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Donors gang up against Kibaki over reforms

By | October 3rd 2009

By Ben Agina and Mutinda Mwanzia

Isolated and besieged. That was the mood on Friday after Britain slapped a travel ban on 20 prominent people and the European Union demanded action on impunity.

It was not immediately clear if the 20 included some of those put on notice by the US last week for stifling reforms, but the British High Commissioner, Rob Macaire, said they included politicians and businesspeople implicated in corruption.

"That’s why we have slapped the travel ban on the personalities implicated in graft. We will soon send those affected letters on the action taken by the UK," said Macaire.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga chats with US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger during the German National Day celebrations in Nairobi, on Friday. Photo: Tabitha Otwori/Standard

He added those implicated in post-election violence must face the International Criminal Court (ICC) to ensure justice for the victims.

"Britain supports any action taken by the ICC in relation to the Kenyan scenario," said Macaire.

Noose tightens

Earlier, the European Union, comprising 44 countries, read the Government the riot act. In a terse statement, it said the Government could not establish a "credible, independent, constitutionally protected tribunal to end the impunity by perpetrators of the post-poll violence within the agreed time frame".

The move caps a bad week for the Grand Coalition Government, which has been fire-fighting crisis after crisis. The President has been on the receiving end of a resurgent Parliament, whose opposition to the reappointment of Aaron Ringera as the director of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission led to Ringera’s resignation on Wednesday.

It is also the first time in almost 20 years that the country is under scrutiny on governance. In the early 1990s, donors forced the Kanu regime to open up the political space, ushering in multi-partisym. Since then, Kenya has not faced such sustained pressure witnessed in failed States like Zimbabwe where President Robert Mugabe has been cast as a pariah for autocratic rule.

Sanctions by the EU and US led to the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy, with inflation topping record levels and its leaders restricted to travelling to China and Eastern European states for handouts.

Is Kenya headed there?

Across the border, Sudan has been in the crosshairs for abuse of human rights, which culminated in ICC indictment of President Omar el-Bashir. It remains to be seen whether Kibaki will capitulate under international pressure. But analysts say, unlike in Zimbabwe and Sudan where the rule of law had collapsed, Kenya only requires political will to effect change.

Again, the question is why the Executive is reluctant. The EU and US are Kenyans’ largest trading and development partners.

The UK ban comes barely a week after the US put 15 Kenyans — Cabinet ministers, MPs, senior civil servants and businessmen — on notice for frustrating the reform agenda.

Matters are compounded by the fact leaders are split along party lines over the pressure by donors to fast track judicial, police and governance reforms. Already, the economy is reeling from the effects of acute food, water and power shortages precipitated by prolonged drought.

Planning Minister Wycliffe Oparanya told The Standard on Saturday the actions being contemplated by the United States, UK, the European Union, and Canada are extreme and could result in further economic slump.

Panic everywhere

"As a country we cannot operate in isolation. We are members of the United Nations, World Trade Organisation and regional bodies. We cannot be on the periphery of a community of civilised nations as a result of stalled reforms," said Oparanya.

PNU vice-chairman George Nyamweya said the Americans and Europeans were not being helpful to the reform agenda by issuing threats.

"It is despicable blackmail. Why don’t they simply do what they intend to do, blacklist people they don’t like, and turn them away when they show up in European capitals?" he asked.

In Naivasha, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Local Government Musalia Mudavadi said the Cabinet would meet next Thursday to decide the fate of perpetrators of post-election violence before ICC prosecutor Moreno Ocampo moves in. The Government failed to meet the September 30 deadline set by Ocampo in June.

"The Cabinet shall meet next week and we shall be in a better position to tell the country the next step," he said. Mudavadi dismissed claims by Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo that the Cabinet had agreed to hand over key suspects to ICC.

Former Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Ochieng’ Adala, said the economic implications are serious.

"The wheels of State move at a snail’s speed. If we had embarked on Agenda Four, the pressure would not have been there. What development partners are doing is sending a wake-up call to leaders to move with speed to address recurrent political violence and impunity," said Adala. (See story below)

EU’s spotlight comes at a time the Cabinet is divided over how the suspects should be tried. President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s attempts to rally the Cabinet to support a local tribunal have failed.

The matter has divided the Cabinet into three groups. One lot wants a special tribunal that meets ICC standards, which includes stripping the President of immunity against prosecution.

Another roots for the suspects to be tried at The Hague. The third is pushing for the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission to handle the suspects.

But the EU reiterated its position of July 27, and urged political leaders to engage in and recommit to implementation of the reforms as set out under the National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008, mediated by the African Union Panel of Eminent Personalities under Kofi Annan.

Annan is expected in Nairobi tomorrow to review progress on implementation of the Accord, while Ocampo could jet in anytime.

Last Saturday, Kibaki wrote to President Obama expressing displeasure at the travel ban threat.

Additional reporting by Anthony Gitonga

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