Cablegate: U.S. Policy to Advance the Reform Agenda
DE RUEHNR #0059/01 0121513
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O R 121513Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0445
INFO IGAD COLLECTIVE
Tuesday, 12 January 2010, 15:13
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 NAIROBI 000059
FOR A/S CARSON AND NSC SENIOR DIRECTOR GAVIN FROM THE AMBASSADOR
EO 12958 DECL: 2020/01/12
TAGS PREL, PGOV, KCOR, KE
SUBJECT: U.S. POLICY TO ADVANCE THE REFORM AGENDA
REF: 09 NAIROBI 1811; 10 NAIROBI 31; 10 NAIROBI 50; 10 NAIROBI 11 09 NAIROBI 2485; 09 NAIROBI 2483; 09 NAIROBI 2475; 09 NAIROBI 2401
CLASSIFIED BY: Michael E. Ranneberger, Ambassador, DOS, EXEC; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)
1. (C) Summary: Our highest priority efforts are focused on advancing implementation of the reform agenda, which is key to the future democratic stability and prosperity of Kenya. While some positive reform steps have been taken, the old guard associated with the culture of impunity continues to resist fundamental change. Most key reforms are yet to be carried out, and the future of the constitutional review process is uncertain. We are employing public and private pressure, engaging broadly with the senior-most levels of the government and other political actors, and reaching out extensively to the Kenyan people, youth, civil society, the media, the private sector, and religious groups. We also laying out incentives for positive action on reforms and supporting significant steps when they are taken. Continued intensive U.S. efforts - using our unique influence in Kenya - is essential to propel implementation of the reform agenda. U.S. efforts are viewed very favorably by the Kenyan people and are helping generate increased domestic-driven pressure for reforms. This message discusses the current state of play, the dynamics affecting the reform agenda, and U.S. policy and actions. End summary.
U.S. Policy and Central Importance of Reform Agenda
2. (C) Advancing implementation of the reform agenda is the central objective of U.S. policy in Kenya. Achieving this is key to ensure the future democratic stability and prosperity of Kenya, a strategically important partner of the United States. Failure to implement significant reforms will greatly enhance prospects for a violent crisis in 2012 or before - which might well prove much worse than the last post-election crisis. Bringing about implementation of the reform agenda poses a large challenge because doing so threatens the culture of impunity and the entrenched political class that has existed in Kenya since independence. Most of the political and economic elite (to greater and lesser extents) compose the vested interests that benefit from and support impunity and the lack of accountability with respect to governance, state resources, and the rule of law. This includes President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga, who signed the coalition agreement, as well as most of the members of the Cabinet and leaders of the political parties.
3. (C) That said, there are dynamics at play which create an historic opportunity to achieve progress. First, the unprecedented post-election crisis jolted the Kenyan people and led to a broad appreciation, domestically and internationally, that some changes must be made to avoid such a crisis - or worse - in the future. Second, demographic pressures and generational change are having a marked impact, with youth increasingly assertive about the need for reforms. Third, and very importantly, the United States has enormous, unique leverage with the Kenyan people and government. Fourth, Kofi Annan on behalf of the African Union and group of eminent personalities remains intensively engaged. Fifth, there is more democratic space in Kenya than ever before, with a very active civil society, a vibrant media, a savvy private sector, and active religious groups. Sixth, Kenya’s leaders are ultimately practical politicians whose desire for self-preservation means they are responsive to some degree to intense international and domestic pressure.
Some Positive Steps
4. (C) As we have reported, the coalition government has demonstrated some progress on reforms in the past two years due to all of the dynamics delineated above - but particularly as a result of the continuing role being played by Annan and especially U.S. pressure. At a time when most observers were cynically saying that Police Commissioner Ali would never be removed, he was. Following the imposition of our travel ban on Attorney General Wako, he started talking about “retirement” (before the middle of this year, he says). The government has launched police reform. A new Interim
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Independent Electoral Commission is up and running, and the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission will soon begin its work. XXXXXXXXXXXX An anti-money laundering bill (which we have been heavily lobbying for) was recently passed and signed into law. The constitutional review process is underway.
Culture of Impunity Works to Forestall Fundamental Reform
5. (C) These are positive achievements, but most are only first steps. Those associated with the culture of impunity are working hard to limit the impact of steps taken so that they do not lead to truly fundamental reform that would threaten vested interests. Removals of key individuals, while in themselves significant, must be followed by real institutional reform. Several examples demonstrate the substantial challenges in bringing about institutional reform. Example 1: XXXXXXXXXXXX who blocks progress on high-level investigations and has ties directly to State House XXXXXXXXXXXX. The committee which considered replacements for XXXXXXXXXXXX picked someone who is a lightning rod to the vested interests and who is unlikely to be approved by Parliament, XXXXXXXXXXXX. Example 2: the process of police reform has been launched with great fanfare, but oversight of the process is questionable. The governmentXXXXXXXXXXXX is allegedly closely associated with the “kwe kwe” death squad responsible for extrajudicial killings. These examples are simply a few of many which demonstrate how the “culture of impunity” is, in effect, an informal system of governance that co-opts and/or forces others to participate or perish. To put it another way, the political elite are planning several chess moves ahead. While we are no mean chess players ourselves, it is very difficult to anticipate their next move or the motives behind “reform” steps.
