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PM insists US travel ban threat justified

By | October 1st 2009

By David Ohito and Allan Kisia

Prime Minister Raila Odinga added a spin to the raging visa ban threat on Government officials when he supported the move.

Raila insisted the US was within its rights and interests to write letters and withdraw visas of individuals it deemed unfit to travel to the US.

Speaking at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Tuesday night upon arrival from the US tour, Raila contradicted President Kibaki who wrote a protest letter to US Government.

"The US is within its rights and interests to act in a way that favours it. But let me add that I do not hold brief for the American Government."

Raila said he had a cordial meeting with US President Obama, who urged the coalition to implement reforms agreed on under the National Accord.

Asked why the US would issue letters to Government officials and warn of visa bans, Raila remarked that what the letters said was nothing new, but a stand point the US has been saying before.

He said he did not fear receiving such a letter and would respond to issues should he receive the mail.

"I receive many letters on a daily basis and I respond accordingly. If I get it I will do the same," he said.

Out of step

President Kibaki’s note said: "The action by the US Government official is considered out of step with international protocol in the conduct of relations between friendly nations."

"We need to ask for is the proper reason behind the letters and address the concerns by the US," Raila explained.

Some 15 officials, among them Cabinet ministers, MPs, and permanent secretaries were sent letters warning them US would reconsider her relationship with the individuals over their lacklustre stand on reforms.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula has come under attack over his handling of the US travel ban threats.

Bishop Titus Khamala of Cornerstone Ministries accused the minister of displaying bad politics.

"Why is Wetangula acting as if Kenya does not need the US? Can Kenya measure up to America’s might?" said Khamala.

This week, Wetangula summoned US ambassador Michael Ranneberger over ban threat letters to 15 Government officials.

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