Cablegate: Pushing Reforms: The National Youth Forum And

DE RUEHNR #2338/01 3141407
O 101407Z NOV 09




E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/10/2019


d (D)

1. (C) Summary. Sixty-six independent youth organizations
across the country are planning, with our support and
encouragement, to hold a National Youth Forum on November 17
to focus on the reform agenda and national reconciliation.
The government feels threatened by such independent activity
) particularly that it is drawing youth from every
constituency in the country -- and our support for it. The
President and senior Ministers raised this with me, and I
responded (see para 11). The National Youth Forum will take
place in a context in which youth across ethnic and political
lines are making clear their support for reform and change.
This growing awareness and the Forum will help drive
domestic-driven pressure for action. End summary.
2. (C) As part of our broad efforts to propel implementation
of the reform agenda (to which the coalition government
committed itself) we have been seeking to encourage peaceful
domestic-driven pressure. A key element of this is expanded
outreach to youth, who constitute two-thirds of the
population. (See reftel and previous on overall strategy
framework and actions.) That outreach has involved meetings
with young people around the country and expanded support to
independent grassroots youth organizations through USAID,s
Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), among other efforts.
3. (C) In September my team and I met with six prominent
youth leaders to float the idea of our supporting youth
organizations to hold a National Youth Forum to focus on the
reform agenda and national reconciliation. At that meeting,
the activists indicated that plans were already underway to
hold a national youth congress, along lines similar to those
we were suggesting. As a result of subsequent discussions
between the youth activists and my team, the youth activists
decided to expand the scope of the national meeting to
include bringing together young people from throughout the
nation. With our technical support, the youth activists
reached out to over 60 other youth organizations and
developed a plan of action to hold a National Youth Forum on
November 17. The 66 youth organizations plan to mobilize
about 600 young people (including 2 representatives from each
of Kenya,s 210 parliamentary constituencies) for a full-day
event at the Kenyatta International Conference Center (KICC)
in Nairobi. We agreed to provide financial support through
4. (C) At the end of my November 2 meeting with President
Kibaki to deliver the letter from President Obama (septel),
Kibaki raised for a couple of minutes in a general way our
involvement with youth, saying vaguely that it had raised
some concerns. Before a discussion could take place, the
President,s permanent secretary Muthaura jumped in to say
the President had another meeting, and the President left the
room. Muthaura then told me that some of the government
Ministers wanted to talk with me. Minister of Security
Saitoti, FM Wetangula, and Deputy Prime Minister Mudavadi
came into the room along with some other officials. They
were entirely focused on the planned National Youth Forum.
In essence, they described such youth activities as
&unhelpful8 and warned that &troublemakers8 could seek to
disrupt the meeting. I pushed back hard, acknowledging U.S.
support for the meeting, but making clear that the agenda and
participation were being organized by the youth
organizations. I emphasized that the meeting would be
peaceful and made clear I did not appreciate the veiled
threat through the reference to &troublemakers.8 In fact,
I noted, if as it claims the government is committed to
reform then it should embrace the meeting. On November 9 I
sent a letter (cleared by Washington) to those involved in
the meeting making clear the parameters of our engagement
with youth as part of broader efforts to encourage
implementation of reforms (see text in para 11).
5. (C) Our outreach to youth and the holding of the National
Youth Forum come at a time when there is widespread
recognition that youth throughout the country are
increasingly frustrated with lack of reform, which they
correctly link to insufficient efforts to alleviate poverty
and to empower youth economically and politically. This
broadening realization of the need for change is driving
youth to work together across ethnic, religious, and
political lines (but also driving the potential to cause
instability and violence if youth activism is not channeled
peacefully within the democratic system). All of the 66 youth
organizations involved in organizing the National Youth Forum
are inter-ethnic, and represent all the political
constituencies in the country.
6. (C) The fact that youth are increasingly asking
politicians hard questions and that they are increasingly
resistant to manipulation greatly threatens the political

