Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Kenyan leaders in Nairobi Wednesday amid growing tensions over the Kenyan government's failure to fully abide the terms of a deal that ended months of post-election violence in 2007. The Kenyan government is under intense international pressure to set up a special tribunal to try suspects behind the chaos.
On the sidelines of a U.S.-African forum on trade and development that began on Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed her disappointment to Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga on the leaders' decision not to form an independent special tribunal.
Speaking to the media after the meeting, the secretary said the absence of strong and effective institutions is permitting corruption, impunity, politically-motivated violence, human rights abuses, and a lack of respect for the rule of law to flourish in Kenya.
"The reform agenda agreed to by the coalition government, must be fully implemented, not only to avoid a repeat of the previous crisis or worse, but more importantly, to set the stage for a better future," she said.
Rampaging armed gangs, divided along ethnic lines, killed more than 1,500 people and displaced 300,000 others displaced, following Kenya's disputed presidential elections in December, 2007.
Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan brokered a power-sharing deal that brought an end to the violence and formed Kenya's coalition government. A part of that agreement required the government to hold accountable those responsible for inciting or organizing the post-election chaos.
Last month, Mr. Annan said he was frustrated by the government's reluctance to quickly bring key suspects to justice and handed the matter over to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The list has not been made public, but several cabinet ministers, parliament members, and powerful business leaders are believed to be on the list.
To the dismay of Western allies, the Kenyan government announced last week that it would reform the country's police force and the judiciary and try suspects in the 2007 violence in local courts.
Mr. Annan criticized the move, saying the country's notoriously corrupt judiciary should be last place to look for justice.
Hours before Secretary Clinton arrived in Nairobi Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy released a statement expressing deep concern about the coalition government's decision. The United States has previously warned it would take unspecified action against Kenyan leaders should they fail to fully implement the reform agenda.
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga angrily defended the government's position. He said his country does not need a lecture on governance and transparency from the West.
Diplomatic tension is rising at a time when bilateral cooperation to fight terrorism, piracy, illegal drug trade and human trafficking is said to be expanding between the two states. Kenya has long been a staunch U.S. ally in the region, having suffered two al-Qaida-related attacks on its soil in 1998 and 2002. The rising power of an al-Qaida-linked extremist group called al-Shabab in neighboring Somalia in the past year has added a new security challenge in the Horn of Africa.
On Thursday, Secretary Clinton is scheduled to meet Somali President Sharif Sheik Ahmed, whose government has appealed for international help to battle al-Shabab and other Islamist militants trying to overthrow the government in Mogadishu.