Kenya summons US envoy over travel threats

September 28, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 28 – Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula on Monday summoned American Ambassador Michael Ranneberger over warning letters issued to 15 Kenyans whom the US claims were undermining the reform agenda.

Mr Wetangula who termed the letters as an act of intimidation has demanded that Mr Ranneberger produces the list of those who received the warning letters in the meeting scheduled for Wednesday morning. The Minister wants the ambassador to explain to him why diplomatic protocol was disregarded in issuing the letters.

"If somebody is written to by another government and told he would be denied entry to that country if they don’t follow a specific route that out rightly amounts to intimidation and denial to freedom of expression" he said of the letters issued while he away in the United States on official duty.

"I may hold a different view on the land tenure system.  I may hold a different view on judicial reforms or on the rights of women. If I articulate them loudly how does that amounts to interference?" he wondered.

The summons follow an official protest letter sent to Washington by President Mwai Kibaki last Saturday over the same issue.  In his letter the Head of State said the action by the US Government official was considered ‘out of step with international protocols in the conduct of relations between friendly nations.’

Mr Wetangula said Washington was yet to respond to the letter from the Office of the President, but maintained Nairobi would not stand by and watch the Ambassador ignore protocol.

He warned that Kenya could use diplomatic options available to curtail Mr Ranneberger’s "habitual breach of diplomatic protocol."

"The Vienna convention gives each country options in diplomatic engagements," he said.

Mr Wetangula said that the letters were in bad taste and could undermine the pace of reforms America was pushing for.

"To single out individuals particularly at a time when there was no heightened tension on issues of reforms is wrong and dangerous," he said.

On Thursday Mr Ranneberger announced that the US had dispatched warning letters to the Kenyan officials with a possible visa bans. The US government has been vocal on issues that touch on Kenya including corruption, post election violence and lately the reform agenda.

Mr Wetangula said the ambassador had informed him that the letters had been written to two ministers, four Members of Parliament, two Permanent Secretaries and other prominent Kenyans.

The American Ambassador has rubbed authorities the wrong way severally for his regular criticism of government actions and policies.


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