U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is bringing a message of tough love to Kenya: you are a key American friend in east Africa, but you must rein in graft and follow through on political reform.
On the first leg of a seven-nation tour of Africa, Clinton will speak to Kenya’s leadership about U.S. concerns for the country, the homeland of President Barack Obama’s father, in the wake of corruption scandals and disputed 2007 elections that led to violence that left more than 1,000 dead.
“We remain concerned about the trajectory of the politics in Kenya over the past two years since the flawed elections of December 2007,” Johnnie Carson, the top U.S. diplomat for Africa, told reporters aboard Clinton’s flight to Nairobi on Tuesday.
Clinton will make that point when she sees Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and former opposition leader now Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Wednesday, he said.
Chief among her worries is that a deal brokered by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan between the rivals has not been fully implemented.
“It is important for Kenya to move forward with the constitutional, judicial, police and land reform requirements that were part of the Kofi Annan agreement,” Carson said. “Implementation of those agreements has been slow and in some ways frustrating.”
“The secretary wants to encourage the full implementation of the agreements, especially those elements of the agreement that deal with impunity and holding those individuals responsible for the violence accountable under law,” he said.
Just hours before Clinton arrived, the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi criticized Kenya for deciding to use discredited local courts to try the suspects behind the violence. It said the move would call into question whether there is any will to carry out reforms.
“The United States will stand firmly behind the Kenyan people as they insist on full implementation of the reform agenda,” the embassy said in a statement, hinting at potential sanctions against those who oppose that agenda.
“We will take the necessary steps to hold accountable those who do not support the reform agenda or who support violence,” it said.
Last week, the Kenyan government said it would try suspects accused of perpetrating the violence in local courts, which have a backlog of hundreds of thousands of cases and have a reputation for corruption.
The government said it will accelerate reforms in the judiciary to ensure credible trials but the decision has already drawn heavy domestic criticism.
Several human rights bodies blamed businessmen and politicians in the current administration for orchestrating the violence, which was the worst since Kenya gained independence from Britain in 1963.
An independent commission that investigated the violence recommended last year that the government form an independent tribunal with Kenyan and foreign judges to try the suspects, arguing that Kenyan courts are not credible.
Also in Nairobi, Clinton will address an African trade forum and pledge continuing support to the beleaguered president of lawless Somalia’s interim government, which is embroiled in a struggle with Islamist extremists with suspected links to al-Qaida.
From Kenya, Clinton on her first trip to Africa as secretary of state, will travel to South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Liberia and Cape Verde.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.