Biden gives Kenya thumbs up

2010-06-08 15:01
Nairobi - US Vice-President Joe Biden on Tuesday praised Kenya's leaders for mending their differences and furthering reforms, which he promised would bring more US support.

Washington had in recent months applied unprecedented pressure on its top regional ally Kenya to overcome its political disputes and implement a reform agenda decided in the aftermath of post-election chaos more than two years ago.

"Thank you ... for making me more optimistic than I had been about the prospect of this reform occurring," Biden said after meeting Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and other cabinet members.

Kenya is to hold a referendum in August on a new constitution which, among other things, should rein in the powers of the president and had been a key demand from foreign partners.

Odinga accused Kibaki of rigging his way to re-election in the December 2007 polls before agreeing to become prime minister in a power-sharing deal sponsored by the international community.

The dispute had sparked violence that left some 1 500 dead and rattled a country considered a beacon of stability in the region and a key Western ally in the fight against terrorism.

"I must tell you I was truly impressed by the mutual cooperation between you and the prime minister ... and your mutual commitment to reform," Biden said.

Kenya's uneasy coalition had looked on the brink of collapsing earlier this year when Odinga fired two ministers only to see his decision overturned by Kibaki.

Biden said that Kenya was already the largest recipient of US support in sub-Saharan Africa and vowed that implementation of promised reforms would spur a new wave of US cash.

"Putting in place a new constitution and strengthening your democratic institutions and rule of law will further open the door to major US development programmes" and investment from US corporations," he said.

Biden, who said that "Kenya's best days are yet to come", predicted that fresh US investment in Kenya would boost confidence from other parts of the world.

The vice president arrived in Kenya on Monday, on the second leg of a tour that started in Egypt and will also take him to South Africa.

Read more on:    joe biden  |  mwai kibaki  |  raila odinga  |  kenya  |  east africa
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