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Kenya Cabinet set to meet over US cable leaks

Friday December 10 2010

President Mwai Kibaki chairs a past Cabinet meeting at State House, Nairobi. News of the planned meeting came as President Kibaki and Prime minister Raila Odinga rushed to defend their record as reformers. Photo/FILE

President Mwai Kibaki chairs a past Cabinet meeting at State House, Nairobi. News of the planned meeting came as President Kibaki and Prime minister Raila Odinga rushed to defend their record as reformers. Photo/FILE 

By SATURDAY NIGHT Reporter

The Cabinet is due to hold a crisis meeting next week amid the expected release of more leaked cables from the US embassy in Nairobi.

A senior ODM Cabinet minister revealed on Friday that the meeting will seek to devise ways of managing the consequences of the damning leaked cables on the government.

The minister along with five others who spoke to Saturday Nation on Friday refused to be named because the oath of secrecy they swore.

Said the Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Mutula Kilonzo: “There is concern because these are matters that are discussed in private. And it is being naughty and disrespectful to the leadership of this country.”

Anxiety in Cabinet

Only a handful of cables have been released from a haul of more than 1,800 leaked cables authored by officials in the Nairobi embassy, America’s biggest in the region.

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Mr Kilonzo said he was aware of the anxiety among Cabinet colleagues but said he had not been seen notice of the planned meeting as he was out of the city.

News of the planned meeting came as President Kibaki and Prime minister Raila Odinga rushed to defend their record as reformers, citing the promulgation of the new Constitution as the yard stick to measure their commitment to wide ranging changes.

President Kibaki dismissed the cables by US envoy Michael Ranneberger that described him and the PM as anti-reformers and dared the ambassador to send more write-ups to his bosses in Washington.

“Let those who write, write and if they have a problem with us they can write even more. Kenyans judge the work my government has done by tangible gains not from such nonsense.

“I urge leaders to focus on delivering services to Kenyans while in office and disregard such outbursts,’ he said in Ol Kalou, where he commissioned a newly-built highway.

Mr Odinga, who arrived on Friday morning from a climate change meeting in Cancun, Mexico, said the cables did not carry any truth in them.

“Most of it (the contents in the leaked cables) do not reflect the truth. Every right-thinking Kenyan knows that we (President Kibaki and the PM) are the engines of reform in this country,” he said (see separate story).

Government response

The Cabinet meeting, sources said, will take place on Wednesday next week to discuss and agree on a government response even though the ministers were alive to the fact that no one can stop the release of the cables.

New leaks in coming days could shed light on the movements of Mr Kabuga who the US believes is hiding in Kenya, further details of the main players in the Anglo Leasing scandal, President Kibaki’s health immediately before and after the 2003 elections, the post-election violence, coalition rivalry, Somalia and the National Accord will soon be released.

There were fears this week that the leaked cables are likely to cause a strain the in relations between the Grand Coalition partners as they would contain unflattering contents made in private discussions.

At stake also are relations between Kenya and Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir who is a friend of the government as witnessed during the promulgation of the Constitution.

However, the leaks have shown that Kenya assisted the government of South Sudan to import military tanks from Ukraine even as the government claimed that they weaponry was meant for its forces.

This must have infuriated President Al-Bashir who will find it hard to believe that Kenya could play double standards by assisting the government of his Vice President Salva Kirr to re-arm.

Speaking on Friday, Mr Kilonzo accused the US of driving a wedge in relations between Kenya and Sudan.

“Look at the cables relating to Southern Sudan. They are compounding the existing confusion and friction in a region that is already contaminated,” he said.

Housing minister Soita Shitanda warned that relations between Kenya and the US will no longer be the same.

“If I were Ranneberger, I would ask that I be moved to serve elsewhere. This will surely strain the relations between Kenya and the US. He needs to ask his boss in Washington to take him wo work elsewhere,” he said.