Saturday, September 26, 2009




Cabinet ministers, MPs, AG and PSs are among the 15 leaders who got Obama letters
The US government on Thursday threatened to impose a visa ban on 15 top government officials and block aid to the country.

The officials have received letters from the US government applying pressure on them to back reforms and renounce violence.

Civil service boss Francis Muthaura, Deputy PM Uhuru Kenyatta and Cabinet Ministers William Ruto, Franklin Bett and Mutula Kilonzo have been given letters from President Barack Obama’s Africa advisor, Mr Johnnie Carson.

Veiled threat

Although the US government did not disclose the names of those facing sanctions, the Nation learnt that they also included joint chief whips George Thuo and Jakoyo Midiwo, Environment Minister John Michuki and Internal Security Minister George Saitoti.

Making what may be seen as a veiled threat, the letter says that their future relationship with the US will be directly “tied to their support for implementation of the reform agenda and opposition to the use of violence”.

For some of those targeted, it could be because their official posts place them in a position to influence the pace of reforms.

At the same time, the US government maintains its demand for the removal of Attorney-General Amos Wako and Chief Justice Evan Gicheru, according to ambassador Michael Ranneberger.

The Obama administration said the 15 risked facing travel bans on themselves and their families.

The US also announced that Kenya’s efforts to borrow from international financial institutions will be “closely scrutinised”, possibly an insinuation that the US could block funds to Kenya.

Crucial role

Announcing the strong measures, Mr Ranneberger said the Obama administration had already sent letters to the affected individuals “making clear that the future relationship of those persons with the United States is tied to their support for implementation of the reform agenda and opposition to the use of violence.
While not naming the 15, Mr Ranneberger said ministers, MPs, permanent secretaries, and other prominent officials are among those receiving letters,” he said.

He said both ODM and PNU had about a similar number of people who got the letters, whose contents the Nation published on Thursday.

Government spokesman Alfred Mutua, however, refused to comment on the warnings only saying: “We do not respond to activism diplomacy.”

Mr Wako could have been included because his office is expected to play a crucial role in the implementation of reforms as top legal government advisor while Mr Muthaura’s office is crucial in ensuring ministers adhere to the rule of collective responsibility.

Mr Kilonzo’s ministry is crucial in spearheading the reform agenda including judicial reforms while police falls in Prof Saitoti’s docket. Mr Thuo and Mr Midiwo are important in whipping MPs from both sides of the political divide to support reform.

Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto might have been included in the list because of the political influence they have especially in their respective regions.

Mr Michuki and Mr Bett are also influential and their political stance sways many.

Mr Ranneberger said that those named in the letters were not “criminals” but “people who can help bring change.” He said after receiving the letters, some of the individuals had called him asking how they could support the reforms.

The letter that was sent to the 15 persons states in part: “I am writing to you to inform you that your future relationship with the United States is directly linked to the degree of your support for urgent implementation of the reform agenda as well as clear opposition to the use of violence.’’

Key reforms demanded by the US include: “Decisive, bold anti-corruption steps, reforms to ensure the rule of law, police reform, judicial reform, reforms of the Attorney General’s office, meaningful constitutional revision, accountability for perpetrators of post-election violence, land reform including adoption of a national policy and implementation of it and establishment of a permanent independent electoral commission.’’

These reforms fall under Agenda Four, which is part of the national reconciliation accord signed by the two principals — President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga — in the deal that ended the election violence early last year.

On Thursday, the envoy said the US was impressed that police reform was “moving ahead.’
He also said the US still stands with its call for the sacking of Mr Wako and Justice Gicheru.

The envoy described Mr Odinga and President Kibaki as reformists and patriots, but regretted that some of their supporters were not for urgent changes.

Majority shares

On the threat to block loans to Kenya, the US has the capacity to make good as it has controlling interests at the two main lending institutions — the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The US traditionally appoints the head of the World Bank while the head of the IMF, where the US has majority shares, is always a European. Both institutions are based in Washington.

Mr Kilonzo confirmed receiving the letter, saying: “Yes, good letter, very encouraging. I thank Ambassador Carson for it.”

Mr Bett said he had not received any letter from the US.

“...I have no constituency in the US. I am not a subject of Obama. I have a similar relationship with them by way of God,” he said.