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Macharia Kamau tells off 2 former US envoys to Kenya

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Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau has come out guns blazing in response to an article published late last month by former US ambassadors to Kenya Johnnie Carson and Mark Bellamy in which they called for US intervention in Kenya. The article was published by African Arguments.

Through a statement sent to newsrooms Tuesday, the immediate former Kenya’s ambassador to the UN has said the article fell “flat on their face due to the blatant use of lies, half-truths and innuendos.”

And in an opinion piece published in the same publication, Kamau says there is no need for negotiations since Kenya has successfully gone through its five-year electoral cycle and is now focused on serving her citizens.

In effect, the Kenyan government is rejecting calls to have the United States intervene in the current political standoff pitting it against the opposition.

ABSURD DEMAND

“Our response to the authors’ absurd demand for US intervention in Kenya is a loud no, thanks,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Ambassadors Bellamy and Carson. PHOTO/COURTESY

“This is a clear demonstration of how preconceived notions and stereotypes about Africa by Western technocrats override any practical experience and knowledge they may have acquired on the continent. Their knack for getting it wrong on African and Kenyan issues is not only dumbfounding but also a demonstration of why desk research on Africa, with the only source of information being a biased Western media, should be treated with disdain,” he said.

The Daily Nation reported the President Uhuru Kenyatta’s spokesman Manoah Esipisu appeared to confirm that, indeed, that was the position held by the Head of State.

“The PS has spoken and that is his docket. What else do you want us to add?” he asked.

The former ambassadors offered their joint recommendations in a commentary published in African Arguments, an online journal.

“Publicly shaming the Kenyatta government or threatening sanctions is not the answer. However, the US must make it crystal clear privately that there are limits to what the US can tolerate if it is to maintain its close relationship and that continuing to amass executive power unconstitutionally and flout the rule of law seriously tests those limits,” they said.

 

Mr Kamau Tuesday accused the former envoys of misinforming their readers on the situation in Kenya during and after the General Election.

“The fact that Kenya went through the prolonged campaign and electioneering period and emerged peaceful, should be a reason to celebrate the resilience of her democracy,” he said.

“They talk of political chaos and possible intercommunal violence and a palpable desire to change this trajectory. They even mourn that attempts by Western governments to appeal for calm are not being heeded. The reader will note how the authors are keen to weave the now familiar narrative of a crumbling African State and the ever-benevolent Western states ready to intervene and sort out ‘another fine mess in Africa’,” he said.

READ ALSO:   Kenyans stranded abroad to be flown home at own cost

 

Mr Kamau’s hard-hitting statement, coming at a time US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected in the country, may be seen as an attempt to pre-empt his agenda with observers in the diplomatic circles pointing out that the senior diplomat could in fact be stating the government’s position regarding the campaign for dialogue.

The PS said the 2017 elections presented an opportunity to test the institutions created by the constitution, including the Judiciary and the IEBC.

“The question of whether the institutions withstood the test can be attested by the peace and tranquillity that is existing in Kenya barely three months after the repeat elections,” he said, adding that the electioneering period ended with the swearing-in of President Uhuru Kenyatta on November 28, 2017, after he was duly elected in the October repeat presidential elections.

RULE OF LAW

“The claims that there is a deliberate attempt by the Executive to subvert the rule of law cannot be further from the truth.  Throughout the campaign period, the government demonstrated fidelity to the law with the then incumbent President accepting the Supreme Court ruling nullifying the August 8, 2017 presidential election even as he, and other legal analysts, disagreed with it. The main opposition coalition, clearly aware that their political strategy had failed, dithered and withered, eventually boycotting the repeat presidential elections,” he said.

He accused the opposition of attempting to perpetrate violence in the wake of their electoral loss.

To demonstrate that the country is on the right path, he said, international investors have given the Kenyan economy a vote of confidence by a sevenfold over-subscription of a Eurobond issued by the government in the London Stock Exchange recently.

 

Here is the  full article:

That Mark Bellamy and Johnnie Carson are accomplished US diplomats is not in doubt. It may also be assumed that their relationship with Kenya as former ambassadors in Nairobi gives them a more than average understanding of Kenya’s politics, economy and even social aspects.

But their article, published at African Arguments on 27 February, in which they call for US intervention in Kenya is a clear demonstration of how preconceived notions and stereotypes about Africa by Western technocrats override any practical experience and knowledge they may have acquired on the continent.

Their knack for getting it wrong on African and Kenyan issues is not only dumbfounding but also a demonstration of why desk research on Africa, with the only source of information being a biased Western media, should be treated with disdain.

The authors seem to revel in misinforming their readers not only on the existing situation but also on the events that unfolded during Kenya’s 2017 election cycle. They talk of political chaos, possible intercommunal violence, and a palpable desire to change this trajectory. They even mourn that attempts by Western governments to appeal for calm are not being heeded.

