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US envoys see Kenya as a ‘swamp’ of corruption

Monday November 29 2010

Aerial View of the city of Nairobi, Kenya's capital city. PHOTO/ Fredrick Onyango

Aerial View of the city of Nairobi, Kenya's capital city. PHOTO/ Fredrick Onyango  

By Kevin J Kelley [email protected] In New York

Leaked reports from the US embassy in Nairobi depict Kenya as “a swamp of flourishing corruption,” the German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Sunday.

“Almost every single sentence in the embassy reports speaks with disdain of the government of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga,” adds Der Spiegel.

The magazine’s brief reference to Kenya is part of its initial summary of the contents of a quarter-million secret US diplomatic cables being published by the controversial pro-transparency website Wikileaks.

America’s ambassadors are merciless in their assessments of the countries in which they are stationed, according to the leaked documents. Fifteen high-ranking Kenyan officials are already banned from travelling to the United States, and almost every single sentence in the embassy reports speaks with disdain of the government.

Personal information

Wikileaks itself has so far released only 226 of the 251,287 documents it obtained from undisclosed sources. None of the reports so far made available focus specifically on Kenya, but a graph on the Wikileaks website indicates that it has collected 1,427 US diplomatic reports related to Kenya.

In addition to Der Spiegel, Wikileaks provided advance access to the trove of material to The New York Times, The Guardian (London), El Pais in Spain and Le Monde in Paris.

Those news organisations say they will publish their own reports about the leaked information over the course of the next few days.

The leaked reports show that US diplomats did not just report on European or Arab leaders.

A national human intelligence collection directive issued under Hillary Clinton’s name calls for highly detailed and personal information on figures at top levels of society in Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.

It asks for details on military facilities, such as airfields and army camps, and on military equipment, including numbers, operational status and procurement/refurbishment activity.

The reports show that reports on medical history and the health status of some of the leaders in the Great Lakes region and their allies.

Other personal data included information relating to persons linked to African Great Lakes: office and organisational titles; names, position and other information on business cards; numbers of telephones, cell phones, pagers and faxes; telephone directories and e-mail listings; internet and intranet, credit card account numbers; frequent flyer account numbers; work schedules, and other biographical information.

They also sought information on rebel groups, opposition parties, status of media and their organisational structure

Three years ago, Wikileaks disclosed a report by the international risk assessment group Kroll alleging massive corruption on the part of relatives and associates of former President Daniel arap Moi.

The Kroll analysis had been commissioned by the government of President Kibaki soon after it came to power following the 2002 election. It was completed in 2004 and published by Wikileaks in 2007.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange subsequently claimed that the website’s action influenced the 2007 election results. Mr Assange said in a commentary published last year that none of the politicians named in the Kroll report were re-elected.

The vast trove of diplomatic cables leaked on Sunday by the WikiLeaks website shows that US allies in Europe and the Middle East are pushing for tough action against the Iranian nuclear threat.

The international community is already pressuring Iran to drop its attempt to refine uranium, but the leaked cables published Sunday by world newspapers show that behind the scenes world leaders are fearful and pessimistic.

From the first memos released, it was learned that:

• Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz has “repeatedly” urged his US allies to take military action against Tehran’s nuclear programme and urged them to “cut off the head of the snake”.

• Israel believes US President Barack Obama’s diplomatic outreach to Iran is doomed to failure and that time is running out before military action will need to be tabled if Tehran is not to get a nuclear bomb.