Obama fires warning shot at Kenya leaders

May 12, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 12 – US President Barack Obama on Tuesday cautioned Kenya over political feuds that could deter the implementation of agenda items agreed under the National Accord.

Through the US National Security Council Senior Director Michelle Gavin, Mr Obama urged President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to hasten the reform process.

“President Obama has a deep fondness for Kenya. He wanted me to make very clear the White House’s concern about the pace of the reform agenda, and the occasional appearance of political gridlock preventing progress on issues that are of concern to the Kenyan people,” she said.

At the same time, speaking during his first visit to the Continent after his appointment, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson said it’s up to Kenyans and the Kenyan leadership to save the country from a repeat of the violence witnessed after the 2007 disputed polls.

“If one could gauge the political temperature one would indeed know that there is a growing friction within the government – probably a reflection of the political iceberg and that there are, probably, other tensions below.”

He said that political tensions must not be allowed to turn into a crisis that could easily fuel political violence, which would not be for the good of Kenyans and the region.
“We have come here not to threaten but to warn a friend about a deep concern and to express that concern in clear and very precise ways,” Mr Carson said, adding; “we will see in the weeks ahead indeed what Kenya is prepared to do to fully implement the reform to make progress on key issues. If indeed it is necessary to make additional steps I think we have the capacity to take them.”

At the same time, Ms Gavin, who is accompanying Mr Carson, said the US President had stressed the need for governance and constitutional reforms to be implemented.

“We want to extend a hand of friendship but also to signal our very serious concern, our desire to see this issue move ahead and see the Kenyan people get the kind of governance they can have confidence in and the governance they deserve,” he said.

Mr Carson met President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga and stressed that his government would be pushing for the implementation process.

“Prevention is better than remediation. The US is a strong partner and has moral persuasion on its side and it can exercise some degree of muscle. I think that there are things that we can do that would show a deeper and profound concern about what is happening here,” he said.

The American diplomat expressed that his government was ready to use resources in its hands to ensure implementation of the agenda items.

“I think it’s important for us to move pre-emptively as friends to express our concerns, to issue our warnings and offer our hand of support in helping to resolve these issues before they transform themselves into party disagreements and then become political violence,” Mr Carson stressed.

The US also urged Kenya ‘to hold corrupt officials and those responsible for facilitating post-poll violence accountable, including through the establishment of a credible special tribunal for Kenya’.


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