News 2008


Foreign missions in dilemma over crisis


16. 02. 2008

Kenya’s political crisis has put a number of foreign missions in a dilemma.

Some think there will be a negotiated settlement to the problem while others see a possible worsening of the situation, should the ongoing peace efforts fail.

Impeccable sources in diplomatic circles said the envoys and development partners including the World Bank have been meeting to chart the way forward if the problem takes long to resolve.

Britain, Kenya’s former colonial master, and the US are some of the countries expressing optimism that the talks will be fruitful and have made it clear that the country is too important to be left to go the Somalia way.

Strategic importance

Indeed, the announced visit by the United State’s foremost diplomat, Ms Condoleeza Rice, on Monday reinforces the strategic importance that the world’s leading countries attach to Kenya.

A statement sent to newsrooms from the Nairobi embassy yesterday said Ms Rice is coming to voice US support for ongoing negotiations led by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan.

Our sources said some foreign embassies and multi-national organisations have prepared evacuation plans and booked hotels for their staff in the neighbouring Uganda and Tanzania in case the country explodes for the second time.

The head of the political section at the Japanese embassy, Mr Yasushi Naito, yesterday warned that it will be a tragedy if a second wave of violence hits Kenya.

“We cannot afford to let Kenya to be another failed state. That should not be an option, however it seems that getting a solution to the political questions might take time,” said Mr Yasushi. He added that implementation plans for projects financed by the Japanese government amounting to more than $500 million had been affected by the chaos.

“Implementation schedules have been interfered with and many have failed to proceed as planned because of violence and uncertainty,” the official said.

The sources noted that some of the diplomats participating in the briefing meetings feel that Americans and the British had a “secret plan” but didn’t know exactly what it involves.

They say pressure by the British High Commissioner Adam Wood and America’s Michael Ranneberger on the Government suggests that they might be courting a plan B which did not rule out anything.

They also refer to a statement by the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Dr Jendayi Frazer, who warned that a solution from outside could be imposed on Kenya if it does not solve its own problems.“We’ll find an international mechanism if they can’t find it internally,” she said ahead of an African Union meeting held early in the month.

However, US embassy spokesman T.J Dowling denied that the American had a plan B but quickly added that if the two camps fail to reach an agreement, the UN and African Union will intervene.

“The US has no plan B and an intervention plan will certainly not come from us. However, the UN and the AU will intervene if major problems occur, but that is a long shot,” Mr Dowling added.

The US official said Kenya is too important a nation and has had a long standing relationship with the US, adding that the superpower wants it to be a leading model for economic growth and democracy in Africa.

An official at the British embassy said Britain has made it clear that anyone who derails the mediation talks will face the consequences.

“We are, however, optimistic that Mr Annan’s effort will find the required political solution,” said the official who did not want to be named.

The US embassy said Ms Rice’s trip will underscore the country’s commitment to assisting both sides agree on a common way forward that will bring peace and stability to Kenya, and help the country regain its position as a democratic and economic leader in the region.

She will hold a press conference at the US ambassador’s residence on Monday afternoon, after meeting President Kibaki, ODM’s Raila Odinga and members of the civil society.

Speaking in the US ahead of his African tour, President Bush said he was dispatching Ms Rice, to state America’s position that violence must end and the country returns to democracy.

The European Union has also warned they will take stern action on those keen to subvert the mediation talks.

France and Switzerland have also issued warnings to hardliners.

“Those who frustrate the talks will be punished and sanctions is one of the options that might be taken,” says the French Ambassador Elisabeth Barbier. Swiss counsellor Arthur Mattli also made similar threats.

The diplomats, sources say, were impressed by ODM’s recent moderate stance, which they argued had helped improve its image as a group ready for compromise. However, there were still concerns about some hardliners in the Kibaki camp.

Imported goods

It is also believed that Rwanda President Paul Kagame’s comment that the army should intervene to stop the killings and humanitarian crisis, was made after consultations with the some western countries.

Though calm has returned in some of the country’s hotspots, there is still anxiety in Uganda, Rwanda, southern Sudan who are also pegging their hopes on the mediation team, for an uninterrupted supply of imported goods which pass through Kenya.

In the early days of the crisis, it was learned that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni called a meeting– as chairman of the EAC– to discuss the violence.

However, President Kibaki cancelled his trip in the last minute and insisted that his colleagues could not meet to discuss Kenya without him.

It is also understood that Mr Museveni was supposed to return to Kenya last Friday but failed to show up due to unknown reasons.

It was argued that Western allies might have advised him against visiting the country.