NAIROBI 00002338 002 OF 004

class. The increasing activism of youth is one of the most
important dynamics at play to threaten the edifice of the
culture of impunity. That the political class (as reflected
by those in the meeting with me) is so threatened by a
meeting of several hundred youth indicates that this edifice
may be weaker and less resilient than anyone suspects. While
another message will analyze the broader state of the reform
process and U.S. efforts, it is worth noting here that the
political class which continues to resist reforms is clearly
reeling under steadily increasing pressure from the U.S.,
from Kofi Annan, from Ocampo, and to a lesser extent from the
EU. Most importantly, that external pressure is encouraging
growing domestic pressure for implementation of reforms, and
thus the government,s negative reaction to the National
Youth Forum. The external and internal pressure is also
yielding some results (as in the commitment to police reform,
among other steps).
7. (C) On November 10 I received a call from FM Wetangula in
response to my letter about engagement with you. He told me
that &I cannot disagree with anything in your letter,8 but
emphasized that &the government8 still did not want the
National Youth Forum to take place. When I pushed back he
admitted that the youth organizations had a right to meet.
He asked me to engage again with the Minister of Youth before
the Youth Forum takes place, which I agreed to do (and had
already planned to do). I had already met earlier this week
with the two Assistant Ministers of Youth to make clear our
interest in partnering with the government on youth
activities while also working directly with youth
8. (C) During the night of November 9 the offices of DAI
(which is OTI,s primary contractor providing the funding and
support to the youth organizations for the holding of the
Forum) were burglarized. In what was clearly a targeted
operation, only 3 laptops containing information related to
the National Youth Forum were taken (despite the presence of
much expensive equipment and valuables). The RSO is involved
and a police report has been filed. The operation has the
hallmarks of the National Security and Intelligence Service,
which is often used to intimidate civil society activists.
(When I met with PM Odinga on November 3 on other issues, I
raised the concerns expressed by Ministers in the November 2
meeting. Odinga said Mudavadi, Odinga,s ally, had been
pressured into attending and that he, Odinga, was not opposed
to the holding of the Forum. He claimed that National
Security and Intelligence Service Director Gichangi ) whose
stature with Kibaki has been damaged by a number of missteps
) is poisoning Kibaki,s ear about U.S. efforts to promote
reform, alleging that the U.S. is stimulating pressure rather
than telling Kibaki the truth that he might not want to hear,
which is that there is growing grassroots domestic pressure.)
9. (C) On November 5 I met with the youth committee
representating the organizations setting up the National
Youth Forum. I relayed the comments which President Kibaki
and then the Ministers had made to me. I made clear to the
committee that it was entirely up to them whether or not to
proceed with the Forum, but that they had to be alert to the
real possibility of state-sponsored intimidation or attempts
to have &troublemakers8 disrupt the event. The committee
made clear that the youth organizations had already
anticipated such possibilities, that precautions have been
taken, and they are determined to proceed. They indicated
that I and other diplomatic colleagues would be invited to
observe part of the proceedings, and I agreed to encourage my
counterparts to respond positively.
10. (C) The National Youth Forum, if held successfully, will
raise the profile of youth initiatives to push for reform,
will have a quantum impact in stimulating independent youth
efforts across the country and across ethnic and political
lines, and help galvanize domestic-driven pressure for
change. That said, the political class and vested interests
feel very threatened by such independent activity, and there
is serious potential for further intimidation. The youth
organizations are well-organized, have taken into account
these issues, and are doing their utmost to ensure that the
Forum is a model of peaceful democratic deliberation. The
media will likely give prominent coverage to the event.
11. (U) Begin text of my letter to Mudavadi, Saitoti,
Wetangula, and Muthaura; the letter was also copied to the
Prime Minister:
I am writing to follow up on our November 2 discussion in
which you expressed concerns about certain of my Mission,s
activities related to youth.

The U.S. Mission in Nairobi has for many, many years been
engaged in supporting youth activities in Kenya. We have
previously sponsored national youth meetings, supported
micro-enterprise projects for youth, provided
capacity-building training, offered scholarships, provided
health assistance targeting the growing problem of HIV

NAIROBI 00002338 003 OF 004

among youth, and facilitated exchange visits to the United
States, to name just a few areas.

