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Wetang’ula team must master the basics of diplomacy

EDITORIAL
By | September 27th 2009

The diplomatic circus generated by the Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s visit to the US raises hard questions about foreign policy.

More importantly, the role of the Minister for Foreign Affairs Moses Wetang’ula and Kenya’s ambassadors in key diplomatic stations such as Washington, New York or London has come into question.

The Prime Minister’s disinvite to President Barack Obama’s luncheon was sparked by Kenyan officials, precipitating the US State Department to delete Raila’s name from the list of guests.

The reason given by Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Zachary Muburi-Muita and Ambassador Oginga Ogego was that the Prime Minister was not a head of government.

Yet Raila had been delegated by President Kibaki to represent the country at the United Nations General Assembly Summit, which he addressed yesterday.

Infighting in the Grand Coalition Government could have played out again in New York. Despatches from the diplomatic missions in Washington and New York indicated Obama had snubbed the PM. But he later met Obama to put a case for Kenya.

We cannot run away from the truth the coalition is dysfunctional. In every incident, one side of the coalition is ever struggling to pummel the other into insignificance. Granted, politics is about weakening your opponent, but we abhor a situation where subordinates subject a senior Government official to humiliation.

Raila is the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya, and his concessions during the peace talks, last year, created the coalition that ended post-election violence.

Curiously, as a diplomatic row between the United States and Kenya loomed large, Wetang’ula maintained a stoic silence. It was left to the Communications Director in the Prime Minister’s Office and the local US Ambassador to correct the impression Obama had snubbed the Kenyan delegation. This need not have happened if we had a responsible and reliable Ministry of Foreign Affairs headed by a minister who cares about Kenya’s global image.

The frequency and notoriety with which such incidents occur point to a moral and accountability rot in Government. Could this be why the Government hired a US public relations firm to do image makeover because Wetang’ula and company had failed?

So, when Cabinet ministers and Government officials lambast envoys accredited to Kenya for engaging in ‘diplomatic activism’, we must do it from a high moral pedestal. We have handed them the mantle because few are willing to take responsibility.

The Grand Coalition must not be seen in binary terms – Party of National Unity and Orange Democratic Movement. It should, for now, be the Government of the Republic of Kenya.

Before Raila left Nairobi, it had been made clear he was travelling to the US for a series of meetings. The UN General Assembly was not part of his original itinerary, which showed the PM would deliver lectures at Harvard University, meet Kenyans in the Diaspora, and source support for the rehabilitation of the Mau Forest Complex.

The trip was arranged three months ago; the detour to the United Nations was a late inclusion at the President’s request. At any rate, what sense would it make for Kibaki to attend the UN General Assembly, at a time the Prime Minister was in the US?

We put it to Wetang’ula that the national good is far more important than the wiles of a few in this Government.

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