Cablegate: Ambassador's Speech On Diversity, Democracy, And


DE RUEHNR #3676/01 2601352
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E.O. 12958: N/A

1. As part of continuing outreach on key issues, on September 10
in Mombasa Ambassador Ranneberger delivered a policy speech entitled
"Diversity, Democracy, and Development." The speech was intended
both to convey U.S. views on this important topic and to stimulate
thought among Kenyans in the lead-up to the elections later this
year. The speech discussed extensively the challenges Americans
have experienced in accommodating diversity and the relevance of
some of those experiences for Kenya. The speech raised questions
for consideration.

2. The speech was extensively covered by the media, and public
reaction has been very favorable. The Ambassador followed up the
speech with two hour-long radio call-in program (one for the Muslim
audience) in Mombasa the next morning and with an hour-long
primetime live television interview in Nairobi with the nation's
most popular commentator later in the week.

3. Oddly, the government has been remarkably silent. Just prior
to delivering the speech, the Ambassador received a call from a
senior minister - clearly calling on behalf of the government -
urging caution. Saying that some comments could easily be
misconstrued (the government was provided an advance copy of the
text), the minister worried that it could be seen as
anti-government. As is evident from the text, the speech is
strictly neutral in political terms, and the Ambassador pointed that
out. The call reflects, however, that the Kibaki team may feel
somewhat more vulnerable than is generally thought. One of the
principal themes of the speech - the dangers of tribal politics -
touches sensitivities in the pro-government forces (perceived as
dominated by Kikuyus) and in the primary opposition party (perceived
as dominated by Luos).

4. Media coverage was extensive. Electronic media carried on
drive-time radio the next morning and during mid-day TV new reports.
The three major papers gave it good coverage and commentary,
including large excerpts of the text.

5. Begin text of speech entitled Democracy, Diversity, and
Development: The Kenyan and American Experiences. Delivered at the
Mombasa Club September 10, 2007 by United States Ambassador Michael
E. Ranneberger:

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Asalaam Aleikum.

Asante sana kwa kunikaribisha hapa Mombasa. Thank you for welcoming
me to Mombasa.

I would especially like to thank the Rotary Club of Mombasa for
inviting me to the prestigious and historic Mombasa Club on the eve
of the Muslim holy season to discuss the crucial importance of
diversity to enhance democracy and development. I believe that this
is at the heart of our religious traditions and societies, and
animates the strong and expanding partnership between the United
States and Kenya. Diversity, democracy, and development are
inter-related in the Kenyan and American experiences to build free
and prosperous nations.

Democracy is always a work in progress to achieve great ideals. Let
us remember that intellectual leaders have been struggling with this
for many centuries. Aristotle in the 4th century B.C. in his famous
book "Politics" said: "If liberty and equality, as is thought by
some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best
attained when all persons alike share in the government to the
utmost." There the ideal goal is stated clearly, but there are no
easy answers regarding how this can be achieved. We can, however,
profit from sharing our respective experiences in dealing with the
inter-related issues of diversity, democracy, and development.
Demokrasia ni majadiliano. Democracy is a dialogue. As Professor
Peter Wanyande of the University of Nairobi told the Electoral
Commission of Kenya in March: "Democracy is a way of life. It is
also a skill to be able to give and take, to understand and
compromise. Dialogue is the foundation of democracy."

As the elections approach in Kenya and in the spirit of dialogue, I
thought it might be timely and useful to offer my modest
observations and to draw some possible lessons for consideration.

-- The United States and Kenya are blessed by very diverse

-- Both our nations strive to live up to high democratic ideals
within the context of that diversity.

-- Our two nations have suffered setbacks when political leaders
have sought to set one group of citizens against another -
exploiting racial, religious, ethnic, and tribal sentiments -- in

selfish efforts to acquire and hold power.

-- History has demonstrated that our nations progress economically
and politically when diversity is acknowledged and celebrated rather
than exploited.

-- Although much progress has been made, the citizens of our two
nations have yet to fully appreciate that our diversity is our
strength; that from it comes much of the dynamism and creativity
that characterizes both the United States and Kenya.

