Top officials linked to drugs banned from US, says envoy

Tuesday November 16 2010

United States Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger  addresses a press conference at his residence in Muthaiga, Nairobi, at a past event. PHOTO/ STEPHEN MUDIARI

United States Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger addresses a press conference at his residence in Muthaiga, Nairobi, at a past event. PHOTO/ STEPHEN MUDIARI 

By PETER LEFTIE [email protected]

Four top government officials and a prominent businessman have been banned from setting foot in the US over suspected drug trafficking.

US ambassador Michael Ranneberger announced that the US government had taken the decision based on “reliable and corroborative” reports that the five were involved in drug trafficking.

“Today I am announcing that... we have taken steps to ensure that four senior government officials and one prominent businessman will be permanently prevented from entering the US for business or tourism,” Mr Ranneberger said in his address to members of the Rotary Club, Coast chapter in Mombasa on Tuesday.

He, however, refused to reveal the identities of the five people.

In a hard-hitting speech, Mr Ranneberger warned that the US had intensified its efforts against narcotics trafficking in and through Kenya, including revoking US visas held by suspected drug traffickers.

“Very importantly, we will ensure that those engaged in narcotics trafficking are permanently ineligible to travel to the US,” he said.

“If that person already has a visa, we will revoke it,” he said. Those suspected to aid drug traffickers will also suffer similar fate, he further warned.

Mr Ranneberger said that the US government was coordinating with Kenyan authorities to crack down on narcotics trafficking and to help communities deal with its consequences.

He decried a growing trend in which drug barons were using drug money to contribute to political campaigns or even buy their way to leadership. The drug barons were also using their ill-gotten money to buy influence from politicians and the media, the envoy stated.

He called on the Interim Independent Electoral Commission and the yet-to-be-formed Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission to make it a requirement that all candidates seeking elective positions publicly disclose the source of their campaign money.

“Officials must be forced to turn over any funds given to their campaigns, even after the fact, if those individuals are found to be traffickers,” he demanded.

He referred to chapter 76 of the new Constitution, which requires public officials to declare any personal interests that may conflict with public duties.

“Specifically, a state officer cannot even maintain a bank account outside Kenya except in accordance with an Act of Parliament,” he noted.

Mr Ranneberger suggested that in order to enforce this requirement, full financial disclosure should be an integral part of the public vetting process for all senior government officials, both appointed and elected.

“It is a time to isolate individuals engaged in drug trafficking as well as those engaged in political alliances with drug traffickers,” he said.

He also called on the electorate to reject politicians who protect drug traffickers during general elections.

The ambassador said the US would soon support a new effort to develop treatment programmes for drug addicts.

This will entail experts from the US conducting an assessment visit, followed by courses for treatment professionals in Mombasa.

The American embassy is also seeking funding from Washington to host an international symposium for Islamic leaders on drug prevention and treatment in Mombasa, said the envoy.