Extremely interesting time, “isn’t it”?
Parliament is in an uproar about questions surrounding the deaths of Internal Security Minister Saitoti and Assistant Minister Joshua Ojode in a helicopter crash. Ironically, perhaps, at least one of those MPs raising questions about a drug-running connection has sparred with the U.S. in the recent past over accusations of his own involvement in such activity–but many others are raising questions, too. The ostensible investigation into the crash has obviously lagged in terms of any public information from the government.
TEN QUESTIONS MPs ARE ASKING
-Why did police fail to secure scene of crash?
– Why was Iteere first at scene but left shortly?
-Why was Saitoti family not briefed on probe team?
– Why did State frustrate South African experts till they left?
– Is there a possible drug-link to chopper crash?
-Is Kimunya’s ministry co-operating in probe?
– Shouldn’t Kimunya let someone else speak on behalf of Government?
-Why is State shifting positions on investigations?
-Why has State left a vacuum for speculation?
-Why should Iteere and Transport PS not step aside?
Police reform and land issues were understood by “everyone” to be crucial tasks for the “Government of National Unity” to get Kenya back on track after the failed election of 2007 and the ensuing violence, yet the Saitoti matter and drug controversies show how little has been accomplished or even attempted on the police front. (We have noted previously the fact that the land issues have remained unaddressed and ripe for more conflict.) When the Commissioner of the Police during the election, Ali, was pushed aside into the cushier, quieter role of Postmaster, in response to pressure from the U.S. among others, who replaced him but Iteere, the head during the election and post-election of the Kenyan police’s paramilitary General Services Unit (“GSU”)? In other words, the paramilitary forces in charge of securing Kibaki’s second term by, among other tasks, locking down the KICC for the announcement of the flawed election tally by Electoral Commission Chairman Kivuitu and keeping Uhuru Park in Nairobi free of demonstators while the parts of the Nairobi slums and the Rift Valley burned. How can Kenyans reasonably be expected to trust the police now?
Election campaigns are in full swing with the “2012 election” already pushed to March 2013, with questions about the ability to prepare on the part of the Government and on possible further delays for legal issues. Parliamentarians have openly sought to undermine key political reforms in the new constitution to continue to facilitate “party hopping” among other gambits to preserve themselves.
And now, the U.S. Ambassador has resigned, after an extremely low-key year on the ground. Obviously there is a back story. He was Obama’s personal choice and supposedly the post was held for him to become available after the Sudan referendum where he served as Obama’s envoy. The details may or may not matter, but regardless, it is crucial that the U.S. Administation step up to the plate in getting someone effective confirmed quickly to replace him. Confirmation hearings will be a chance for Congress to focus on Kenya before things get even messier.
For better or worse, Kenya has no greater friend internationally than the United States. It is time for some sense of urgency and focused determination from Washington. Kenya is worth paying attention to now rather than after it becomes the next crisis of the day.
UPDATE: “Why Gration Really Resigned” story from Molly Redden in The New Republic late this morning has unnamed former State Department officials indicating that a scathing report on Gration’s management style at Embassy will be released soon. Given that Africa Bureau management as a whole was heavily criticized in an IG review released shortly after the Obama Administration took office, it is especially surprising to see a new round of controversial management in the largest and most important U.S. Mission in the region.