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Kenya Matters

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Following the disputed elections last December 27th in Kenya violence has flared among ethnic supporters of President Kibaki and the opposition leader Raila Odinga.

The violence thus far has been horrific - as many as 600 or more dead, and sometimes so in the most brutal of fashions. A quarter million people have become refugees.

Though it's easy to think so, Kenya is not just another African country where people are being killed. It's not just another distant place where those ethnic groups can't get along.

There is not a country on earth whose people don't deserve to be free and safe. But Kenya, in particular, does matter.

Despite the current unrest, Kenya was one of Africa's more politically-stable nations. It was ranked 15th among 48 ranked African countries in the Mo Ibrahim good governance index. This, no matter the challenges of pressing unemployment and abject poverty. And though it struggles, Kenya has also been heralded as a leading light in the peace processes in both Somalia and the Sudan.

So, then, a stable Kenya very much supports stability in East Africa.

Chaos and displaced individuals are already spilling into neighboring Uganda whose military is currently overstretched with peacekeeping duties in Somalia.

The fates of these countries are all intertwined.

But these countries, as said, tend to be thought of as just a far off place with fighting tribes.

To its credit the administration is doing perhaps the best it can at the moment. Jendayi Frazer, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, is trying to broker some kind of agreement between the two sides. But as there is no guarantee an agreement can be reached, diplomatic as well as public pressure must be maintained. Both Kibaki and Odinga as well as their supporters must know that America and the world are watching and involved. It is doubly important because at this point, prior to the nation devolving into a civil war, diplomacy can still carry the day. By taking the lead America can not only save lives and maintain order, but also regain some of the moral authority it has ceded over the last few years.

In all regards, Kenya matters.