Kenya, Britain Hold Talks on Improving Relations

British hostage Judith Tebbutt (L) is escorted to a plane at Adado airport after she was released in central Somalia, March 21, 2012.
British hostage Judith Tebbutt (L) is escorted to a plane at Adado airport after she was released in central Somalia, March 21, 2012.

Kenya’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Britain's Minister for Africa met Monday in Kenya’s capital for talks aimed at strengthening ties between the two countries. The meeting come in the wake of a recent British conference on Somalia, and the murder and kidnapping of British nationals in the region.

High on the agenda was the upcoming end of term of Somalia's transitional federal government.

Henry Bellingham, Britain's Minister for Africa, described to reporters his trip to the Somali capital Sunday, when he met with U.N. and Somali officials.   

“It is absolutely essential that the transition comes to an end on the 22nd of August, and it is very important indeed that the political process toward new, inclusive, and representative political structures is maintained because there can be no simple handover by the transitional federal government to another government that is exactly the same,” said Bellingham.

Britain last month hosted a conference discussing the security and future of Somalia, which has been at war for two decades. A series of peace negotiations brokered by international bodies has seen a number of transitional governments being formed throughout the years to bring stability to the violence-wracked country.

The latest threat to peace is the militant group al-Shabab, which has been battling the transitional government and African Union troops.

Bellingham also announced the creation of an anti-piracy campaign he called “Sea Safe,” to provide safety advice to tourists visiting Kenya and the region. This comes after last year’s murder of a British tourist on Kenya’s coast and the kidnapping of his wife to Somalia by Somali pirates. She was released last week.

Also discussed was the upcoming trial in the International Criminal Court [ICC] of four high-level Kenyan suspects for their alleged part in organizing and implementing the country’s post-election violence of 2008, during which more than 1,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Bellingham denied reports that his government was arranging for the ICC to indict Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and arrest Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Member of Parliament William Ruto. Documents allegedly from a British government source outlining such plans were tabled in Kenya’s Parliament on March 8.

“The documents are not genuine. In fact, they seem malicious. I am also concerned that, among other preposterous allegations, His Excellency the President and the Honorable Prime Minister were dragged into this in an attempt to create division and instability,” said Bellingham.

Monday’s meeting is Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetang’ula’s first official function after being stranded in Mali during last week’s coup there.

He told VOA that he and his African Union colleagues had a “harrowing” experience in the West African capital Bamako as they were preparing to leave an African union security meeting.

“I, in the strongest terms possible, denounce coup-making in Africa, because we do not need coups. We are in a new democratic dispensation in the continent, and any unlawful seizure of power anywhere is unacceptable and should not be condoned, and the world should condemn these coup plotters and make sure they are isolated to realize the folly of what they have done,” said Wetang’ula.

Reports indicate there are still more than 20 Kenyans stuck in Mali.

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