x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Clinton on attack in Kenya over corruption

The US secretary of state urges the Kenyan government to prosecute suspects of last year's post-election violence.

The US secretary of state, Hilary Clinton, arrives at the Kenyan International Conference Centre to open the 8th African Growth and Opportunity Act forum.
The US secretary of state, Hilary Clinton, arrives at the Kenyan International Conference Centre to open the 8th African Growth and Opportunity Act forum.

NAIROBI // Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, told Kenyan leaders yesterday that the US would not tolerate corruption and impunity and urged the government to prosecute suspects of last year's post-election violence. The top American diplomat met with Mwai Kibaki, the president, and Raila Odinga, the prime minister, and discussed a wide range of issues from Kenya's deteriorating coalition government to American trade with Africa to the troubles in the restive Horn of Africa. Mrs Clinton spoke on the first day of a seven-nation tour of Africa that was supposed to highlight America's commitment to Africa. She pledged American support to develop Africa through trade agreements, and then pivoted to deal with Kenya's culture of impunity among politicians. In harshly worded remarks at a press conference after her meeting with Kenyan leaders, Mrs Clinton chided the government for failing to implement key reforms. "The absence of strong, effective democratic institutions has permitted ongoing corruption, impunity, politically motivated violence, human rights abuses and a lack of respect for the rule of law," she said. "These conditions helped fuel the post-election violence and they are continuing to hold Kenya back." Kenya erupted into violence after last year's disputed presidential election. An independent commission recommended that the government set up a special tribunal to try the political leaders accused of masterminding the bloodshed that killed 1,300 people. But parliament refused to create a special court and said suspects will be prosecuted in the existing legal system. The International Criminal Court received a list of suspects, but so far has not opened an investigation into Kenya's case. Before Mrs Clinton arrived on Tuesday evening, the US Embassy in Nairobi issued a statement encouraging politicians to set up a special tribunal. "Ensuring an independent, credible process for accountability for all forms of politically motivated violence, not to mention corruption and human rights abuses, is crucial to fighting the culture of impunity," the statement said. "Establishment of an independent local Special Tribunal, with independent investigative powers, would clearly demonstrate seriousness that has not been evident to date." In a sign of a growing rift between the US and Kenya, two historical allies, Mr Odinga, in a speech on Tuesday, said western countries should stop lecturing Kenyan leaders on good governance. "Lecturing us on issues that deal with governance and transparency is in bad taste," the prime minister said. "The continent is still recovering from an era of dictatorship and tyrannical leadership. We therefore don't need lectures on how to govern ourselves." Mrs Clinton's visit to Kenya, homeland of Barack Obama, the US president, comes just three weeks after Mr Obama visited Ghana and marks the earliest in any US administration that both the president and top diplomat have visited Africa, the state department said. Before her meeting with Kenyan leaders, the secretary of state watched a traditional Kenyan dance troupe and addressed a conference on American-African trade known as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) forum. AGOA, an American bill that allows African countries to import products to the US duty free, is designed to stimulate African industries and wean the continent off foreign aid. "Africa is capable of economic progress," she said. "In fact, one doesn't have to look far to see that Africa is ripe with opportunities, some already realised and others waiting to be seized if we are smart about how we move forward together." An entourage of 500 US officials and delegations from 39 African countries attended the conference that is designed to promote African trade. Currently, Africa makes up two per cent of global trade. A trade exhibition coinciding with the forum featured vendors from across Africa and included fabric weavers from Mali, coffee growers from Rwanda, honey makers from Senegal and gemstone dealers from Tanzania. On the sidelines of the trade forum, Mrs Clinton is scheduled to meet Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the president of Somalia's besieged transitional federal government, today in Nairobi. The US sends weapons and logistical support to the government in its war against hardline Islamic insurgents. Somalia's problems have recently spilt over into Kenya as Somali insurgents have raided Kenyan border towns and Somali refugees continue to flood camps inside Kenya. Piracy is also rife in the waters off Somalia and the north coast of Kenya. Mrs Clinton yesterday praised Kenya's handling of the Somalia problem and pledged American assistance to tackle the piracy issue. After her meetings, Mrs Clinton will leave Kenya today for South Africa. From there, she will visit Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Liberia and Cape Verde before returning to Washington next week. mbrown@thenational.ae