definitely did say to the Kenyan people prior to their election that they should watch who they vote for because votes have consequences. And that was on the heels of the European Union and the U.K. envoys essentially saying the same thing, which is don't vote for Uhuru Kenyatta. I really don't understand because, you know, the case is there to be seen by anybody. It's fairly open. You can see that the witnesses are primarily hearsay witnesses.

Except for this one supposed eyewitness. They've essentially judged him as guilty when in fact his fundamental rights are that he's innocent until proven guilty. And it's irresponsible, frankly, for western countries or any foreign country to try to influence the vote of an electorate, you know, by claiming that someone is not worthy when they haven't been proven guilty.

MARTIN: You know, to that end - and if you're just joining us, we are speaking with Ambassador Jendayi Frazer. She is a former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, a former ambassador to South Africa appointed under the George W. Bush administration. She's now a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. We're talking about elections in Kenya.

To that end, did the stance of the U.S. and European countries become a factor in the elections? I mean one of the points that many commentators have noticed is that this seemed to be kind of a moment for Kenyans to kind of assert themselves on the national stage. Was that - and of course, obviously, there was a sense of concern that there was not - that there would not be a repeat of the previous violence.

But do you think that this kind of stance became a factor in the campaign?

FRAZER: Well, I think it potentially strengthened the resolve of those who already supported Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto. It may have swung some undecided votes their way, but really this election was won in the registration process, from everything that I understand. The Jubilee Coalition, which is that of Uhuru Kenyatta's, apparently did a much better job actually getting people to register to vote and then getting out the vote.

Now, maybe some would have not come out except for the West was essentially telling them how they should vote and they felt determined to assert their sovereignty under their new institutions. And so it could have been a factor for sure, but I think that the ground game, really, of Uhuru Kenyatta and his coalition was just better than the Court Coalition led by Raila Odinga.

MARTIN: Just very briefly, do you feel that, you know, Raila Odinga says that he will challenge these results. These were razor thin. You know, we've certainly had razor thin elections in this country. That's the election that brought George W. Bush to power, was one that people were very angry about for quite some time. It was similarly close and decided by the Supreme Court. Is there merit to the challenge? And do you think that these results could be disputed?

And there's also some talk about whether the color coding ballots were a factor here because it turns out that a significant percentage of the population is color blind.


FRAZER: Right. Well, I think, first of all, that Uhuru Kenyatta beat Raila Odinga by more than 800,000 votes. It's a constitutional requirement that you get more than 50 percent, and he did get that 50 percent by razor thin, but his victory was fairly decisive in terms of the actual vote.

Now, Raila has a right to go to court, but what I would say about the case is that the European Union, the Commonwealth, the African Union all judged this election to be free, fair and credible. There was a parallel vote tabulation by civil society groups, religious leaders and others, who also judged the vote to be credible and then African civil society groups said the same - the vote was credible, free and fair.

And so it's not uncommon for the loser to claim that they - you know, they lost through rigging. I think it's a problem though. I think it's not a problem for him to go to court, but I think he needs to put in check his lieutenants who are running around saying that there was massive rigging and basically defaming the independent electoral boundary commission.

MARTIN: Finally, in the time that we have left, let's assume that the election will be upheld as valid. What are Uhuru Kenyatta's main challenges? What does he need to do in the next 100 days? What's he promising to do as Kenya's next president?

FRAZER: Well, he certainly needs to have national healing and reach out because the vote was very much based on ethnicity, which many say is very unfortunate, so he's going to have to reach out to those who lost and make sure that he is the president of all Kenyans, not just particular ethnic groups. And I think he knows that. There's national healing. There's still the aftermath of the 2007 elections. There are issues about people who are still displaced. People still want some system of justice to happen. He's going - so that'll be an important challenge.

Secondly, he's going to have to continue to grow. Kenya's economy is actually doing quite well. They have oil coming onboard. There's major efforts towards greater transparency and a lack of corruption in that system, and so the management of the economy, especially its role within the East Africa community, will be extremely important challenges for him.

MARTIN: Jendayi Frazer is the former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the George W. Bush administration. She also served as ambassador, U.S. ambassador, to South Africa. She's now a distinguished public service professor at Carnegie Mellon University and she was kind enough to join us here in our Washington, D.C. studios.

Ambassador, thank you so much for speaking with us once again.

FRAZER: Thank you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.