Michael Onyiego | Nairobi 14 December 2010
US Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger speaks during an American Chamber of Commerce quarterly luncheon, in Nairobi, Kenya, Jan 26, 2010 (file photo)
One week after WikiLeaks exposed several classified assessments of Kenya’s leaders, United States Ambassador Michael Ranneberger is being accused by prominent politicians of meddling in Kenya’s affairs, with many calling for the envoy’s removal.
Since the release of classified cables by WikiLeaks on December 8 and 9, Michael Ranneberger has been called a rogue ambassador and many politicians are demanding his recall to Washington.
Kenya celebrates its most important national holiday every December 12 to mark the country’s independence from Britain in 1963, as well as its foundation of a constitutional republic in 1964.
But on Sunday, the day also was marked with harsh words for the U.S. ambassador to Kenya. Speaking at a celebration in Nairobi, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki criticized Ranneberger for his alleged attempts to influence national affairs.
The president said Ranneberger was using money to influence Kenyan youth and destabilize the country. Kibaki assured the crowd, however, that the ambassador’s efforts were made in vain.
Ranneberger is widely known for his youth outreach efforts in Kenya. Recently, politicians have accused him of using U.S. aid programs to incite the nation’s youth and foment change in the country’s leadership. Last week, Prime Minister Raila Odinga asked Ranneberger to end his outreach campaigns.
The Prime Minister called Sunday for Kenya’s international partners to respect its people as well as its sovereignty.
In the WikiLeaks exposed communiquÃ©s to Washington, Rannenberger cited Kenya’s “rampant, high-level corruption” – as well as its “culture of impunity” – as the two main obstacles in the path of reform. He included the president and prime minister as part of an “old guard” with vested interests in the culture of impunity.
Many in the upper echelons of Kenyan Government have denounced Ranneberger, comparing him to former U.S. Envoy Smith Hempstone, who was a vocal critic of Kenya’s one-party state under former President Daniel Moi, and who openly campaigned for democratic elections during his tenure from 1989-1993.
But some in Kenya have defended Ranneberger’s cables. Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission Director Patrick Lumumba said Monday the cables reflect the true state of corruption in Kenya. He called for Kenya’s leaders to fight graft and save Kenya’s economy.
Nairobi University School of Diplomacy and International Relations Professor Gerrishon Ikiara said the damage done to the Ambassador’s credibility likely will prompt his recall to Washington.
“You cannot effectively serve as an ambassador if you serve in a situation, which is very poisoned in terms of mistrust between you and the principals in that country and the public,” said Ikiara. “He has touched on so many people and sometimes not in flattering terms. And also sometimes not in exact terms.”
Neither the ambassador nor the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi has issued a statement regarding the cables.
In addition to his assessment of Kenyan leaders, the envoy’s cables also have highlighted Kenya’s role in smuggling arms into southern Sudan, its growing importance in international narcotics trafficking, and China’s growing influence in Kenya.
Ranneberger has served as U.S. Ambassador to Kenya since July 2006.