Key Reforms Not Yet Undertaken
6. (C) Thus, while some initial progress has been made, the reforms needed to bring about fundamental change have not yet been achieved. No significant steps have been taken against high-level corruption, which remains rampant. No significant reform of the judicial or Attorney General’s office has been undertaken. No steps have been taken to hold accountable perpetrators of post-election violence. Police reform remains an open question. Little has been done by the coalition government to foster national reconciliation and cohesion. The most important issue on the reform agenda is constitutional review (see ref B and previous reporting), but prospects for success of this are problematic. While constitutional revision must be accompanied by the other reforms, without constitutional revision the other reforms will not be sufficient to ensure future stability.
Positive Impact of U.S. Policy and Actions
7. (C) Though daunting, key elements of the reform agenda are achievable. Consistent and intense U.S. pressure and support - privately and publicly - stands a reasonable chance to achieve substantial progress on implementation. Part of this effort involves helping to empower a new generation of leaders and leveraging the old guard to implement at least some key elements of the reform agenda. We are thus engaged in a well-coordinated intensive effort along the following lines: First, we are engaged in intensive private contacts with the full array of key actors, from Kibaki and Odinga on down. Second, we are engaged in
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extensive outreach to civil society, religious groups, the media, and the private sector to urge more concerted efforts to press for implementation of the reform agenda. Third, we are reaching out vigorously to the Kenyan people to encourage dialogue, reconciliation, and peaceful advocacy for implementation of reforms. Fourth, we are engaged in targeted outreach and support for youth to empower them to participate more effectively to press for implementation of reforms and to help escape the cycle of poverty which facilitates their manipulation by the political elite. Fifth, we are supporting reform-minded parliamentarians. Finally, as part of our overall approach, we are laying out incentives, providing concrete support for implementation of reforms, and deploying specific pressure publicly and privately.
8. (C) We are coordinating this intensive push on the reform agenda through an inter-agency Mission Task Force. The Task Force, which I chair twice weekly, ensures that U.S. efforts are coordinated, complementary, and sustained. We are, for example, providing expertise to the constitution revision Committee of Experts, and are working with the Interim Electoral Commission on parameters for providing $1.5 million in technical assistance. We are working closely with the Minister of Security on ways to support real police reform, particularly the establishment of internal and external oversight mechanisms. We are providing technical and expert assistance to the Parliamentary Reform Caucus, which was established with our encouragement. We have just dispatched a delegation of civil society and youth leaders to Washington, and we are coordinating dates for the visit of a Parliamentary Reform Caucus delegation in February. Support from AID’s Office of Transition Initiatives, coupled with public outreach, are having a dramatic impact in expanding the role of grassroots youth organizations to promote inter-ethnic dialogue and peaceful pressure for implementation of reforms. We recently launched a $45 million youth empowerment initiative. Actual travel bans and the threat to impose more are key elements of pressure that provide tangible evidence to corrupt anti-reform elites and to the Kenyan people that the USG will not do business as usual absent real change.
9. (C) This multi-faceted approach is having a marked impact among the Kenyan people and politicians. The U.S. push for reform is clearly viewed positively by the Kenyan people. The coalition leadership and Kenyan elite recognize the central importance of the U.S., know that the U.S. stance is viewed positively by the Kenyan people, and realize that they cannot ignore U.S. pressure. The quick impact which the Secretary’s recent calls had (see ref B) is one indication of this. Another is that the parliamentary reform caucus, which started with just 20 members, has grown to over 60. Another smaller but very telling indication is that senior politicians have recently starting consulting leaders of the grassroots youth organizations which we are supporting. Members of Parliament have started talking with them and Prime Minister Odinga called one of the youth leaders before he departed with the civil society delegation to Washington.
10. (C) While the culture of impunity and the grip of the old guard political elite on the levers of state power and resources remain largely intact, hairline fractures are developing in their edifice which - if we continue to work them intensively - will develop into broader fractures and open up the potential for a peaceful process of implementation of fundamental reforms. Although being realistic about what is achievable, we should not set our sights too low. With a strong, consistent, and concerted effort, much can be accomplished. By burrowing into the process and using concrete support as leverage, significant police reform can be carried out. Providing support for witness protection will significantly improve the odds that the International Criminal Court will be able to indict several key suspects of post-election violence. Such indictments, particularly if they are public, would be a major blow to the culture of impunity and likely help alter political dynamics in a positive way. Most importantly, intensive U.S. engagement can improve prospects for successful conclusion of the constitutional revision process (the sine qua non of the reform agenda). Much else can be accomplished as well, but taken together these steps would constitute major progress and would greatly enhance prospects for future democratic stability and prosperity.
11. (C) U.S. efforts are also contributing to something less tangible but equally important: a dynamic of change percolating throughout Kenya. We are hearing from many, many sources that our outreach efforts are encouraging and emboldening ordinary Kenyans to speak out in favor of change. The old guard of vested interests knows that we and others within Kenya are fanning the winds of change - always stressing the need to work peacefully within the democratic process -- and feels threatened by that, but they also realize that they must somehow come to grips with it. The old
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guard’s strategy is to do just enough to placate the people, Annan, and us, while trying to avoid fundamental change in the system. However, there is a real possibility that, as they seek to walk this fine line, the flood gates of change will open, or that at least the change will end up being more far-reaching than they envisaged. The sharp reaction of the old guard to our efforts and growing domestic pressure indicates that the culture of impunity system is not as strong as it may seem on the surface.
12. (C) In essence, we are on the right track. Obtaining further, decisive progress will require sustained, intensive high-level U.S. engagement and, as we have requested, additional resources in some areas as well. We are proceeding with a realistic appreciation of the challenge of bringing about fundamental change, but also with a cautiously optimistic appreciation that much is possible, and that positive engagement can make it happen. RANNEBERGER