Mr. President, two human rights defenders, Oscar Kamau Kingara and John Paul Oulu, were murdered in the streets of Nairobi, Kenya two weeks ago. I was deeply saddened to learn of these murders and join the call of U.S. Ambassador Ranneberger for an immediate, comprehensive and transparent investigation of this crime. At the same time, we cannot view these murders simply in isolation; these murders are part of a continuing pattern of extrajudicial killings with impunity in Kenya. The slain activists were outspoken on the participation of Kenya’s police in such killings and the continuing problem of corruption throughout Kenya’s security sector. If these and other underlying rule of law problems are not addressed, there is a very real potential for political instability and armed conflict to return to Kenya.
In December 2007, Kenya made international news headlines as violence erupted after its general elections. Over 1,000 people were killed, and the international community, under the leadership of Kofi Annan, rallied to broker a power-sharing agreement and stabilize the government. In the immediate term, this initiative stopped the violence from worsening and has since been hailed as an example of successful conflict resolution. But as too often happens, once the agreement was signed and the immediate threats receded, diplomatic engagement was scaled down. Now over a year later, while the power-sharing agreement remains intact, the fundamental problems that led to the violence in December 2007 remain unchanged. In some cases, they have even become worse.
Mr. President, last October, the independent Commission of Inquiry on Post-Election Violence, known as the Waki Commission, issued its final report. The Commission called for the Kenyan government to establish a Special Tribunal to seek accountability for persons bearing the greatest responsibility for the violence after the elections. It also recommended immediate and comprehensive reform of Kenya’s police service. Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, echoed that recommendation in his report, which was released last month. Alston found the police had been widely involved in the post-election violence and continue to carry out carefully planned extrajudicial killings. The Special Rapporteur also identified systematic shortcomings and the need for reform in the judiciary and Office of the Attorney General.
Despite these official reports, there has been very little action toward implementing these recommendations. The Kenyan government has not taken steps to establish the Special Tribunal. The Police Commissioner and Attorney General, both heavily implicated in these problems, remain in their respective posts. Meanwhile, reported scandals involving maize and oil imports suggest that public corruption in Kenya remains pervasive and may be getting worse.
This is generating increased public resentment that can easily be exploited by armed militias and turn violent. I am especially worried about these heightened hostilities given the tensions expected to surround Kenya’s census, which is scheduled for later this year and the potential for them to flow over into next year’s constitutional referendum, and ultimately the 2012 general elections.
Mr. President, there is a lot of talk these days about conflict prevention. I see no greater opportunity for conflict prevention in Africa right now than in Kenya. The international community needs to coordinate its efforts to ensure the Kenyan government addresses these fundamental problems of governance and rule of law. The United States has a key role to play in this regard, especially given our longstanding and historic partnership with Kenya. To that end, I was pleased that FBI Director Robert Mueller visited Kenya two weeks ago and delivered a very clear message: “Public corruption should be a priority for all investigation and prosecution agencies in the country.” We need to consistently reiterate that message and we need to back it up with concrete actions that both support reform and sanction individuals found guilty of kleptocracy.
In the months ahead, Kenya must get more attention from our senior government officials. I hope the Obama administration’s nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs will be ready to give it that attention and develop an effective strategy for preventing conflict there. Allowing the status quo to persist will be far more costly in the long run. Kenya is an extremely important country for the stability of the Horn of Africa and East Africa; it is a country of great talent and entrepreneurship, rich history and diversity. With all those strengths, a promising and peaceful future is possible for Kenya and we must help its people to attain it.
I yield the floor.