Posted Saturday, September 3 2011
A new trove of diplomatic cables released last week by the WikiLeaks organisation shows US concern over Kenya’s relations with countries of special interest to Washington.
In 2006, for example, the US embassy in Nairobi reported to the State Department on then Foreign Minister Raphael Tuju’s remarks about China.
The leaked cable quotes Tuju as telling then US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger that Kenya is pursuing closer relations with China with the aim of “diversifying our portfolios of creditors, suppliers and trading partners.”
Tuju goes on to say that “China is motivated by self-interest. Who isn’t? They want to conquer more markets and secure more resources. We know there is no free lunch.”
“But,” Tuju adds, “the allegation that African nations are turning to China for development assistance to avoid governance criteria is ludicrous and false.”
It is possible, he says, to “deal with the West without governance criteria as well. Look at Equatorial Guinea!”
Tuju’s reference is to an oil-exporting West African country widely viewed as repressive but that maintains normal relations with the United States. The then minister goes on to offer reassurance on Kenya’s ties with the US.
“We value the help of the US, especially in combating Aids and terrorism,” he tells Ranneberger as well as then-Senator Russell Feingold who was visiting Kenya at the time.
“We have more areas of convergence than divergenceâ€¦ Our links to the US are stronger than anywhere else.”
American diplomats are also shown in the new batch of leaked cables as closely monitoring Kenya’s relations with Iran. [Read: Uranium being smuggled via EA to Iran – WikiLeaks]
Washington is worried about Tehran’s apparent moves to develop nuclear weapons as well as its ties to organisations that the US says are engaged in terrorism.
The Nairobi embassy reported in February 2009 on a visit to Kenya by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and what is described as a delegation of more than 100 government officials and business leaders. “With a large Muslim minority and major air, sea, land and electronic communications links to much of Africa,” the leaked cable states, “Kenya is an attractive entry point for Iran as it seeks to increase its commercial and political ties to the continent.” [Read: Kenya’s â€˜Look East’ policy takes an Islamic hue]
A subsequent cable says the visit was “principally a trade mission that did not involve political discussions on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the Arab-Israeli conflict, Palestinian grievances or the presence of American troops in Iraq.”