A blunder by Kenya’s ambassador to the United States has plunged the country into a diplomatic row and provoked a strongly worded response from Illinois Senator, Mr Barack Obama.
Bizarrely, it was followed by another incident in which US President George W Bush was said to have discussed Kenya with Mr Jakaya Kikwete, the Tanzanian President.On Wednesday, the Government wrote to the US and Tanzanian authorities in Kenya, seeking a clarification over alleged instability concerns raised by Mr Bush and Mr Kikwete.
But it is Ambassador Oginga Ogego’s comments that provoked Obama, a high-flying American politician with Kenyan roots.
The Senator maintained that corruption and tribalism must stop in Kenya for any development to be realised.
“If Kenya is to meet the challenges of the 21st Century and satisfy aspirations of its great people, substantially more progress must be made on the issues of tribalism and corruption,” Obama said in a letter to Mr Ogego dated September 15.
Address at the University of Nairobi
The Senator dismissed issues raised in Ogego’s letter as “ad hominem and groundless” worth of “only a general response”.
|Illinois Senator, Mr Barack Obama|
He added: “I feel it would be more productive to simply issue a general response. I invite you to follow up with me in person, or via further correspondence, on issues you feel warrant additional attention”. He reminded Ogego that Kenyans stand by him on issues he raised at the University of Nairobi three weeks ago.
“While you seem to believe the Government is doing all it can, a number of Kenyan politicians, members of civil society, the media, and many ordinary Kenyans have told me the exact opposite. Many have welcomed my statement as a much-needed call to action,” the Senator said.
Obama told Ogego that the best judge of his speech was not the Government but the Kenyan people. The Senator’s address at the University of Nairobi had elicited a caustic response from Government Spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua, who just fell short of getting personal.
Kenya seeking a clarification
Mr Ogego, who had just been posted to Washington DC, followed up by castigating Obama before he had even presented his credentials to Bush.
On Wednesday, Obama said: “More over, as a technical matter, it is my understanding that at the time your letter was issued, you had not yet presented your credentials to President Bush, making your protest a breach of protocol”.
|Foreign Affairs Assistant minister, Mr Moses Wetangula|
In Nairobi, the Foreign Affairs Assistant minister, Mr Moses Wetangula, said Kenya was seeking a clarification over the alleged insecurity concerns discussed by Bush and Kikwete. During a meeting in New York on Monday ahead of the opening of the UN General Assembly, the two leaders are said to have discussed “political instability” in Kenya.
According to information attributed to Dr Cindy Courvillle, the US Government’s director for African affairs, the two presidents “expressed concerns to make sure that democracy is moving forward in Kenya”.
‘Remarks unwarranted and unjustified’
|Government Spokesman, Dr Alfred Mutua|
It was, however, unclear why Mr Bush resorted to discussing Kenyan issues with Kikwete while Foreign Affairs minister Raphael Tuju is leading a delegation to the UN Assembly. “We have sent official notes to the Tanzania and the US governments to seek clarification on the veracity and accuracy of the reports,” Wetangula said.
Wetangula said he had spoken to the US Ambassador to Kenya, Mr Michael Rannerberger, who said he was unaware of the remarks but promised to take it up.
Wetangula described the remarks as “unwarranted and unjustified” assault on an independent and sovereign state.
“This is more so coming from countries friendly to us and I hope the remarks are not a prelude to some mischief which Kenyans will certainly resist,” he said.
He defended the country, saying despite its problems, it was not unstable and had been a good example in the region.
Wetangula said Kenya would take the necessary steps to protect and guard its stability. He said the remarks did not augur well for the steps already taken towards realising an East Africa Federation but said the East Africa Community went beyond such statements.