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Cablegate: Kenya's Reform Challenge

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UNCLAS NAIROBI 002200

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (TEXT)

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/E, DRL

Reference: A. NAIROBI 869
B. 07 Nairobi 4652

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SOCI KDEM ASEC KE
SUBJECT: KENYA'S REFORM CHALLENGE

-------
Summary
-------

1. (U) On September 17, President Kibaki and Prime Minister
Raila Odinga received the final report from the commission
investigating the conduct of Kenya's 2007 elections. Kofi
Annan was scheduled to arrive in Nairobi on September 18 to
receive the report as well. This report is the first to
emerge from the commissions formed in response to Kenya's
post-election political crisis, and it is expected to be
made public on September 19. This -- and the report of the
Waki Commission on post-election violence, which is
expected on or about October 22 -- will be a critically
important step on Kenya's road to reform, and potentially a
test for the coalition government. Isolated incidents of
violence and continued hostility among populations in the
Rift Valley witnessed during a recent trip by the
Ambassador point to the importance of enacting the agreed-
upon constitutional and other reforms to redress the
problems that led to violence in the first place. Kenya's
challenge will be to enact these reforms quickly without
re-igniting open conflict. End Summary.

---------------------------
IREC Report: The First Test
---------------------------

2. (U) On September 17, the Independent Review Commission
(IREC, ref A), chaired by former South African Judge Johann
Kriegler, presented a report detailing its findings
regarding the conduct of the December 2007 General
Elections. These elections, which were disputed, sparked
violence that resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,500
and the displacement of over 600,000 Kenyans, predominantly
in the Rift Valley Province.

3. (SBU) President Kibaki publicly promised to make the
Kriegler report public on September 19. We expect the
report to focus on recommendations for the future rather
than to lay blame for actions in the past. However, we
also anticipate that the report will find that the
electoral process lacked integrity, and that the Electoral
Commission of Kenya (ECK) bears much of the responsibility.
According to members of the Commission, the report will
also make a series of recommendations for electoral reform
that will result in a "material transformation" (read:
complete overhaul) of the ECK. The full implementation of
these recommendations will be a critical step to ensuring
free and fair elections in the future.

4. (U) The report will not pronounce on who rightfully
should have won the election. Not only was this not part
of IREC's mandate, but Kriegler has already said publicly
that the process was so flawed that it is impossible to
tell who won or lost. In this regard, the release of the
report will undoubtedly be a disappointment for many
Kenyans, many of whom expect the commission to render a
more definitive finding on the December 27 elections.

5. (U) The report of the Waki Commission on post-election
violence, which is expected on or about October 22, will be
another important milestone. The Commission took testimony
until September 2 from a wide variety of people who
discussed potentially volatile issues, such as the how
local leaders encouraged and funded their communities to
commit violence against one another.

---------------------
Need For Reform Clear
---------------------

6. (U) Unquestionably a sense of calm has returned to Kenya
since President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga
signed a political accord in February. The President and
Prime Minister have both told the Ambassador the Grand
Coalition Government is functioning "reasonably well," and
E
there is an ongoing dialogue across political lines on how
to approach the constitutional and other structural reforms
necessary to address the social inequities and power
imbalances that contributed to the widespread violence.
However, recent events have demonstrated that this calm is
fragile and will likely remain so until deep and
significant reforms are undertaken and reconciliation
efforts begin to take root.

7. (U) Many Kenyans are still deeply resentful of the
underlying social conditions that fuelled the violence
earlier this year. Kalenjin youth told the Ambassador
during an early September trip to the Rift Valley Province
that political leaders have yet to address the fundamental
issues that triggered the post-election violence in the
first place. In their minds, the main issues are
inequitable resource allocation and political power. "It's
as if we (Kalenjins) own the cow, we milk it, and then (the
Kikuyu) drink the milk," according to one of the youth.

8. (U) Other signs of discontent were visible during the
Ambassador's trip. While religious organizations are key
to the reconciliation process, it was clear that there are
still intra- and inter-ethnic divisions among religious
leaders (ref B). Also, people still residing in camps for
internally displaced persons (IDPs) have protested what
they claim to be non-transparent handling of government-
sponsored resettlement stipends. IDPs residing in transit
camps or with relatives are less visible, but still
resentful of the way they have been treated. (Note: Deputy
Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, who traveled to the Rift
Valley just before the Ambassador, told Pol FSN that he was
shocked to learn that so many IDPs had not been taken care
of. He used his own money to send blankets to the IDP camp
in Eldoret. End Note.)

9. (U) As a sign of the volatility of land disputes (and
the universally recognized need for land reform) an August
barroom brawl between a Kikuyu man and a Maasai man that
led to the Maasai man's death triggered wider clashes in
the town of Maela, approximately 30 miles southeast of
Naivasha in the Rift Valley Province. Since September 7,
several people have been killed and hundreds displaced from
Maela, according to press reports. The underlying conflict
between the two communities is a land dispute that has
erupted periodically since the 1980s.

10. (U) The post-election violence created a new demand for
small arms, which, according to a May report by the Peace
and Development Network Trust (PEACENET), Kenya's well-
established black market adapted to serve. Rumors are now
circulating that Kenyans of different ethnicities continue
to arm themselves with machetes and guns.

-------
Comment
-------

11. (U) Kenyans have reason to be proud of the rapid
improvement in the security situation in the wake of the
post-election crisis. Tensions that fuelled the violence
earlier this year still simmer beneath the surface,
however. For this reason, Kenya's leaders will have to
take into consideration the potential volatility of issues
such as land, resettlement, and accountability as they move
forward with the reform program.

12. (U) The Government of Kenya does not have a strong
track record of handling sensitive national issues
transparently or equitably. The pre-emptive shifting of
many IDPs earlier this year from well-serviced camps back
to their home areas -- where many now live in makeshift
transit camps -- is just one example of how far the
government has to go in its dealings with the public.
However, much progress has been made since 1994, when
security forces chased IDPs away from Maela at gunpoint.
13. (U) If the Grand Coalition Government is to shepherd
through meaningful reform without re-igniting conflict, it
will have to be especially sensitive to potential trigger
points. We are reaching out to leaders in politics,
business, and civil society, and urging them to set the
example by encouraging their followers to keep up the
pressure for reforms, but to do so peacefully.
RANNEBERGER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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