NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 8 – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has denied claims of shrinking democratic space in the country saying Kenya’s political space was growing at an unrivaled pace.
Cabinet Secretary, Ambassador Monica Juma, told a media briefing on Thursday that recent claims of a government crackdown on the Opposition and media by two former United States diplomats were, in fact, a misrepresentation of facts.
“We sit on the edge of a counter-terrorism war with a country – Somalia – that has been afflicted by terrorists and their agents. Any other country in the world has responded to those circumstances by shrinking their democratic credentials – even the mature democracies. Kenya has acted in the opposite direction,” she pointed out.
The CS said Kenya is committed to deepening its democratic credential and promote accountability by all State officers for the good of the public.
“In spite of the threat we face which could be an existential threat, we’ve continued to deepen our democratic credential; to widen the space for democracy, debate, participation, accountability and so forth,” she said.
“Everywhere we go we’re being asked: How do you do it?” the CS told the media at the function also graced by among others the ministry’s Chief Administrative Secretary Ababu Namwamba, Principal Secretary (Foreign Affairs) Ambassador Macharia Kamau, Political and Diplomatic Secretary Ambassador Tom Amolo, and State House Press Secretary Manoah Esipisu.
Ambassador Juma was responding to a recent article by Ambassadors Mark Bellamy and Johnnie Carson, both of whom have served as American envoys in Kenya, who claimed that Kenya was on the brink of a political upheaval that could potentially turn chaotic.
The ministry had earlier in the week issued a statement refuting the claims by the two former diplomats.
In a strongly worded statement on Tuesday, Ambassador Kamau dismissed calls by Bellamy and Carson as absurd and unacceptable.
He said Kenya had in fact healed from a divisive political period witnessed in last year’s presidential elections which just like in any other country, he said, was a demonstration of vibrancy and maturity of democracy.
He said President Uhuru Kenyatta’s acceptance to go back to the polls on October 26 after his August 8 victory was annulled by the Supreme Court was a clear demonstration of Kenya’s growing democracy.
“With memories of US interventions in countries such as Libya and Iraq ostensibly to return democracy, still fresh in our minds, the jitters about this proposal by senior US leaders is understandable,” Ambassador Kamau stated in his statement.
“Any form of interference by the US in a country that has time and again demonstrated her commitment to entrenching democratic principles, rule of law and good governance can only portend danger,” the former Permanent Representative (Kenya) to the United Nations in New York remarked.
He defended government actions cited by Bellamy and Carson as oppressive as steps taken in accordance with the law saying “no individual or institution is exempt from the dictates of the constitution.”
“Just like in any other democracy, the media, various arms of government, political parties, the civil society groups and all citizens are bound by the constitution and the violation of the same has consequences in line with the rule of law,” he said of a weeklong shutdown of three television channels that attempted to air the self-declared coronation of National Super Alliance leader Raila Odinga as the “President of the People” on January 30.
Ambassadors Bellamy and Carson had in an article published on a pan-African news platform – African Arguments – said an intervention by the US was critical to forestalling violence that could result into bloodletting.
“Today, the protests are continuing and risk escalating into inter-communal violence. A more imminent risk, however, is that harsh Kenyan government crackdowns on what is increasingly a forlorn campaign could lead to this same outcome. Detaining Odinga, for example, would ignite passions that would be hard to control,” they said in the article published on February 27.
“A key objective would be to prevent a descent into violence, but that is only half the job. The larger danger now is the threat to the rule of law posed by an increasingly imperious executive apparently determined to remove legal and constitutional restraints on its exercise of power,” they remarked.
Ambassador Kamau, however, differed with Bellamy’s and Carson’s point of view saying Kenya had actually started healing from grueling presidential elections last year, a trajectory that the government is determined to maintain.
“Their (NASA’s) attempt to perpetrate violence in the wake of their electoral loss have been outrightly rejected by Kenyans with the government taking the necessary steps to fulfill its cardinal responsibility of protecting the lives and property of Kenyans in line with the Kenyan constitution,” he said.