Michael Ranneberger: US Will Still Pursue Reform Saboteurs - The Star

Kenyans are expressing profound concerns about whether the country is headed toward another crisis in the lead-up to the 2012 elections.

Kenyans share both these concerns and an intelligent appreciation of what must be done to avert a crisis: full implementation of the reform agenda to which the coalition government committed itself.

The progress — or lack of it — of implementation of the reforms and what can be done to encourage and support implementation are, therefore, the most urgent issues facing the nation. Kenya is at a crossroads.

The reform process is the most urgent issue for the international community's relations with Kenya, because the United States wants to see a stable and prosperous democratic future for Kenya.

President Obama knows the impressive quality of the people and the great potential of this country. That is why he is pushing hard to ensure that Kenyans seize the opportunity, opened up by the crisis last year, to bring about fundamental change.

We will not relent.

The culture of impunity has hung like a dark cloud over Kenya, retarding growth. But Kenyans and foreign observers alike can all see that Kenya is at such a turning point. I believe Kenyans are determined to end the culture of impunity and launch a process of fundamental change. At the same time, I know that there are strong and influential vested interests which are fighting against change through political manipulation and corruption, through intimidation, and even through violence.

That is why it is essential to encourage people to press their leaders — and the entire political class — to move rapidly to implement the reform agenda.

The coalition government has carried out some positive steps on reform. Perhaps most importantly, the government has signalled its intention to implement far-reaching police reform, and has begun the process by changing the police leadership. This, coupled with the resignation of the director of the Kenyan Anti-Corruption Commission, opens the possibility for real reform.

The most important reforms that are needed to end the culture of impunity and to ensure future democratic stability and prosperity have either not been implemented or are moving at an alarmingly slow pace which mitigates in favour of the status quo.
  1. No steps have been taken to hold accountable the principal perpetrators of 2008 violence.
  2. Decisive, bold steps against corruption have not been launched.
  3. Far-reaching judicial reform has not been undertaken.
  4. The Attorney General's office remains an obstacle to effective anti-corruption efforts.
  5. The constitutional revision process is moving slowly and could prove disastrously divisive unless the coalition partners co¬operate to support key changes.
We continue to urge that a credible independent special tribunal be established and that Kenya fully cooperates with the International Criminal Court to prosecute post-election violence suspects.

Today, I reiterate the calls of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama for Kenya's leadership to listen to the voices of its people and to undertake implementation of the key reforms I have listed above with a greater sense of urgency.

Our efforts to press for implementation of reforms are both private and public. Privately, we are maintaining intensive dialogue with the coalition leadership, MPs, and actors across the political, social, and economic landscape.

That dialogue is frank and constructive. Publicly, we are continuing to encourage the people to press peacefully for implementation of reforms.

Our efforts include intensified outreach to MPs; support for independent grassroots youth organisations; and intensified contacts with civil society, the private sector, the media, and religious organisations, to name only a few.

In the coming weeks we will be announcing new initiatives to expand this engagement: through increased support for grassroots youth organisations, empowerment of women, increased support for reform-minded MPs, and expanded dialogue with civil society.

Clinton and Obama have both said we will not do business as usual with those who do not support reform or who support violence.

Thus, earlier this week assistant secretary for African affairs Johnnie Carson announced the US has imposed a visa ban on a senior government official, and that we are considering a number of such visa bans.

We will take additional actions if the reform agenda does not move forward.

Today we can see a growing awareness by Kenyans of the need for change, and dynamics shifting in the direction of reform. Kenya has no greater relationship than with the US, and thus we have a great responsibility to engage to our utmost to help Kenyans build a stable democratic future.

Ranneberger is the US Ambassador to Kenya

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