21 September 2006

Kenya: Govt Mulls Protest Over 'Instability' Remarks

Nairobi — A diplomatic row was yesterday brewing following concerns raised about Kenya's stability at a meeting between US President George Bush and Tanzania's Head of State Jakaya Kikwete.

Foreign Affairs assistant minister Moses Wetang'ula said the Government would immediately write to the US seeking a clarification over the remarks on Kenya's "political stability".

If the remarks are true, "we'll do diplomatic notes to protest in the strongest terms about this strange, baffling and offensive affront to the dignity and sovereignty of the Kenyan people".

Mr Wetang'ula told a news conference at his Foreign Affairs office in Nairobi: "There's no political instability in our country at all. We want to believe that the statement attributed to the two presidents was quoted out of context."

It was unfair for the US to say there was instability in Kenya, when the country had never experienced any political instability as was the case in some neighbouring countries. "We want to remain a beacon of hope and peace for the region for other countries to borrow from," he said.

Mr Wetang'ula said the country was only heading towards the campaigns for the General Election next year, which was normal.

He also said it was unacceptable for Kenya to be discussed by other countries, more so Tanzania, which is a member of the East African Cooperation.

But he did not see any possibility of the remarks jeopardising the relationship between Kenya and Tanzania.

"We do not have even the slightest imagination of political instability. President Kibaki, being a member of EAC, might need to take up this matter with Mr Kikwete," he said, adding that Foreign Affairs minister Raphael Tuju was equally unhappy with the remarks.

Kenya's ambassador to the US Rateng' Oginga Ogego chose not to comment on the matter.

On Monday, a senior adviser to the American leader said "political instability" in Kenya was among the topics discussed in the Monday meeting in New York, ahead of the opening of the UN General Assembly.

The two "expressed concerns" and wanted "to make sure that democracy is moving forward" in Kenya, according to Dr Cindy Courville, director for African Affairs.

It was not clear why Mr Bush resorted to discussing Kenyan issues with the president of a neighbouring country when Kenya had sent a delegation to the same meeting. Tanzania enjoys cordial relations with Kenya and the East African countries, including Uganda, are partners in the EAC.

Dr Courville briefed reporters on the bilateral talks between Mr Bush and Mr Kikwete, which, she said, also covered the political situation in the DR Congo and peace in Burundi.

On Tuesday, Mr Wetang'ula said it would be out of tune for the two presidents to discuss issues concerning Kenya in its absence.

He said it would be unwise for Mr Bush to criticise Kenya soon after Mr Ogego presented his papers to him, at which function the American leader praised the country's political stability.

Dr Courville did not explain why Mr Bush spoke about Kenya's domestic issues with Mr Kikwete, nor specify the concerns raised regarding democracy and instability.

The US President has been holding a series of meetings with his counterparts from other countries who travelled to New York for the General Assembly, which opened yesterday and will continue for a week.

Mr Tuju, who is leading the Kenyan delegation in New York, will address the General Assembly on September 27.

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