Monday, June 9, 2014

Let’s not allow conspiracy theories to divert our attention from insecurity

The United States Ambassador to Kenya,  Robert F. Godec,  gives a speech during the celebration of the 237th Independence Day of the US on July 3, 2013. The United States government has affirmed that all the programmes it is involved in within Kenya are for the good of Kenyans and their country. FILE PHOTO | EMMA NZIOKA |

The United States Ambassador to Kenya, Robert F. Godec, gives a speech during the celebration of the 237th Independence Day of the US on July 3, 2013. The United States government has affirmed that all the programmes it is involved in within Kenya are for the good of Kenyans and their country. FILE PHOTO | EMMA NZIOKA |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By ROBERT GODEC
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At the 50-year mark, the partnership between the United States and Kenya is broad and robust. It rests on a rock-solid foundation of shared values and interests.

Americans work side by side with Kenyans to achieve a wide range of common goals.

All told, the US Government provides nearly Sh85 billion each year to Kenya in assistance, and this money is given as grants, not loans. We are partners in business, development, and the fight against terrorism.

Unfortunately, in recent months the security situation in Kenya has changed. Al-Shabaab and its sympathisers pose a serious and growing threat to Kenyans and to members of the international community.

They have engaged in ruthless violence, targeting Kenyans, Americans, and others. The goals of terrorism are to create fear, divide us, and drive us apart. We must remain united in rejecting and condemning Al-Shabaab and its despicable attacks.

In addressing these challenges, the US embassy is in close touch with the Kenyan Government. We provide billions of shillings in equipment and training to Kenya’s security forces. We share with the Kenyan authorities all the information we have about threats. The United States also cooperates closely with the Somali government and Amisom to combat the problem at its source.

There should be no doubt: The United States is working very hard to help Kenya strengthen its security. At the same time, the Kenyan Government has increased security for the international community, including the US embassy, and we are grateful for that. We are in this fight together.

In recent days, unfounded rumours have circulated regarding the updated US travel warning for Kenya and about upcoming changes in personnel at the embassy.

The first obligation of the US Government, like all governments, is to inform and protect its citizens. Our travel warnings and security messages are not political statements.

They are issued without consideration to visits by foreign leaders. They are not designed to create economic problems for Kenya.

EMBASSY NOT CLOSED

The United States has not “evacuated” any citizens. We have not advised Americans against visiting Kenya, and have not “banned” travel here.

We have informed American citizens about the security situation so that they can make informed decisions about their potential visits. We keep our travel warnings under constant review and when security improves, we recognise it.

The modest staffing changes we are considering at the embassy will not affect our assistance to Kenya. The US embassy in Nairobi has not closed and is not closing.

The conspiracy theories floating around are more than just wrong. They divert attention from where our shared efforts need to be: Strengthening security.

The Westgate attack and the bombings in Nairobi, Mombasa, and elsewhere are evidence of a serious threat to all of us.

As we take steps to improve security, the US embassy will continue its essential work here. In the coming weeks, the United States will underscore its commitment to Kenya in three major events. Next week, 46 young Kenyans will head to the United States as part of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative. Those leaders will get training at major American universities and in Washington.

We are also looking forward to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC, which will feature Kenya and showcase for Americans the rich culture and heritage of this great country. And in August, President Obama has invited President Kenyatta to join him at the first US-African Leaders Summit, which will be another major opportunity to deepen our relations.

The partnership between Kenya and the United States has accomplished much. The threat from extremists poses new challenges, but together we can overcome them.

Success will require strong efforts on security as well as holding firmly to our shared values. I assure you of this: The commitment of the United States to Kenya is unchanged and unwavering. We remain a strong and steadfast partner of the government and people of Kenya.

Mr Godec is the US ambassador to Kenya.

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