Sustaining Kenya on its
March 9, 2008
On Saturday night the United States Ambassador Michael
Ranneberger addressed the Law Society of Kenya. Here are excerpts
from his speech on the way forward for Kenya:
I am proud that the United States stood shoulder-to-shoulder with
Kenya in its darkest hour, at times pushing both sides harder than
they wanted to be pushed, because that is what a real friend does.
In that same spirit of friendship, let me offer my thoughts on the
steps that need to be taken quickly in order to maintain momentum.
First, President Kibaki and Mr Raila Odinga must work together
effectively to put in place the coalition government in a way that
reflects the letter and spirit of the agreements signed.
Government positions must be equitably shared but, even more
importantly, immediate steps must be taken to carry through with
the ambitious reform and national policy agendas, particularly
with respect to constitutional, electoral, and land reform.
Second, a transparent process must be put in place to begin work
on the reform agenda, to be completed within a designated
timeframe. Work on the reform agenda needs to be inclusive,
particularly through consultation with civil society.
Third, Parliament must quickly pass the necessary legislation to
make the coalition structure legal and constitutional. Let us not
forget that well over 60 per cent of all sitting MPs are newcomers
who are being asked, without the benefit of orientation or
training, to implement some of the most important legislation in
Kenya’s history, and then to deal with sweeping and long overdue
The dynamic leadership of the Speaker, Mr Kenneth Marende and the
political will — and goodwill — of parliamentary leaders will be
required to move forward quickly.
Fourth, political leaders, elders, and the respected personalities
of Kenyan society from the top down must cooperate to send
unequivocal messages on the importance of rapid reconciliation
between communities and individuals. I urge President Kibaki and
Mr Odinga to undertake joint visits to encourage reconciliation,
and to lead by example.
Fifth, urgent practical steps must be taken to advance the process
of reconciliation by helping the country deal with the havoc
wreaked during the crisis. This includes returning people to their
homes in conditions of peace and safety as quickly as possible,
and restoring their livelihoods.
While returns must be voluntary, the right of every Kenyan to live
and to own property anywhere in the country must be assured.
Returning displaced to their so-called "ancestral homelands" is
not a viable option politically, socially, or economically.
Diversity is one of this country’s greatest strengths and it must
be cherished. If people cannot return to their homes, it will
validate violence and weaken the fabric of the nation. At the same
time, appropriate assistance should be provided for all areas of
the country affected by violence. Sixth, steps to promote
reconciliation must include establishing a legally independent
Peace, Truth, and Justice Commission and holding those responsible
accountable under the law.
Kenyans are giving real meaning to my favourite verse in your
national anthem: Haki iwe ngao na mlinzi (Justice be our shield
One of the most important results of the mediation process was
agreement to examine Kenya’s history of violence and the
long-stranding grievances, which fuel it. The proposed Peace,
Truth, and Justice Commission must provide a meaningful channel
for Kenyans to address both recent and historical injustices.
In conjunction with Kenya’s criminal courts, this process must
determine what happened during the recent violence and hold to
account those who organised, financed, and perpetrated the
Land issues are the basis of many of the long-standing grievances
and the causes of violence. Instituting a process of land reform
will be critical to fostering reconciliation and building
long-term peace in Kenya.
Seventh, the Independent Review Commission charged with
investigating the conduct of the 2007 general elections must
credibly complete its work within the proposed timeframe. Chain of
custody issues make it highly likely that we will never know what
the actual vote was, but determining where and how the electoral
system broke down is vitally important to fixing it and restoring
Kenyans’ confidence in the democratic system.
Eighth, the crisis put into sharp relief the plight of youth, and
that problem must be addressed. The massive unemployment among
youth provided fuel for violence. A national youth agenda needs to
expand vocational training and employment.
Ninth, concerted efforts must be made to get the economy back on
Only an inclusive process can turn the crisis that the country
experienced into an opportunity. It will be up to you and to all
Kenyans to insist that this be the case.
President Kibaki and Mr Odinga have found the political will to
share power within a "grand coalition" government. How long this
political will endures depends entirely on whether Kenyans take
immediate and decisive advantage of the momentum at hand. Kenya
has a finite window of time to address an ambitious reform agenda.
Perhaps the most important item on the reform agenda is
constitutional change. Kenyans relentlessly debated almost every
salient issue during the 2005 referendum, and did so after a broad
consultative process. This shared national experience should give
Kenya’s new parliamentary leaders a running start on resolving
even the most difficult issues at hand.
The Law Society of Kenya’s Constitutional Law Committee Report of
2006 makes it perfectly clear, however, that — this time —
constitutional reform must be gotten right. In the report, you
said: "The ramifications of the failed 2005 referendum … was a
national catastrophe in which everybody lost. Billions of
shillings of public money set aside for the constitutional review
process were lost…. And worst of all, we emerged from the
referendum a nation severely torn by ethnic balkanization."
Obviously, the stakes are an order of magnitude higher today.
There can be no second failure.
While the current political accord justifiably focuses primarily
on constitutional, electoral, and land reform, it is important not
to loose sight of other pressing issues which must be addressed.
