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US to Kenya: Sorry for what is coming

Tuesday November 30 2010

Nicholas Nthenge | PMPS Prime Minister Raila Odinga welcomes US under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero to his office on Harambee Avenue, where they held discussions on Tuesday. She is accompanied by US ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger.

Nicholas Nthenge | PMPS Prime Minister Raila Odinga welcomes US under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero to his office on Harambee Avenue, where they held discussions on Tuesday. She is accompanied by US ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger. 

By NATION TEAM [email protected]

The US government has apologised to Kenya over comments by some American diplomats on the country’s leadership.

US assistant secretary of State for African Affairs Johnny Carson, who served as ambassador to Nairobi during part of the period covered by the leaked cables, telephoned Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Monday.

Major milestones

There are 1,821 cables on Kenya in the documents being released on the WikiLeaks website covering the period 1996 to February this year.

American ambassadors who served in Kenya during that period are Aurelia Brazeal, Prudence Bushnell, Mr Carson, William Bellamy and Michael Ranneberger.

Major milestones of the time include former President Daniel arap Moi’s re-election in 1997, his retirement after the 2002 General Election, emergence of the Narc government during the first coalition between President Kibaki and Mr Odinga, the 2005 referendum, the 2007 election and subsequent violence and the National Accord.

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It is expected that some of the documents contain candid and unflattering remarks by American diplomats on President Kibaki, Mr Odinga, Mr Moi and other leaders of the time.

The government on Tuesday held an emergency meeting in the morning and came out fighting following the leaks.

Sources close to the high level meeting, which was chaired by Mr Odinga, said that leaders were shocked that Kenya was only alerted to the contents of the WikiLeaks leaks by Mr Carson, who apologised for the picture they were to portray.

Sources said those at the meeting wondered why the US, which had got wind of the leaks weeks ago, informed other countries, especially those in Europe, even before the contents were published by the British and American media.

Those at the meeting are said to have agreed that the government would no longer play quiet diplomacy in the face of actions by foreign countries which “bordered on malice and outright political sabotage”.

This was the message that was delivered by the Government Spokesman during a quickly convened briefing at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre during which he described the reports depicting Kenya as a “swamp of flourishing corruption” as “totally malicious and a total misrepresentation of our country and our leaders.”

“We are surprised and shocked by these revelations,” Dr Mutua said.

He said the American government alerted Kenya beforehand on the expected release of the leaked documents touching on the country through Mr Carson who called Mr Odinga on Monday afternoon.

“The US assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, Johnny Carson called our Prime Minister yesterday (Monday) and apologised for what is expected to come out,” Dr Mutua said. “The US government indicated they are sorry for the content in the leaked documents,” he added.

He, however, said Mr Carson had not told Mr Odinga the contents of the leaked documents and as such, the government did not know what the US government was exactly sorry about.

The diplomatic cables released by whistleblower site WikiLeaks on Kenya are set to shed light on major historical developments in the country and how the US perceived the two coalition partners.

Among the events, which Kenyans will soon know what the US knew about are the 1998 US embassy and Kikambala Paradise hotel bombings, 2002 and 2007 General Elections, the 2007/2008 post-election violence and those personalities banned from visiting America in connection with the post-election violence and drug trafficking.

The cables will also have details of how the US viewed retired President Moi and his regime. The cables’ release was the third mass WikiLeaks release of classified documents since it published 77,000 secret US files on the Afghan conflict in July, and 400,000 documents about the Iraq war in October.