Concern over US-Kenya Relations

Back in October, I wrote about tensions between the US and Kenya.

Somali refugees, Dadaab Camp, Kenya

VOA identifies some of the same issues:

Analysts say Kenya is supposed to be a part of the solution [to crises in the Horn of Africa], not a part of the problem.

But recently senior U.S officials raised concerns that refugees in eastern Kenya were being recruited to fight in Somalia, and Kenya’s government is turning away captured pirates because it says it is not getting enough international money to boost its judicial system.

The U.S. government has also expressed its frustration with Kenya’s national unity government over its slow pace of reform.

[…]Kenya’s government has also been critical of U.S. policies.  Following a U.S. raid that killed a Kenyan-born alleged Islamic extremist in Somalia last year, Kenya’s foreign minister said his country had not been warned about the operation.  Moses Wetangula said at the time it was a manifestation of what he called “Lone Ranger behavior.”

There has been progress on reform.  Kenyan lawmakers recently approved a new constitution that will be submitted to a referendum.  If approved, it would eliminate the position of prime minister, create a Senate, and give more power to regions.

But [Steven] McDonald, the Africa director at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, says many questions still remain on how the U.S. government should deal with Kenya.

“How tough do you get with Kenya?  How valuable is it as a partner?  I do not get the feeling that that is a decision that has been fully made within the administration as to how to proceed on Kenya, how tough to get with Kenya,” he said. “And, the Kenyans, of course, are not helping the situation by being very defensive, by even openly being critical of people like the Secretary of State [Hillary Clinton] and Ambassador Johnnie Carson when they have come with firm messages, but always messages intended to indicate the value we give to the relationship.”

What I was trying to say in the fall was that Washington cannot place pressures on Kenya from multiple angles and expect its government to respond positively to all of them. Demanding that Kenya assist in counter-terrorism, acquiesce to counterterrorist strikes that the US conducts in the Horn without informing Kenya, reform its government in accordance with American demands, and tolerate US penalties on its leaders seems like a lot to ask. Washington would be in a better position to demand military cooperation if it dropped the aggressive posture on reform, and would be in a better position to demand reform if it dropped the demand that Kenya go along with our counterterrorism programs. And the rebuttal to the argument that the US as a superpower can and should expect everything at once from smaller nations is the evidence that US policy toward Kenya – if there is a coherent policy – is not working on either the reform or the military front.

1 thought on “Concern over US-Kenya Relations

  1. Pingback: US-Kenya Relations–a counterterrorism versus reform tradeoff? « AfriCommons Blog

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