Kenya: Why Kibaki is angry with Obama

kenya_president_kibakiWas it a question of a cornered regime fighting back or a president defending the honour of a country under siege from its erstwhile friend?

This was the question yesterday after a furious President Kibaki (pictured) wrote to US President Barack Obama, protesting at the threat to ban 15 top government offi

“The action by the US Government official is considered out of step with international protocols in the conduct of relations between friendly nations,” read a terse statement from the Presidential Press Service.

US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger, who had earlier announced the ban, declined to comment on Kibakis protest letter. “Am not going to comment on it. I have not received it. I will wait and see what it says,” he said on phone.

He spoke as a senior PNU Minister told The Standard on Sunday that Kibaki had asked Obama to recall Ranneberger for feeding Washington with misleading information.

This is not the first time the coalition government is accusing Ranneberger of sabotage. Last month, Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga protested to US State Secretary Hilary Clinton during the Agoa talks in Nairobi. They accused the envoy of painting a wrong picture about the Government, prompting the White House to take a hard stand on Kenya even when things have not gone awry. Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua has also variously dismissed Rannebergers style as activism diplomacy.

Another source told this writer exclusively that the key message in the letter was that the continuous threats to individuals are not proper and that if the US officials have a problem, they should take it directly with the President and not individuals.

“In other words, the US should divorce the individual from government decisions, and where action must be taken, proper channels should be respected,” the source explained.

Early in the week, the US wrote to the personalities over their roles on corruption and opposition to fundamental reforms.

“It will no longer be business as usual and we want to see accelerated pace and urgency in implementation of reforms,” read the statement.

Beware anti-reformists

The Obama Administration said it was frustrated by the officials who stood in the way of reforms, encouraged impunity and were implicated in the post-election violence.

The threat is largely understood to refer to delay in implementing Agenda Four of the National Accord, which sought to address the historical injustices plaguing the country. Among them is constitutional review, reform in the police, Judiciary and Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission.

This was underscored in the State Departments letter, which read in part: “President Obama and Secretary of State have made clear their deep concerns that the key elements of the reform agenda have not been implemented.”

The US want the Government to take “bold anti-corruption steps, reforms to ensure rule of law, constitutional review, land reform and accountability for perpetrators of post-election violence.”

President Kibakis remarks come a day after Prime Minister Raila Odinga said the US Government is “totally entitled” to take action it deems appropriate against Kenyan officials.

Raila made the remarks on Thursday night at a Harvard University forum in response to a question about the Obama administrations threat to bar 15 Kenyan leaders from entering the US unless they stopped blocking political reforms.

The Canadian Government has also adopted a similar stand. A statement from its embassy in Nairobi said although there was no list, those found responsible would have travel bans imposed on them.

Raila emphasised his own commitment to ensuring accountability and due process of the law.

The Standard on Sunday

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