Normally quiet American ambassador speaks out to condemn police repression amid rising ethnic/political tensions in Kenya

Having marked a year in the post this week, U.S. Ambassador Scott Gration has generally “kept his powder dry” in terms of availing himself of the Kenyan media to speak out on the Kenyan issues of the day and exhort better behavior from Kenyan politicians and officials.  This is a marked contrast from what we had been used to during the 2008-11 period.

Today, however, is different.  Ambassador Gration is in both the Saturday Nation and The Standard condemning the Kenyan Police for violently blocking a youth-oriented meeting in Limuru called to counter the recent gathering there to revive the old GEMA (Gikuyu, Embu, Meru Association) to foster “Mount Kenya” solidarity against the International Criminal Court on behalf of the suspects, among other apparently divisive purposes.

The U.S. message leads both stories.  From the Nation‘s “US condemns Kenya Police over anti-Gema meeting”:

The United States has condemned the use of force by police to block the Limuru 2B meeting as calls for the resignation of their boss Mathew Iteere over the incident intensified.

US Ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration said the police action undermined the basic democratic tenets in the country.

“It was a grim reminder of Kenya’s past,” said Mr Gration in a statement Saturday.

“Fear tactics and political intimidation should have no place in Kenya under the new Constitution for they can threaten the brighter future we all desire for all Kenyans.”

He said the whole world looked at Kenya with admiration after the passage of the new Constitution two years ago, which enshrined universal rights as freedom of speech and assembly.

This he said, laid the ground for a free and fair election.

While both stories note criticism of the police from figures on “both sides” of the Government of National Unity, the Nation includes a defense from Kenyan Police head Matthew Iteere who alleges that the meeting was being used as a front to organize for the Mungiki sect.  Of course the Mungiki have a role in being a real problem in terms of crime, including ironically the instrumental political violence forming the basis of the ICC charges against Uhuru Kenyatta who the revival of GEMA seeks to protect; they also have served as a “bloody shirt” waived by state security forces including the police to justify extrajudicial killing in recent years.

[Update:  See Muthoni Wanyaki’s “Now we know: Only ethnic mobilization is allowed” in the East African.

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