READ ALSO:   18 Kenyans succumb to Covid-19 in foreign countries

The reader will note how the authors are keen to weave the now familiar narrative of a crumbling African State and the ever-benevolent Western states ready to intervene and sort “another fine mess in Africa”. Inevitably, attempts to weave this narrative in this article fall flat on their face due to the blatant use of lies, half-truths and innuendos.

Peace and tranquillity since the elections

It’s a fact that Kenya’s vibrant electioneering period ended with the swearing in of President Uhuru Kenyatta on 28 November, after he was duly elected in the 26 October 2017 repeat presidential elections. The claims that there is a deliberate attempt by the executive to subvert the rule of law cannot be further from the truth. Throughout the campaign period, the government demonstrated fidelity to the law with the president accepting the Supreme Court ruling nullifying the 8 August presidential election even as he, and other legal analysts, disagreed with it.

The main opposition coalition, clearly aware that their political strategy had failed, dithered and withered, eventually boycotting the repeat elections. Their attempts to perpetrate violence in the wake of their electoral loss have been rejected outright by Kenyans, with the government taking the necessary steps to fulfil its cardinal responsibility of protecting the lives and property of Kenyans.

In the long and arduous walk to entrench democratic principles, no individual or institution is exempt from the dictates of the constitution. Just like in any other democracy, the media, various arms of government, political parties, civil society groups, and all citizens are bound by the constitution and its violation has consequences in line with the rule of law.

The fact that Kenya went through the prolonged campaign period and emerged peaceful should be a reason to celebrate the resilience of her democracy. Kenya’s constitution, enacted in 2010, is barely eight years old. The 2017 elections presented an opportunity to test the institutions it created, including the Judiciary and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

The question of whether the institutions withstood the test can be attested to by the peace and tranquillity in Kenya barely three months after the repeat elections. Kenyans are back to work and the economy, which had slightly slumped during the electioneering period, is now on an upward trend with the World Bank projecting 5% economic growth for 2018.

Even international investors have given the economy a vote of confidence by a sevenfold oversubscription of a Eurobond issued by the government in the London Stock Exchange on 21 February. The tourists are trooping back to enjoy the unrivalled Kenyan flora and fauna and bask in the white beaches of Malindi and the entire coastal region.

Double standards

The authors’ assertion that Kenya is unravelling due to what they refer to as a widening rift between the ruling Jubilee and the opposition NASA coalition betrays their double standards when it comes to democratic tenets in Africa as compared to in America.

READ ALSO:   Covid-19: Five Kenyans died in the US over last month

It is not lost on Kenyans that the differences in ideologies between the Democrat and Republican parties and toxic political drama that culminated in the election of President Donald Trump in 2016 left some social and political fissures in America. But despite their divisive nature, the Trump vs. Clinton political campaigns can rightly be described as a demonstration of the vibrancy and maturity of America’s democracy.

In a clear display of bias and cognitive dissonance, Bellamy and Carson describe similar ideological differences and political rhetoric between the Jubilee Party and NASA Coalition during and after the elections as political turmoil. Competitive politics in a democracy, both in America and Africa, can never be described as turmoil. Political competition is a key tenet of democracy, and Kenya has demonstrated that, with strong institutions, credible and peaceful elections are possible.

An affront to Kenya’s sovereignty

On a positive note, the authors acknowledge the cordial relations between Kenya and the US, which they had an opportunity to strengthen during their respective tenures as ambassadors to Kenya. They use this as a basis for advocating for US intervention to prevent what they see as Kenya descending into violence and threats to rule of law.

But with memories of US interventions in countries such as Libya and Iraq, ostensibly to return them to democracy, still fresh in our minds, jitters about this proposal by senior US leaders are understandable. Any form of interference by the US in a country that has time and again demonstrated her commitment to entrench democratic principles, rule of law, and good governance can only portend danger.

It is no wonder that the current US ambassador in Nairobi, and indeed the entire US government, has risen above Kenya’s political challenges. Just as Ambassador Carson was proven wrong on his assertion before the 2013 elections that a victory for Uhuru Kenyatta would have negative consequences, the two countries have once again continued on the path of strengthening their bilateral relations and partnerships with a clear understanding of the need for mutual respect. The threats issued and grandstanding advocated for by the two US leaders is not only unfortunate but also an affront to Kenya’s sovereignty.

On her part, Kenya will maintain momentum in strengthening governance institutions, entrenching the rule of law, building a cohesive society, and buttressing peace within its borders and in the region. While we welcome positive and constructive criticism from our partners and friends, we remain averse to any suggestions of interference with our internal affairs from any quarters.

Our response to the authors’ absurd demand for US intervention in Kenya is a loud NO THANKS!

