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Cablegate: Government Reforms Faltering, Kenyan Civil Society

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DE RUEHNR #3973/01 2561213
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 131213Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4234
INFO RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA PRIORITY 8770
RUEHDR/AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM PRIORITY 4832
RUEHDJ/AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI PRIORITY 4345
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA PRIORITY 1545
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 2004
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1989
RHMFIUU/CJTF HOA PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY

UNCLAS NAIROBI 003973

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

LONDON AND PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PREL PGOV PHUM KE
SUBJECT: GOVERNMENT REFORMS FALTERING, KENYAN CIVIL SOCIETY
TELLS SENATOR OBAMA

REF: A. NAIROBI 3824
B. NAIROBI 3679

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR RELEASE OUTSIDE USG
CHANNELS.

1. (SBU) Summary and Comment: In a series of meetings on
August 28 in Nairobi, leaders of Kenyan civil society and
government oversight organizations highlighted for visiting
Senator Obama the Kenyan government's faltering performance
on human rights, corruption, and governance, while ably
demonstrating the strength of Kenyan civil society.
Participants also noted the government's efforts to discredit
its most vocal critics. Recent targets are the Chair of the
Electoral Commission (accused of being partisan), and the
Chair of the National Human Rights Commission (the subject of
a probe into alleged financial improprieties, Ref. B).
Following the meetings, in his televised address, the Senator
highlighted the importance of Kenya's civil society leaders
(Ref. A), elevating the profile of the individuals named, and
hopefully making government hatchet jobs more difficult. End
Summary and Comment.

Human Rights: Room for Improvement, Need U.S. Leadership
--------------------------------------------- -----------

2. (SBU) Six of Kenya's most prominent human rights
activists expressed to Senator Obama on August 28 their
frustration with continued human rights abuses in the
country, particularly at the hands of the police. The
activists -- leaders of the government Human Rights
Commission, and five non-governmental organizations, focusing
on women's and children's as well as Muslim rights -- urged
the Senator to take a firm stand on corruption. They noted
that poor political accountability, as well as ethnic
polarization in the country, are fueling human rights abuses.
Although the current government came in with great promise,
it is losing focus on its reform agenda. Unprotected by an
"opaque" police force, women and children are particularly
vulnerable as victims of sexual abuse and trafficking, and
have no access to the justice system.

3. (SBU) The activists, however, also said there is a need
for greater leadership on respect for rights from the United
States, citing U.S. pressure on Kenya to sign an Article 98
agreement, and the perceived singular American focus on
combating terrorism: "You ask for openness and transparency,
so do the same." In particular, they alleged "torture" of
Kenyan Muslims, primarily in the coastal region, at the hands
of "white FBI agents." The Ambassador, also present, stated
that he would be the first to denounce such behavior, if it
had, in fact, taken place. He agreed with the Senator that
participating in a working group organized by local human
rights organizations would be a useful venue for correcting
misperceptions and fostering good-will.

Anti-Corruption Watchdogs See Through "Reforms"
--------------------------------------------- --

4. (SBU) Separately, representatives of democracy and
governance watchdog organizations told Senator Obama that the
initial high hopes which the Kibaki administration generated
on corruption and good governance have evaporated. Efforts
initially seen as progressive and reform-minded, including
the incorporation into government of several prominent civil
society leaders, are now seen as efforts to discredit,
weaken, and silence potential critics. The participants
agreed that too many "anti-corruption" institutions and
mechanisms were created, with competing jurisdiction and
mandates. The result: no one is ever held accountable.
Corruption court cases are delayed indefinitely due to lack
of enforcement ability and redundant specially-convened
commissions of inquiry which are designed to delay and
obfuscate. Months to years later when the commissions
finally produce watered-down findings, public fatigue with
the whole process allows them to get away with "frying a few
small fish while the big fish swim free."

5. (SBU) Realizing that Kenya's elected leaders had "failed"
the people, several participants suggested working bottom up
instead -- increase citizen participation and empower Kenyans

to better criticize the government's agenda and performance.
Participants agreed with Ambassador Ranneberger's comment on
the need to educate the people about the nexus between
economic corruption and their own poverty. Offering his
support for their continued efforts, the Senator invited
Kenyan civil society to help identify ways in which the U.S.
could be most effective in assisting their efforts, without
undermining the credibility of their initiatives.

Electoral Commission: Plagued by Politics
-----------------------------------------

6. (SBU) In a meeting significant for its visibility,
Senator Obama gave the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) a
much-needed boost at a time when its Chairman, Samuel
Kivuitu, has been the subject of media reports suggesting his
arrest is imminent. Although not formalized in law, it has
been past practice, Kivuitu explained, for the government to
appoint commissioners who are both pro-government and
nominated by the opposition for a total of 22. With the
terms of 10 "opposition" commissioners coming to an end, and
no indication from the government that it will appoint
"opposition" replacements, Kivuitu expressed his concern that
the ECK would no longer be seen as a balanced organization.
Although administratively prepared for the 2007 general
elections, the Chairman worried that politics would create
perceptions of bias and ultimately undermine the ECK's
credibility. The Senator recognized the Commission's
exceptional work during the 2005 constitutional referendum
and 2002 election, and inquired what, building on the already
strong relationship between the ECK and USAID, the U.S.
government could do to support the Commission. Kivuitu
appreciated the Senator's visit, adding that support from the
diplomatic community has given the Commission the confidence
to do its job.

7. (U) CODEL Obama has cleared this message.
RANNEBERGER

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