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TILLERSON praises Uhuru, Raila talks on his Kenya visit

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NAIROBI (BBC) – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has praised the “positive step” taken by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his opposition rival Raila Odinga who have promised to begin a process of reconciliation following last year’s bitterly contested election.

Speaking at press conference in the capital Narobi, Mr Tillerson also stressed on the US and Kenya’s “shared fight against terrorism”, referring to Kenyan troops serving in Somalia.

And he said he was “looking forward to more opportunities to trade” with Kenya.

Mr Tillerson, however, critised Kenya for “shutting down TV stations” – referring to the authorities’ decision to take television channels off air at the end of January to prevent them from airing Raila Odinga’s mock swearing-in ceremony as “people’s president”.

He also told the Kenyan government that it should not threaten the courts.

Kenya talks: Pre-emptive PR stunt?

Resolving differences between Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga won’t be so easy. Kenya is sharply divided along ethnic lines because of the political stand-off.

The opposition charges of rigged elections, police brutality and state high-handedness were not mentioned – only a joint call for national dialogue.

The unexpected public appearance comes as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visits Kenya as part of his Africa tour.

In Ethiopia, he criticised the government for declaring a state of emergency. So some see this meeting as a pre-emptive public relations stunt to water down any potential dressing-down; while others have welcomed the announcement as long overdue.

Whichever explanation rings true, Kenya is headed for an intriguing second episode of political drama.

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