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German Chancellor lands with goodies

BUSINESS
By | July 13th 2011

By Peter Opiyo and Alex Ndegwa

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wielded both the carrot and the stick during her first-ever State visit to Kenya on Tuesday.

While loosening her country’s purse strings, Merkel used her visit to stress that repression and poverty are often the seeds for political and social unrest as happened in the Middle East.

She urged the Government to also pursue the path of reconciliation, reduce social imbalances, and promote public participation in national affairs to ensure peace prevails ahead of next year’s General Election. Merkel then sweetened her tone by offering Kenya Sh18 billion (140 million euros) for social welfare projects over three years to 2013, but asked President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to ensure the Government co-operates with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and cracks down harder on corruption.

While speaking at State House Nairobi, Germany’s Head of State also praised the Government’s economic achievements and progress on judicial and political reforms.

The ICC accused six Kenyans of involvement in crimes against humanity during the post-election violence that followed a disputed presidential ballot in 2007.

Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Head of the Civil Service Francis Mathura, Eldoret North MP William Ruto, Postmaster General and former Police Commissioner Maj Gen (rtd) Hussein Ali, Tinderet MP Henry Kosgey and radio journalist Joshua Sang will find out in September whether the charges will be confirmed.

And at Hotel Intercontinental, where she held talks with Raila, Merkel pledged increased development aid and stronger trade ties with Kenya. She announced one million Euro (Sh130 million) aid for the Daadab refugee camp where an influx of Somalis fleeing the conflict in the anarchic horn of Africa nation has burdened authorities.

Merkel said the strong business delegation accompanying her underscored their desire to deepen economic ties, but stressed the success of the bilateral support is pegged on transparency and the effective fight against corruption.

“We want to do more with Kenya. But we have to make sure the conditions are right; there’s transparent tendering process and as little red tape as possible. Implementation of the new Constitution is a good start,” she said at a joint news conference with the PM.

But the strong message that featured at the separate talks with the President and PM was that it was imperative that Kenya cooperates with the ICC.

“We discussed that it is good and timely for Kenya to co-operate with ICC,” she said flanked by the President.

Fight corruption

Six Kenyans made initial appearance before the court in April and hearings to determine whether the cases would proceed to full trial or terminated are due in September.

The Government has unsuccessfully tried to frustrate the ICC process by petitioning the UN Security Council to defer the cases, and mounting a challenge to their admissibility at the ICC.

Merkel emphasised the message later at a public forum at the University of Nairobi, where she frowned upon efforts to undermine the ICC.

“The right thing to do is to cooperate with the ICC. The Hague proceedings will end impunity. Reconciliation is not possible if justice is not done,” she said.

Merkel recalled Germany is a signatory of the Rome Statute, which she noted is ‘indispensable” in the interests of securing international peace and security.

Talks with the President also dwelt on the fight against corruption and measures that should be taken to ensure that next year’s General Election is peaceful and fair.

The ministry of Education has been in the spotlight following the disappearance of Sh4.2 billion-donor money meant for free primary education. The UK government has since demanded the refund of the money.

President Kibaki urged German investors to fund various projects and urged them take advantage of the good relations between the two countries.

“I have recommended to German investors the lucrative infrastructural projects for the construction of Lamu Port and the Lamu-Ethiopia-South Sudan rail, road and pipeline link.

Support

“We have assured Madam Chancellor that German firms are very welcome here, and that the Government is committed to ensuring efficient and transparent tendering processes in all areas, especially those concerning road, rail, and port infrastructure projects,” Raila said.

Kibaki said Kenya has also enlisted the support of Germany to strengthen the United Nations Environmental Programme (Unep) and ensures that its headquarters remains in Nairobi.

The President said Kenya is committed to ensuring a peaceful region, and said it was a source of pride that the country led peace efforts that sealed the independence of South Sudan.

Kibaki also underscored the need for the international community to support and strengthen the capacity of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government.

At the public forum, Merkel urged Kenya to address social imbalances, reduce ethnic tension and promote public participation in national affairs to prevent conflict.

Merkel said constitutional reforms and the integration of the East African Community “opens up new opportunities for young people”.

She added to secure long-term economic prosperity Kenya should avoid wastage of resources, speed up democratic reforms and national reconciliation.

“Kenya set out to transform itself after the referendum at which Kenyans accepted a modern constitution. Germany is willing and ready to support Kenya on this path,” she said.

Earlier Merkel had said Mandera Central MP Abdikadir Mohammed, who chaired the Parliamentary Select Committee on constitutional reforms, would be feted at the annual German Africa Award for his role in the birth of a new Constitution.

The prize is awarded by the German Africa foundation.

She rooted for a quick solution to the piracy at the Indian Ocean and a global climate change deal.

“Our intention is to further intensify and deepen economic ties between Kenya and Germany. You need a secure and safe framework if you are to secure a greater number of investors from abroad,” she said.

Kenya is ranked a poor 154th out of 178 countries in Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index.

Merkel, who will also visit Angola and Nigeria, during her sub-Saharan Africa tour and mentioned her Government’s interest to participate in the planned new port for Lamu, as well as other infrastructure projects in Kenya.

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