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Africa

Kenya ‘raring to go’ on free trade deal with US, Uhuru says

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Kenya’s negotiations with the US on an unprecedented two-way trade deal are on schedule to begin on July 7 despite difficulties posed by the coro-navirus pandemic, President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Friday.

“Our team is raring to go,” he assured an online forum sponsored by the Washington-based Corporate Council on Africa.Kenya is aiming to create “sustainable jobs for our people” through what would be the first bilateral free-trade agreement between a sub-Saharan country and the nation with the world’s biggest economy, the President added.

The US also has much to gain from concluding such an arrangement, Mr Kenyatta suggested.Kenya is part of a continent that “requires everything from toothbrushes to machine tooling,” he said.

Mr Kenyatta also sought to allay concerns that a bilateral deal with the US could undermine the African Con-tinental Free Trade Area that is due to be implemented at the start of 2021.The Africa-wide initiative is “very important to us,” the President said, noting that Kenya has worked hard to ensure its success.

He suggested that a Kenya-US bilateral pact can complement the continental trade agreement and could serve as a model to be replicated by other individual countries.

“If we are successful in these negotiations, Kenya can act as a lead or guide,” the President said. “We will be the guinea pig so that many other African countries can follow suit.”

READ ALSO:   18 Kenyans succumb to Covid-19 in foreign countries

But Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo, who also spoke at Friday’s forum, said the US has paid more attention to the possibility of a bilateral deal with Kenya than to the multilateral Africa trade agreement that will soon come into force.

While hailing the significance of a US-Kenya trade deal, Mr Akufo-Addo lamented that “the emphasis of America on exploring opportunities on the continent has not been quite as intense as some of us would have wished.”

Florizelle Liser, chief executive of the Corporate Council on Africa, said in an interview following the forum that the US has in fact worked to facilitate the Africa-wide trade agreement.A bilateral deal with Kenya is not an impediment to Africa’s efforts to forge a multilateral free-trade grouping, she added. The US side “understands that Kenya is part of the EAC,” Ms Liser said.

“They’re already looking at ways they can pull in other East African countries.”It could take as long as two years to conclude a Kenya-US trade deal, she added.

President Kenyatta noted in his remarks to the forum that Kenya was especially keen to start bilateral negoti-ations with the US because the existing multilateral preferential trade package known as Agoa is due to expire in 2025.

READ ALSO:   Fourth Kenyan who died of Covid-19 in the UK identified

But President Akufo-Addo is not prepared to acquiesce to that projected termination date for Agoa. African countries that have benefited from Agoa should “look at the possibility of extending it,” he said.

Ms Liser, whose 27-year-old association includes most US companies operating in Africa, pointed out that it is up to the US Congress to decide whether Agoa’s scheduled expiration in five years will actually come to pass.The still-spreading pandemic is in-tensifying Africa’s need for increased trade and investment, the Kenyan and Ghanaian heads of state agreed.

Kenya managed to save many lives through swift implementation of virus-containment measures, Mr Kenyatta noted.

But, he acknowledged, those moves led to a sharp economic contraction and widespread loss of livelihoods.President Akufo-Addo pointed out that Ghana has recorded one of the lowest virus-related death rates in the world.His country has counted 15,473 cases of coronavirus, resulting in 95 deaths.Kenya has reported only about one-third as many cases but has seen 135 lives lost to the pandemic.

At the same time, Kenya Airways (KQ), grounded for the past three months by the coronavirus pandemic, will resume domestic flights in “the next couple of days,” President Kenyatta said.

The return to in-country service will coincide with the lifting of Kenya’s lockdown on travel between counties, Mr Kenyatta noted.The government will soon set a date for KQ to resume flying internationally, the President added.

READ ALSO:   Seven died abroad, bringing the rest home to cost Sh4bn

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure we are back in the skies,” Mr Kenyatta said.“We’re eager to open up, but we have to make sure we all stay safe.”

The President’s announcement came on the same day that KQ chief executive Allan Kilavuka revealed that the airline has lost an estimated $100 million so far this year due to the pandemic and related lockdowns.Losses could approach $500 million by the end of 2020, Mr Kilavuka added.KQ had been struggling financially long before the coronavirus emerged.

It lost about $122 million in 2019, compared to $71 million the previous year.

By Sunday Nation.

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Somali ‘incapable’ of removing Shabaab – US

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Somalia’s army remains “incapable” of ousting Al-Shabaab from its strongholds, enabling the insurgents to exercise continued control over large parts of the country, the US State Department said on Wednesday.

As another indication of failure to stifle Shabaab militants after 13 years of counterinsurgency warfare, the Al-Qaeda-affiliated group last year carried out more than 1,000 attacks inside Somalia and in northern Kenya, the State Department noted in its Country Reports on Terrorism 2019.

The Somalia section of the annual global survey estimates that Al-Shabaab has between 7,000 and 9,000 members.

