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KAI RYSSDAL: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been trying to talk reconciliation with Kenyan political leaders today. More than 300 people have been killed in the wake of a disputed presidential election there this past weekend. The political violence is threatening to disrupt what had been a solid Kenyan economy. It’s the biggest and most stable in East Africa. Marketplace’s Jeff Tyler reports problems there could have far-reaching effects.
JEFF TYLER: Kenya is strategically crucial to the entire East Africa region. Its sea port and airports connect Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi to the rest of the world. Plus, many aid organizations focused on economic development are headquartered in Nairobi. While the current unrest centers around the disputed election, many observers say the real issue is the rampant corruption that has primarily benefited a select few in the president’s inner circle.
Gerald LeMelle is executive director of the advocacy group Africa Action. He says Kenya’s 6 percent economic growth is threatened.
Gerald LeMelle: We have seen strong economies fight through this kind of corruption in the past. But I think we’ve reached a boiling point in Kenya that we’ve not seen in its history. I think that a resolution is extremely important to the economic progress in Africa.
Investor confidence is also in danger. The weekly tea auction — the world’s biggest — has been postponed.
Mark Bellamy is senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former U.S. ambassador to Kenya. He says the unrest threatens the tourist industry, which brings in $900 million a year.
Mark Bellamy: A good part of the economic growth in recent years has been a result of increased tourism. And the tourist business is a fickle one, a volatile one, and I would expect that there might be some hesitation in that sector.
International human rights groups accuse Kenya’s police of violently repressing protests. Nonetheless, despite a government ban, the rival political party plans to stage a mass rally tomorrow.
I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.