The greatness - and the greatest crises - of American history is
largely a reflection of how we have struggled to build democracy on
the basis of great diversity, and how this effort has in turn
affected our economic and political development. Women were barred
from voting in most states until 1920. The indigenous population of
the United States did not acquire citizenship and voting rights
until 1924. We could cite many instances of immigrants being
disenfranchised or impeded from participating fully in the
democratic process. However, the fight against slavery and the
struggle for the attainment of full civil rights by
African-Americans posed the greatest challenge to match democratic
practice with democratic ideals in the United States.

The terribly bloody civil war in the United States waged over the
issues of slavery and secession was a watershed in our history
because it was fought precisely over the principle that democracy
must be a united effort involving all the people. As President
Abraham Lincoln stated in his Gettysburg Address, the war was fought
to affirm a government of, by, and for the people - all the people.
When the slaves were freed following the civil war, however, much of
the white population of the southern United States, including in my
native state of Maryland, harbored for generations deep resentment
against the United States Government. Many white politicians in the
region encouraged and exploited racist sentiments for selfish
political purposes. Southerners pursued policies to segregate
blacks from whites, and to prevent them from voting. Racism was
justified in the name of safeguarding so-called "distinct traditions
and culture." Black Americans in the South were subjected to
unspeakable violence and injustice. The notorious "Ku Klux Klan"
effectively operated as a clandestine militia to maintain white
supremacy. It was only after years of struggle during the Civil
Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s that African-Americans began
to be able to fully enter the political and economic life of their

Against the backdrop of this American experience, it must be
acknowledged that Kenyans have done a better job in many instances
at accommodating diversity than the United States had done at a
comparable stage in its history. Yet, American experience of
politicians focusing on ethnic and racial groups highlights some of
the concerns that many Kenyans share and the questions they are
asking. Some of those questions include:

-- In order to enhance their own power and influence, are Kenyan
politicians tempted to - or do they in fact -- encourage tribal,
regional, and religious communities to feel resentment and
alienation from their fellow Kenyans?

-- Does this dangerously mislead some groups to think that they are
economically, intellectually, or socially superior to others?

-- Does this lead to a "zero sum" approach to democracy and
development in which one community benefits economically and
politically to the detriment of the interest of the nation as a

-- Has this in turn led to the creation of informal militias - like
the "Mungiki" and others -- to advance the ends of one ethnic group
against another?

-- Is it at the feet of these politicians that some of the
responsibility for insecurity must be laid?

-- Is there a direct correlation between the exploitation of tribal
divisions and the seemingly endemic corruption that plagues Kenyan
society on so many levels?

-- And would that corruption end if all people felt that they had an
equal share in the government, society, education, income, commerce,
and institutions of the country?

As you consider the answers to these questions, I want to call
attention to some American experiences which may shed light on the
challenges Kenyans face.

First, the racism that plagued the southern part of the United
States for so many decades severely retarded the economic
development of that region. The northern and western regions of the
country, which embraced diversity to a much greater extent and did a
better job of bringing all groups into the economy, surged ahead and
became hugely prosperous. However, it has only been in the last 40
years that the southern states have begun to honor their varied
cultural heritage and allowed the participation of the entire
population in the political and economic process. As a direct
result, the southern states are now prospering, with centers of
excellence in education, business, medicine, and politics. Our last
two presidents, as well as our present Secretary of State, came from
that region. Kenyans are also discovering that exploitation of
tribal divisions and failure to take a national approach to
development priorities have impeded economic progress. A program
that improves the road infrastructure throughout the nation will,
for example, benefit all regions economically and increase revenue
for national programs in education, health, and other areas.

The rich Kenyan heritage of over 42 cultural communities represents
diversity that is one of Kenya's greatest strengths. We Americans
can benefit from studying Kenya's experience, and all Kenyans would
benefit from more deeply appreciating the traditions of their own
community and of the communities of their fellow citizens. Reading
about the history of Kenya, I have learned about the origin of
"negative tribalism" in Kenya's politics. Although the communities
that make up Kenya have lived together under one political
administration since the establishment of the British East Africa
Protectorate in 1895, the policies of the colonial government were
based on ethnic favoritism to the detriment of the African
population. This bred resentment between groups of Kenyans. Kenyan
leaders seeking to reconcile rival ethnic communities were
considered dangerous subversives by the colonial government. In
order to sustain their power, it was essential for the colonial
administration to keep the various indigenous communities divided,
mutually suspicious, and resentful of one another.