These include intensified and more effective efforts to combat
corruption; continued liberalisation of the economic sector; and
promoting gender equity, among others.
There is an urgent need for reform in the judicial sector as has
been made clear by the Chief Justice himself. This will require
providing more resources for the judiciary, tackling judicial
corruption by ensuring transparency and accountability, and making
judicial proceeding more efficient and open. With an efficient,
transparent and non-partisan justice system, Kenyans will no
longer feel forced to take the law into their own hands. I salute
the LSK’s leadership in the fight for legal and judicial reform.
Experience similar crisis
The fact that Kenya has experienced such a fundamental crisis does
not mean that the democratic progress made during the past five
years was an illusion or that in some way Kenya is a fundamentally
Almost all democracies have experienced crises of similar or
greater magnitude. Our own experience as Americans helps us
understand what transpired here.
The experience of the Great Depression in my country exemplifies
how a galvanised political leadership, sharing a unity of purpose,
can move an entire country from fear and misery to prosperity and
Assuming the presidency almost 75 years ago to this very day and
at the depth of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt
vividly described the America he saw at the time of his
inauguration: "The withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on
every side, farmers find no markets for their produce, the savings
of many years in thousands of families are gone. More important, a
host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence,
and an equally great number toil with little return."
When President Roosevelt memorably went on to state that, "the
only thing we have to fear … is fear itself," he was really asking
Americans to have faith in their government and — most especially
— in each other. Capitalising on broad support from Republicans
and Democrats alike, FDR passed an extraordinary amount of
legislation during his first 100 days in office. The New Deal, as
it became known, reformed the very fabric of American business and
society. The New Deal created jobs, including through a National
Youth Administration. It included passage of sweeping farm and
ranch policies. The New Deal transformed our nation, and America
emerged from a profound crisis with stronger institutions.
Another American experience also exemplifies how crisis can be
turned into opportunity for national renewal. After the Reverend
Dr Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, many of the
largest US cities erupted into violence. This became so serious
that military forces had to be deployed to restore order. The
assassination was the spark that set off the riots, but the
violence reflected the anger of the black population of the United
States regarding underlying grievances not resolved since the
Civil War 100 years before.
Once again, Americans rose to the challenge and seized the
opportunity for fundamental change. Poverty programmes were
expanded, urban problems were addressed, the inner cities were
rebuilt, and civil rights legislation was passed. As a result, our
country again emerged with stronger institutions, a stronger
economy, and a more inclusive society.
Kenya, the US, and the Global Community
The extraordinary amount of attention Kenya received during the
crisis reflects its importance in the regional and global context.
The crisis demonstrated that Kenyan stability is critical to the
economies and the stability of the entire region. Kenya is home to
the most effective peacekeeping training facility in the region.
Kenya’s leadership on Sudan directly led to the Comprehensive
The Nairobi Accord helped the governments of Democratic Republic
of Congo and Rwanda adopt a common approach toward eliminating the
threat posed by rebel forces. Bringing stability to Somalia
requires Kenyan influence and assistance.
Kenya is now uniquely positioned to show the region and the world
that through dialogue and a commitment to reform it is possible to
rise above political crisis and come out even stronger than before.
Earlier this week I met separately with President Kibaki and Mr
Raila to discuss the way forward. As a result of those
conversations, I am convinced that both men understand the
opportunity at hand. They recognise that the seeds of Kenya’s
future must be planted now, and share a sense of urgency. I told
them that we want to help. We are moving quickly to amplify the
US-Kenyan partnership, which already results in about $2 billion
of resource flows from the United States to Kenya each year. We
will make a concerted effort to encourage expanded trade,
investment, tourism, and cultural and educational exchanges.
I am pleased to announce that the United States will provide an
additional $25 million in funding for reconciliation and
reconstruction. This $25 million is in addition to the $14 million
in immediate humanitarian assistance the United States has
provided since January. This $25 million will be used to: promote
dialogue and reconciliation; facilitate the return of the
displaced to their homes and resumption of their livelihoods, as
well as assistance with related infrastructure and youth agenda
programs; support for implementation of the coalition accord,
particularly carrying through with the reform agenda; and
assistance for key governance programs, including strengthening
the Parliament and supporting as appropriate establishment of the
new office of the Prime Minister.
We will, of course, consult closely with the coalition government
and civil society as we move ahead.
Secretary of State Dr Condoleezza Rice has also pledged to
encourage other donors and international financial institutions to
provide the support that Kenyans require in order to turn the
crisis they experienced into an historic opportunity.
Greater involvement by the international community will help to
ensure that institutional reform is carried out in a timely manner.
In doing so, we will be supporting a Kenyan agenda implemented by
Kenyans — and not one imposed from outside. International support
will, of course, be linked to good faith efforts to implement the
political accord and reform agenda. This will complement the
desire of Kenyans to hold their leaders accountable.
Kenya stands at a defining moment in its history. The political
accord is the first step on what will be a long and challenging
journey — but the United States will travel it with you. We are
confident about Kenya’s future, even "bullish".
I wish the Law Society of Kenya and the Kenyan people well as you
continue to pursue your democratic experiment — one that Americans
continue to pursue after 232 years of independence.