We remain engaged in a wide array of such activities. Some of
these efforts involve supporting grassroots youth
organizations that are working to promote implementation of
the reform agenda. Since the coalition government has made
clear that it intends to
implement fully and expeditiously Agenda Four, and because
the United States has repeatedly committed to support this,
what we are doing constitutes a vital part of our bilateral
I thus find expressions of concern about such activities
surprising. As I made clear to you, in all contacts I and my
team have with youth ) publicly and privately ) we
emphasize the need for any activity to be peaceful and to
take place with full respect for the rule of law. We
emphasize the need to work within the democratic system as
well as with relevant government agencies and ministries. We
also urge the need for national
reconciliation and state emphatically that there can be no
place for violence. All of our activities are fully
transparent. Provincial Commissioners, District Officers, and
the local
chiefs are almost always present at meetings which I or
officers of my Mission hold(whether with youth or others)
during travel around the country. In many instances, my
meetings with youth and others are co-hosted with government
officials. I also routinely invite Members of Parliament to
join me in such visits and discussions.

It is a very positive sign for Kenya,s democracy that
independent grassroots youth organizations are developing
throughout the country and are working peacefully across
ethnic and political lines to urge and support change through
implementation of the reform agenda, and to promote national

I am sure you agree that in a democratic state, the
government must not and should not seek to control the
activities and associational life of civil society, be they
youth,religious, women, business, or others. That said, it is
of course appropriate and necessary for the government to
seek to assist youth and other segments of society as they
endeavor to contribute to the life of the nation. I commend
the government for the initiatives it has undertaken, ranging
from creation of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, to
expansion of the National Youth Service, to establishment of
the National Youth Fund, to creation of the Kazi Kwa Vijana
Fund, to cite only some of the government,s efforts with
regard to youth.

My government is in the process of developing plans regarding
a new $45 million initiative for engagement with youth. This
program was outlined as part of our new Development Grant
Assistance Agreement signed with the Government of Kenya on
September 12, 2009. The government has participated in the
assessment and program design process for the new youth
initiative and has provided valuable input. My team
and I will contact relevant government ministers to continue
discussing how some of this new funding could be used in
joint programs to highlight the positive U.S.-Kenyan
partnership. As an element of that partnership, we share the
objective of helping to empower young people to become
responsible citizens in order to help promote the future
democratic stability and prosperity of Kenya. A significant
part of our program is assisting youth to generate income and
opportunities for a career where they can make a positive

During our meeting, you specifically inquired about an
upcoming National Youth Forum meeting to be held November 17
at KICC. As I indicated, we have provided financial support
for the holding of that meeting. This meeting is being
organized by over 60
youth organizations from across the country to focus on the
reform agenda and reconciliation. While we have been in close
touch with the organizers, it is the youth organizations who
have set the agenda, who have decided who should be invited to
participate, and who are organizing the event. I and other
diplomatic colleagues, as well as civil society
organizations, religious groups, the private sector, and
others have been
invited to observe the proceedings, but not to participate.

Given the government,s commitment to advancing democratic
values and reform, the meeting should be a welcome
development. I understand that the Minister of Youth and
Sports and the Police Commissioner have been invited to

NAIROBI 00002338 004 OF 004

address the youth meeting. I
have been assured that no demonstrations or any other outside
activities will take place in connection with the Forum. In
that regard, it is my understanding that the Forum will be
entirely peaceful and within democratic parameters. When you
met with me you raised the concern that &troublemakers8
could seek to disrupt the proceedings. I am sure that
appropriate law enforcement authorities will ensure that such
outside &troublemakers8 are not allowed to disrupt what, by
all indications, will be a model exercise in democracy.

Empowering and enabling young people to channel their
energies into peaceful advocacy which respects the democratic
system is the best possible way of mitigating against
instability or unrest which might grow out of the increasing
frustration and cynicism that many youth feel (as documented
in Kenyan opinion polls). We see our efforts in Kenya as
contributing towards democratic stability, which we value no
less than you.

My Government at the highest levels fully supports our
engagement with youth, and this letter has specifically been
cleared by Washington.

I look forward to continuing to work with all of you to
expand and strengthen the bilateral partnership, which is
premised on shared democratic values.

End text.

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