US envoy Godec says Kenya election success 'not assured'
Posted Thursday, November 29 2012 at 14:26
The acting United States ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec has told the US Senate that the success of the next General Election "is not assured".
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) "faces major challenges getting ready for this election," Mr Godec commented in response to questions from senators considering whether to approve his formal appointment.
"There is little room left for slippage in the schedule," Mr Godec warned.
Senators raised concerns about morale at the Nairobi embassy following the abrupt resignation earlier this year of Ambassador Scott Gration.
He was accused in a State Department report of mismanaging the US diplomatic staff and of failing to confer regularly with Kenyan leaders.
"I have focused on this issue and made it a priority," Mr Godec assured senators. He noted that he has met with many staff members since taking charge in August of what is the largest US diplomatic mission in Africa.
In a prepared statement, Mr Godec offered a generally positive appraisal of Kenya's efforts to improve governance. He also praisedd the state of US-Kenya relations, calling it "both broad and deep".
Kenya's new Constitution "is one of the most progressive in Africa and envisions nothing less than the complete overhaul of the political system," Mr Godec said.
"It holds the promise of anchoring Kenya's democracy firmly in the rule of law."
In response to questioning, Mr Godec did acknowledge that Kenya's police have "significant problems".
He praised judicial reforms initiated in the past couple of years, saying they amount to "one of the success stories since passage of the new Constitution in 2010".
Senator Johnny Isakson raised concern about conditions in the Dadaab refugee camp, warning that it could deteriorate to the level of despair he witnessed in camps in Sudan's Darfur region.
Mr Godec said he had discussed Dadaab's status "on many occasions with senior Kenyan government officials".
While refugees cannot return to their homeland of Somalia "until conditions permit that," Mr Godec added that "ultimately, I don't think it's in anybody's interest to have that camp stay where it is".
Senators are thought likely to give assent soon to President Obama's nomination of Mr Godec.