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Has Obama envoy crossed Red line

Updated Wednesday, July 14th 2010 at 00:00 GMT +3

By Standard Team

US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger fought off claims by 'Red' team he has taken sides in the raging referendum politics on a day he curiously received defectors from 'No' team.

Accused by Higher Education Minister William Ruto, who is leading the 'Red' team, of crossing the red-line or no-go-zone for foreign diplomats, Ranneberger argued he was operating within his diplomatic orbit – more so because the US is a friend of Kenya and is pro-reform.

US Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger maintains he is conducting civic education and US is Kenya’s friend.

But still the ‘No’ team claimed the envoy, who is the face of President Barack Obama’s administration in Kenya, argued he has thrown away diplomatic etiquette and was now an actor in the referendum politics.

By seemingly doing so, the ‘No’ team reacted in manner suggesting Ranneberger had crossed the forbidden line and encroached on what they could be seeing as their vote-basket. And more interestingly, Ruto and Ranneberger were in Kisii yesterday, although for a different mission and not quite far from each other.

But as the drama between the envoy and Ruto’s team unfolded, two claims stood out: The first was the claim by Ruto the envoy was dishing out money to MPs to lure them to support for ‘Yes’.

On the other hand, the ‘Yes’ team’s claim liberal American churches, particularly the pro-life groups, were secretly funnelling campaign money into the ‘No’ kitty.

Ruto asked the question again: What is Ranneberger’s interest in the bid to force down the throats of Kenyans what he called a ‘bad constitution’

Rannegerger on his part dispelled accusations he was meddling with the constitutional review. He responded his Government was doing everything possible to ensure Kenyans understood the Proposed Constitution because they were allegedly being misled.

And to demonstrate the importance attached to the referendum by the US Government, Ranneberger received defectors from ’No’ camp. He also met pastors, religious leaders, and some members of the local ‘No’ secretariat who announced they were now going to support the draft law.

On Monday evening, Ranneberger disputed Ruto’s claim he had given each MP Sh200,000. He expressed regret politicians were using referendum campaigns to divide Kenyans instead of uniting them.

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