FUNDING

The group funds its actions through “illegal charcoal production and exports, taxation of local populations and businesses, and by means of remittances and other money transfers from the Somali diaspora,” the report adds.

The State Department does not offer an estimate of the size of Shabaab’s war chest.

Targeted operations carried out by Somali military units trained and equipped by the United States are said to stand as exceptions to the national army’s ineffectiveness.

But the report makes no mention of the intensified campaign of air attacks launched by the US Africa Command (Africom) against Al-Shabaab targets.

Africom carried out 63 such strikes last year, compared to 47 in 2018 and 35 in 2017.

READ ALSO:   Fourth Kenyan who died of Covid-19 in the UK identified

SECURITY REFORMS

Somali officials “failed to implement vital national security reforms and pass legislation that could help enhance the government’s capacity to secure and govern effectively at all levels,” the report observes.

But it finds that the federal government “remained a willing partner to US efforts to improve the quality of policing entities throughout the country.”

The Kenyan government is also described as a “willing US partner” in investigating, prosecuting and responding to terrorist attacks.

However, the report notes that Kenyan security forces were reported to have engaged in human rights violations in their counter-terrorism operations. Alleged abuses included extra-judicial killings, disappearances and torture.

DUSITD2 ATTACK

But the Kenyan police and army are lauded for their response to the January 2019 DusitD2 Hotel attack. Their performance on that occasion was “in line with international standards for protection of human rights in response to terrorist threats and attacks,” the report says.

Kenya’s prosecution of suspected terrorists exhibits both progress and shortcomings, the US finds.

“Terrorism case trials often proceeded slowly and inefficiently,” the report states, noting that the three remaining defendants in the 2013 Westgate Mall attack were still on trial at the end of 2019.

“Significant victories” achieved last year included the reinstatement of convictions and 15-year sentences of two Iranians involved in a disrupted bomb plot in 2012.

READ ALSO:   18 Kenyans succumb to Covid-19 in foreign countries

Also last year, a Kenyan court found three of four defendants guilty of the 2015 Garissa University massacre.

By Nation.co.ke

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Africa

Trump suspends green cards, work visas until January

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US President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending the issuance of a number of employment-based visas through the end of 2020, including the H-1B which are used for highly skilled workers and common in the tech industry.

“Temporary workers are often accompanied by their spouses and children, many of whom also compete against American workers. Under ordinary circumstances, properly administered temporary worker programs can provide benefits to the economy,” the order reads.

“But under the extraordinary circumstances of the economic contraction resulting from the Covid-19 outbreak, certain non-immigrant visa programs authorising such employment pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers,” it continues.

The order also applies to H-2B visas for short-term seasonal workers, H-4 visas for spouses of H-1B visa holders, L-1 visas for executives transferring to the US from positions abroad with the same employer, as well as certain J-1 visas which are given to researchers, scholars and other specialised categories.

It will not apply to visa-holders already in the United States, or those outside the country who have already been issued valid visas.

Around 300,000 J-1 visa recipients come to the US every year, according to the American Immigration Council.

The new restrictions will prevent about 525,000 people from entering the United States between now and the end of the year, including 170,000 green-card holders who have been barred from coming to the country since April, according to a Wall Street Journal report, citing a senior Trump administration official.

READ ALSO:   Kenyans stranded abroad to be flown home at own cost

The Trump administration will grant exemptions for health-care workers focusing on treating and researching Covid-19 as well as those working in the food supply chain, including seafood and food packaging, said the report.

A number of American tech industry and other business leaders have warned that the move will weaken companies’ ability to recruit top talents to the US and lead them to move more operations abroad.

“Today’s proclamation is a severe and sweeping attempt to restrict legal immigration. Putting up a ‘not welcome’ sign for engineers, executives,  IT experts, doctors, nurses and other workers won’t help our country, it will hold us back.

Restrictive changes to our nation’s immigration system will push investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth, and reduce job creation,” Thomas Donohue, the CEO of U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.

“American businesses that rely on help from these visa programs should not be forced to close without serious consideration,” nine Republican senators wrote in a May 27 letter addressed to Trump, “guest workers are needed to boost American business.”

Meanwhile, as many as 64 percent of Americans believe immigrants primarily fill jobs Americans don’t want, according to a recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center.

The Monday order is the latest effort by the Trump administration to cater for immigration hardliners and groups, a key constituency of the president’s political base that argue American workers should be prioritised, especially amid the economic downturn due to the coronavirus pandemic.

READ ALSO:   18 Kenyans succumb to Covid-19 in foreign countries

The new restrictions, which will take effect on June 24, expand a temporary immigration ban the Trump administration introduced in April that blocked some family members of U.S. citizens and reduced the number of high-skilled workers from immigrating to the country for the time being.

By nation.co.ke

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