November 4, 2011
By BMJ Muriithi
The United States Senate has passed a Bill imposing conditions on military assistance to Kenya.
In its 2012 fiscal year report, the Supreme US law-making organ states that the foreign military and economic support funds will not be made available to Kenya until the Government establishes “thorough and credible investigations of alleged crimes by the Kenyan Military in Mt Elgon in March 2008?.
But in a swift reaction, Kenya’s ambassador to the United States Elkanah Odembo said the action of the Senate was ill advised as it was taken without seeking the position of the Kenyan government on the issue.
Speaking to The Standard On Saturday in his office in Washington DC, the envoy said it was wrong for the US legislature to embed an accusatory clause in the Bill without consulting the Kenyan Government.
“What happened to the rule of mutual respect between sovereign states? Why couldn’t they talk to me yet I am only a phone call away?” he wondered.
Mr Odembo said he would use all means at his disposal to persuade the Senate to rescind its decision.
The Bill, that now awaits presidential assent, is likely to have far reaching consequences especially coming at a time when the Government has declared military’s resources are stretched by the war on Al Shabaab.
The contentious clause in the Bill reads; Funds appropriated by this Act under the Heading “Foreign Military Financing Programme” that are available for assistance for Kenya should not be made available unless a thorough, credible investigation has been conducted of alleged crimes by Kenyan soldiers in Mount Elgon in March 2008, and the responsible individuals are brought to justice.”
It is in apparent reference to the activities of the Kenyan forces deployed in Mt Elgon to restore order and stop the atrocities committed by the Sabaot Land Defence Force on residents of the area.
A report by Human Rights Watch says Government troops joined the guerrilla militia in “committing murder, torture and rape of innocent victims.”
The new development comes at a time when President Obama is under pressure from Republicans and Democrats to cut foreign and domestic government spending to resuscitate the US economy.
But Odembo said the US government knows Kenya needs military assistance especially at this time when it has declared war on Al Shabaab, a group associated with Al Qaeda.
“The war on the militant group is not only in Kenya’s interest but also that of the US and the entire international community,” says the envoy.
The envoy is now appealing to Kenyans living in the US to lobby their respective senators to rescind the decision.
In a letter circulated by the embassy through the newly created Kenya Diaspora Advisory Councils, a copy which The Standard obtained, Odembo urges Kenyans living in the 50 states to call their representatives in an attempt to sway the law makers vote on the matter.
But asked by this reporter what Kenya’s government position was on the allegations of crime by its soldiers in Mt Elgon in 2008, Odembo responded; “As of now, the Government has not made any official report to the US Senate partly because it was not invited to do so.”
The Foreign Military Financing (FMF) refers to congressionally appropriated grants given to foreign governments to finance the purchase of American-made weapons, services and training. Since 1950, the US government has provided over $91 billion in FMF to militaries around the world.