Two weeks ago, I wrote that US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger’s calls for prominent Kenyan officials to step down would put US influence in Kenya to the test. New Wikileaks revelations about US attitudes toward Kenya are now prompting Kenyan elites, including President Mwai Kibaki, to criticize Ranneberger. Some Kenyan officials are even calling for the ambassador’s recall to Washington. It does not seem now that Ranneberger’s rhetoric will produce the changes he sought, and in fact he may lose his post, which could in damage US prestige in Kenya.
Since the release of classified cables by WikiLeaks on December 8 and 9, Michael Ranneberger has been called a rogue ambassador and many politicians are demanding his recall to Washington.
Speaking [Sunday] at a celebration in Nairobi, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki criticized Ranneberger for his alleged attempts to influence national affairs.
Ranneberger is widely known for his youth outreach efforts in Kenya. Recently, politicians have accused him of using U.S. aid programs to incite the nation’s youth and foment change in the country’s leadership. Last week, Prime Minister Raila Odinga asked Ranneberger to end his outreach campaigns.
The Prime Minister called Sunday for Kenya’s international partners to respect its people as well as its sovereignty.
In the WikiLeaks exposed communiqués to Washington, Rannenberger cited Kenya’s “rampant, high-level corruption” – as well as its “culture of impunity” – as the two main obstacles in the path of reform. He included the president and prime minister as part of an “old guard” with vested interests in the culture of impunity.
Nairobi University School of Diplomacy and International Relations Professor Gerrishon Ikiara said the damage done to the Ambassador’s credibility likely will prompt his recall to Washington.
Whether Ranneberger stays or goes, I think Washington should take Kenyan leaders’ reactions to his leaked statements seriously. I do not mean that Washington should stop urging reform and denouncing corruption in Kenya. I do mean that the attitudes Washington’s representatives display toward Kenya, both in public and in private, have repercussions that can undermine stated US policies in Kenya. At a critical moment for Kenyan justice – namely, today’s announcement by International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo of six Kenyan politicians he will prosecute for “crimes against humanity during the post-election violence of 2008,” and fears that more ethnic violence is on the horizon – a more respectful attitude toward Kenya on the part of Washington could have given Washington more influence over the situation. Instead, the US must decide whether to recall a diplomat who has been publicly denounced by the leaders he is supposed to engage.
NTV Kenya has footage of President Kibaki’s speech:
Moreno-Ocampo releases the names of top Kenyan officials he will prosecute. The BBC has more.
President Obama responds:
US President Barack Obama Wednesday called on all Kenyans to cooperate with an International Criminal Court investigation into the violence triggered after contested elections there three years ago that left more than 1,500 people dead.
“I urge all of Kenya’s leaders, and the people whom they serve, to cooperate fully with the ICC investigation and remain focused on implementation of the reform agenda and the future of your nation,” he said.