Some politicians still see themselves as "owning" their ethnic
community. Too few politicians offer voters policy programs for the
nation. Many do not bother to discuss how they will use their office
to build a better Kenya, but instead promise increased resources
only for their favored community. Many politicians still practice
the politics of "divide and rule," encouraging hostility, fear,
resentment and alienation among communities. It is up to the Kenyan
people to determine which leaders are enlightened and are seeking to
develop Kenya in all its diversity, and who are those mired in
tribal politics to the detriment of the national interest.

Second, the American federal system helps balance national and local
interests in a way that protects diversity and encourages
development. Although Americans often say that "all politics are
local," meaning that voters tend to vote on the basis of economic
and political issues that affect their region and ethnic groups as
well, most citizens in my country think of themselves first and
foremost as Americans, not as residents of a particular state.
Democracy, whether in the U.S. or in Kenya, must be about advancing
the national interest by empowering people at the grass-roots level.
Americans know that national policies will have a huge impact on
their regional economies. One means of overcoming tribally-based
politics in Kenya is through devolution of power and revenue to
local communities with appropriate safeguards to protect local
minorities. This would help negate the effects of zero-sum
politics, where one tribal group is seen to be dominating resources
and would help give all communities a greater stake in the outcome
of national elections. It is worth asking whether Kenyan voters
will insist that presidential candidates declare their positions
with respect to making constitutional reform a priority if they are

Third, while many white southerners did not support racist policies
and the Ku Klux Klan, they feared to stand up against it and they
refused to cooperate with the government to combat it. Southern
politicians did not need to deliver good governance and economic
development to get re-elected. All they needed to do was to keep
their voters uneducated and alienated, and then present themselves
as defenders of southern culture and tradition against a hostile
central government.

It took the leadership of a brave and inspiring religious leader,
the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to overthrow this system
of oppression and bad governance. He did so through a non-violent
movement that emphasized the dignity of the oppressed black
minority, appealed to the conscience of the white majority, and
forced the central government to uphold its responsibility to
enforce the rights enshrined in our constitution. The movement also
profoundly reformed southern politics, making improved governance

possible. The civil rights movement heralded a political and
economic renaissance for the southern part of the United States.

While much remains to be done, the substantial progress that has
been made reflects what can be achieved when diversity is
constructively accommodated in a democratic society and becomes an
engine of its development. Kenyans face the same challenge in
standing up against tribally-based politics and in ensuring greater
accountability by politicians.

Fourth, the American experience demonstrates that widespread
education is key to promoting appreciation of the importance of
diversity for democracy and development. Education helps instill
understanding of human rights, of the principles of democracy, of
the nature of economic development, and of the reality of diversity
in our societies. Schools, especially universities, bring together
students from across the country and allow them to see, hear, and
appreciate that their ethnic and regional differences melt away in
the classroom and in their lives. The fact that education is
expanding so rapidly in Kenya and the already high functional
literacy rate of over 70 percent bode well for the future of this
country. Overcoming tribally-based politics begins with the
educated individual voter. That is why the United States and other
countries are providing substantial assistance for voter education
and awareness. Kenya will more quickly achieve its national
development goals when more voters insist on leadership sincerely
committed to a national, rather than narrowly-based tribal, approach
to government and economic management.
Fifth, the U.S. and Kenyan experiences highlight the generally
positive impact of generational change on the evolution of
democratic societies. Thomas Jefferson, one of the most influential
American founding fathers, believed that each generation would have
to, in effect, reinvent the American democratic system. When one
considers the 27 amendments to the U.S. constitution and the many
crises we have endured, he has been proven right. In coming years
- note that I am not referring to this election -- the generational
change underway in Kenya will provide opportunities to enhance the
Kenyan democratic system by dealing more boldly and effectively with
three of the great challenges confronting it: the need to overcome
tribally-based politics, corruption, and gender inequity. New
voices being heard in civil society, religion, the media, the
business sector, academia, and the professions will, in the coming
years, play a crucial role in shaping the nation. It is important
to note that here, as in the U.S., the voices of women are being
heard with greater force.

