Cablegate: Kenya: Forward Thinking to Negate "Defamation of Religion"

DE RUEHNR #2664 3561358
O R 221357Z DEC 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 128320

1. (U) Summary: This message is a response to an action request in
Ref A, and provides post input for Kenya to the Secretary's
"Defamation of Religion" working group. Although Kenya has strong
domestic incentives to oppose "defamation of religions"
resolutions, the influence of African Union, G-77, and to a lesser
degree the Organization of the Islamic Conference have resulted in
a history of abstentions. Post will continue to engage with
favorable contacts at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and
engagement with religious lobbies may be useful to encourage the
GOK to support the Action Plan to Combat Racial and Religious
Discrimination and Intolerance. End summary.

2. (SBU) Kenya has historically abstained on "defamation of
religion" resolutions in the Third Committee and General Assembly,
and looks to the African Union (AU), G-77, and to a lesser degree
the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to inform its
position on multilateral issues. Kenya's Muslim community is small
(about eight to ten percent of the population), but is outspoken
and economically influential. Trade linkages with OIC states such
as the UAE, Qatar, Libya and Malaysia result in GOK deference on
matters sensitive to the OIC.

3. (SBU) Bilateral ties between the United States and GOK are
strong, but post's diplomatic and public pressure on the GOK to
speed up implementation of the reform agenda (including the recent
announcement of a 212f visa ban on the Attorney General) has
prompted a retaliatory go-slow approach by the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs (MFA) on some issues. While foreign Minister Moses
Wetangula and Permanent Secretary Thuita Mwangi are problematic,
helpful interlocutors include Deputy Foreign Minister Richard
Onyanka, Director for Political Affairs Ben Ogutu, and Deputy Chief
of Protocol David Musyoka. Working quietly with friendly contacts
in the MFA could be useful.

4. (SBU) Post believes that a policy of engaging domestic
religious constituencies-particularly mainstream Christian and
moderate Muslim organizations-could prompt domestic voices to speak
out against "defamation of religions" resolutions. Christian
organizations such as the National Council of Churches-Kenya are
deeply concerned about the spread of Islamic extremism, and are
frequently engage the government on the subject of religious
freedoms. Moderate Muslim organizations such as the Supreme
Council of Kenyan Muslims (SUPKEM) are also under pressure as they
seek to limit the spread of extremist ideology among the youth.
Winning their support will be a harder sell than among Christian
interest groups, but might be in reach if we focus on a positive
agenda such as the Action Plan to Combat Racial and Religious
Discrimination and Intolerance.

5. (SBU) Directly engaging religious organizations entails a
number of risks, however, which should be carefully considered.
Religious organizations are accustomed to issuing press statements
as a primary advocacy approach to the government. These press
statement are at times poorly conceived and risks fuelling
inter-religious tension. Any engagement by the United States must
emphasize that the purpose of opposing "defamation of religions"
motions is to guarantee freedom of religion for followers of all
faiths, and that Christian groups in particular should not single
out Islam when engaging the public or GOK on the issue. No matter
how carefully the United States calibrates its message to religious
groups, we run the risk of negative press coverage and potentially
stoking already-high religious tensions.

© Scoop Media

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