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U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson held a flurry of meetings Monday with senior Kenyan officials and then announced a travel ban had been issued against one unnamed prominent official for impeding key government reforms. Three others are under threat to have their visas similarly revoked.
One month ago Carson sent letters to 15 Kenyan officials threatening action if they did not begin instituting the government reforms. The American ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, had announced that some of those issued the letters would soon be barred from traveling into the United States.
Action has been promised for months now. The assistant secretary said that the U.S. would continue pushing for progress on reforms.
"President Obama's position is clear. We will maintain and steadily increase pressure for implementation and will not due business as usual with those who do not support reform or who support violence," he said. "At the same time we will recognize and support implementation of reforms when they are undertaken."
The so-called reform agenda was a core component of the negotiations reached between now-President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga after the incumbent, Mr. Kibaki, was controversially declared the winner of the disputed December 2007 elections.
The following weeks of violent ethnically-driven chaos were put to an end by an agreement that created the new position of prime minister for Mr. Odinga, whose supporters believe actually won the presidential tally.
The mediation process was overseen by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan, and the final deal included provisions to address some of the underlying structural defects deemed partly responsible for the instability.
Carson commended recent progress made on the police reforms and anti-corruption fronts, praising the sacking of police head Hussein Ali and expressing satisfaction with parliament's role in forcing out re-appointed anti-corruption chief Aaron Ringera.
But the assistant secretary said that the United States was not happy with the pace of reforms in prosecuting the organizers of political violence, overhauling the judiciary, strengthening the rule of law, and creating a new constitution.
During a visit to Kenya earlier this month, Annan warned that Kenya was running out of time to implement the necessary changes before the 2012 election cycle kicks into full gear, warning of a return to violence if the agreement was not fully carried through.
Carson said a failed state in Kenya would have disastrous repercussions for the rest of the extended region.
"If Kenya implodes in violence, the impact goes from Mombasa all the way to Bukavu and Kisangani [in the DRC]. It stretches north into Juba and into southern Ethiopia, across Burundi and Rwanda and into land-locked Uganda," added Carson. "This country is a very important economic and financial and transportation keystone in this region."
The assistant secretary blamed slow paperwork for the reason that only one individual has been issued with the ban, saying that the visa revocation process was moving forward on the other targeted persons.
He said that the identity of the affected individual will likely be revealed in a short period of time.
Carson described Kenya as the United States' "strongest partner and friend in East Africa." This is the senior diplomat's third visit to Nairobi since taking the position in May this year.