Tuesday, September 29, 2009



By Jerry Okungu
September 29, 2009

I have never liked the slow pace of reforms promised to Kenyans soon after Kofi Annan negotiated the present coalition government. The lackluster performance of reform drivers has got every knowledgeable Kenyan let alone the European Union and the United States State Department worrying.

Be that as it may, I have never liked the haughty and abrasive manner with which the American Ambassador, Michael Ranneberger has been conducting his diplomacy on Kenyan soil. I sometimes wonder whether the meaning of the word “diplomat” has changed with time or whether when it comes to diplomatic etiquette, Americans have their own set of rules that allows them to basically insult and abuse their host country Kenya at will.

Let us face the naked truth here. The reason Kenyans are weary of this coalition when it comes to promises that it has never fulfilled in the recent past. First, both PNU and ODM promised their electorate that there would be a new constitution in the first six months if either of the won the elections.

When both failed to out-rightly win the elections, circumstances which we understand very well, they jointly promised us a new constitution within the first 12 months of the coalition. Two years into the coalition regime, there are no signs that we will have this important document any time soon. If anything, cracks have begun to appear among the Panel of Experts along partisan lines indicating that when the draft is finally presented to the public, chances are that dissidents within the Panel will disown it and put spanners into the works.

Yes, most of the agenda items in the Annan document seem to have been tackled with little concrete results that one can talk of two years later. As I write this article, yes, the old ECK was disbanded and a new leaner body of nine commissioners is in place. However, an electoral commission that operates without a national register of voters is a moribund organization. It cannot be useful in the event of snap national elections. More importantly, it would appear like its two year mandate will elapse before it puts new structures in place. If that happens, the interim body may just be a “permanent” commission.

Yes, we have a Boundaries Review Commission in place to review all district, provincial and constituency boundaries. However, this body has been rendered worthless by the activities of the Executive that has been on a district creation spree. Just this year alone, more than 100 districts have been created by sheer pronouncements of the President whenever he visits various parts of the country. The fact that today Kenyans have more districts than constituencies just goes to show that we are not serious about reforms and good governance that we are fond of talking about.

Yes, the coalition has put in place the TJRC, however the controversial appointment of its chairman, a man believed by many to belong to the witness box before such a body puts into question the sincerity of the appointing authority. When looked together with the controversial reappointment of the KACC chief, one may be forgiven for thinking that Kenya is joking with its own reforms.

Our failure to amend the constitution to create a special tribunal to try the masterminds and perpetrators of political thuggery was a clear indication that both principals had lost control of their troops in Parliament. It was a clear indication that the warlords that caused Kenya more pain and misery were holding the country to ransom and that justice for the little man and woman in Kenya would never be realized in the life of this regime.

Having said that; it is my considered opinion that despite all the weaknesses of this regime, America cannot justify the ranting of its ambassador in this country.

Ambassadors the world over are posted to specific missions with specific mandates and codes of conduct. One of these mandates is definitely not to police the host government no matter how poor or rotten it is. If a foreign government feels very strongly that the host country has failed beyond redemption that the best option is to close its embassy and pull out of the host country. It cannot afford to engage in a shouting match with its host. It is just not the right thing to do.

The problem between Obama and Kibaki now is the culmination of bad advisors surrounding both leaders. Obviously the American ambassador in Kenya and his predecessor has not done a good job. They have misunderstood their briefs. They have turned into bullies rather than diplomats. On the other hand, Kenyan advisors surrounding Kibaki have instead of giving him good counsel that would have made him come out looking better than Obama in the brawl, have used him as a prize fighter and thrown him into the ring to fight a duel he cannot win.

Good counsel would have advised Kibaki to detail Wetangula to deal with the State Department. They didn’t and therefore they should be fired as Kibaki asks Obama to replace Ranneberger with immediate effect.

Finally, Michael Ranneberger is lucky to be in Kenya. Had we been Nigerians, Libyans, Rwandans or Zimbabweans, he would have been declared persona no grata even at the risk of American bombs raining from our skies!