A sixth but very important insight from the American and Kenyan
experiences is that encouraging "unity in diversity" strengthens the
moderate mainstream of democratic societies and isolates extremists
of all stripes. The demise of the Ku Klux Klan is one example of
this. At the same time, however, the very freedom that democratic
societies like the U.S. and Kenya cherish will provide the
opportunity for other extremist groups to arise. The worst act of
terrorism in the United States prior to 9/11 was committed by one
such group, led by Timothy McVeigh, an American. This was the
bombing of the Federal government building in Oklahoma City in 1995.
According to McVeigh's beliefs, his act of terrorism, which took
the lives of 168 people, including many children at a day care
center, was committed in the defense of "white Christian America."
Yet white Christian Americans, just like all other Americans, were
outraged by this atrocity. Instead of promoting rebellion, his
heinous act stimulated Americans to pull together to repudiate
extremist views.

America's experience with extremist groups highlights the fact that
no one should take seriously the deranged justifications of
terrorists, and that the moderate mainstream must unite to repudiate
these. There can be no compromise with those who threaten the
civilized world. This is worth remembering by those who misguidedly
accuse the United States Government of engaging in a war against the
religion of Islam, a faith whose members have contributed so very
much to world civilization. In fact, Muslims are an increasingly
important part of the diversity of the United States, just as they
are a very important part of the diversity of Kenya. Islam is the
fastest growing religion in the United States and Muslim leaders are
starting to make their voices heard, but they are doing so as part
of a unified nation that cherishes its diversity. Respect for
diversity in Kenya will require the full participation of the Muslim
community - and all other marginalized groups -- in the political
and economic life of the country. This means addressing the
legitimate questions Muslims and other groups in Kenya have raised
regarding marginalization. At the same time, Muslim leaders share
responsibility for incorporating Muslims more fully into political
and economic processes. Their role in standing up for the rights of
Muslims must be respected, but so too must they speak out
unequivocally against those radicals and extremists who reject

Islamic teachings on peaceful and just conduct.

Accommodating diversity, whether in the United States or in Kenya,
is one of the determining factors to strengthen democracy and foster
economic growth. The recent fierce debate regarding immigration
legislation reflects the challenges we still face as Americans in
that regard. I believe that Kenya has made enormous progress during
the past five years. The very fact that there is so much discussion
about the dangers of tribally-based politics is a healthy sign of
the maturing of Kenyan democracy. The democratic openness of the
society and the expansion of education are laying the groundwork for
accelerated change. The fact that the economic growth rate has
increased so substantially during the past five years is related to
the fact that all Kenyans are participating more fully in the
economy, although wealth is still far too concentrated in the hands
of too few individuals, and not distributed sufficiently to the
benefit of all tribal groups and regions.

Kenya's agenda for diversity, democracy, and development - the 3 Ds
- over the next five years will be determined largely by the outcome
of this year's elections. These elections are pivotal to Kenya's
future economic prosperity and democratic well-being. Regardless of
the outcome, the U.S.-Kenyan partnership will continue to expand
because it is based on shared values. I have great confidence in
the commitment of the Kenyan people to a shared democratic future.
Kenyans will, I believe, work out the best way to accommodate the
rich diversity of their country and to harness that diversity to
drive the process of economic development and democratic

Much as the United States takes pride in its single government
derived from many peoples, there is your own Swahili saying: Umoja
ni nguvu! In unity there is strength! Your society, mine, and other
democracies will continue to struggle to accommodate diversity.

In closing, I want to take this opportunity to wish our Muslim
brothers and sisters an inspiring and fulfilling Ramadhan season.
Ramahdan Kareem. Thank you and Mungu Awabariki. God bless you.
Asanteni sana.

End text.

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