How US Threats Worked on Raila, Kibaki

The make or break historical political deal between President Kibaki and Raila Odinga was arrived at last week due to a combination of factors with the full might of international pressure brought to bear by the US Government.

After weeks of intense negotiations led by former UN secretary general Koffi Annan, the peace talks that had appeared to be proceeding well suddenly took a sudden about-turn and appeared to tether on the brink of collapse with PNU tabling fresh terms to its ODM protagonist. When Koffi Annan announced he had suspended the talks due to irreconcilable differences and was seeking audience with the principals the hearts of many Kenyans sunk, and a furious US through its secretary of state Condoleezza Rice warned of “severe consequences if the talks collapsed.”

According to sources within the international diplomatic fraternity in Nairobi, soft diplomacy was overnight replaced by what amounted to strong-arm tactics some will term outright blackmail when it became apparent that the Koffi Annan-led talks were headed for the iceberg.

Within minutes of leaving the meeting hall where tampers had flared forcing Annan to suspend the dialogue, Annan called US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and gave her the bad news. So alarmed by the sudden turn of events was Rice that she took time off from her busy schedule in China and read riot act to Raila and Kibaki. “There can be no excuse for violence, and those responsible must be held responsible,” she said and added that US was exploring a wide range of possible actions.

But even as she spoke military watchers familiar with US naval patrols in international waters say the giant USS Porter cruise ship docked in Yemen and was understood to have started preparing for a possible adventure in East Africa through the Red Sea similar to the Liberian scenario some years back when US marines virtually plucked him out of power.

The US military option not overtly stated appeared to have been underscored by British prime minister Gordon Brown when he proposed that the Kenya Army may have to intervene to stop the violence if the talks collapsed especially to avert a bloodshed from militia reported to have been arming themselves on both sides of the political divide.

Assistant Secretary of African Affairs Jendayi Frazer in an earlier message to Kibaki and Odinga had warned that the US could impose a solution on the country if the two sides failed to agree rather than see the country go the Rwanda way.

When the range of possible actions reached Kibaki and Raila via sealed letters which only the two were supposed to open and see, the two were reportedly frightened out of their wits and frantically sought each other to reach a truce rather than face the threatened consequences. The letters reportedly warned the two that they would not only lose any possibility of getting political power but would also have their own personal fortunes and freedom curtailed.

They were asked to choose between losing all power or have half of it. Details of how America would have done that are still emerging with political watchers agreed that faced with a choice of seeing Kenya a strategic western ally against the war on terror in East and Central Africa go to the dogs, America would have encouraged an armed intervention and installment of acceptable government in Nairobi. The fact that only the other day a cruise ship docked in Mombasa with the presence of marines very much evident, analysts say the point was driven home, agree on a truce or be forced out.

A cruise ship docking in Mombasa would act as a physical threat to the negotiating teams that failure was not an option to be entertained. Rice letter to Kibaki reportedly demanded: Do you know a man by the name of Saddam Hussein? Are you as half as powerful as he was? At least Saddam had a rat hole to hide. Do you have one? Saddam was not only ousted out of power but has since been hanged.

Apart from this, Rice also warned Kibaki that he would have to forget about his bank accounts or any investments abroad as they would be frozen. The president who had assumed a rather rigid stance saying any negotiated settlement must be within the constitution, was also warned that he would be held personally responsible for killings that would follow collapsed talks and reminded that there are empty cells in The Hague where former Liberian strongman Charles Taylor is now cooling his heels. Most likely they would be charged with crimes against humanity if the political hardliners drove the country into total anarchy.

The contents of the letter to Raila are said to have been similar to Kibaki’s but did not mention about the bank accounts and the responsibility for the killings. As it is turning out, the American government is even more versed with going on in Kenya than Kenyan themselves as shown by a report on the current crisis as presented to the Congress.

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