I'd like to respond to the comment posted by Dr Wapili Job. As I wrote earlier, it's not for us to try to dictate how Kenya pursues justice for the post election violence. But we do support the findings of the Waki commission (and the government's own repeated statements) that a serious judicial process is needed. The question seems to be "what constitutes a serious judicial process". Kenyans I speak to seem divided on this. But I do think it important that there should be an informed public debate. I think a lot of people are misled by the phrase "a local tribunal". What Waki recommended, and we support along with Kofi Annan and others, is the concept of a tribunal based on the international law that governs the ICC, with constitutional protection, and thus insulated from the existing judicial and prosecutorial system. So it would have international investigators, international prosecutors, and a majority of international judges at both the trial and appeal level. That is the proposal that Parliament rejected, which is a shame, because whether or not the ICC gets involved, such a tribunal seems to be the best way to attack impunity in the country.
One thing does seem pretty clear to me though - given the doubts people have about even such a strong tribunal, a weaker one isn't likely to carry credibility with many Kenyans or others. The idea of a tribunal set up under the existing court system is doing the rounds, but certainly lacks that credibility, which is what I have said to anyone who has raised it with me. I'm not, of course, going to comment on any specific meetings I've had that were not in the public domain.
Some thoughtful and thought-provoking comments on my last post. A couple of them ask questions:
First, Iqbal Halani asks about a Special Tribunal as proposed in the Waki Commission as against the alternative idea of a tribunal set up under existing mechanisms. It's up to Kenyans to decide what route they want to take towards justice for the post-election violence. But as far as we are concerned, we remain strong supporters of the National Accord process, of which the Waki Commission was a key part. And one of the key conclusions of that Commission was that any judicial process was going to have to be credible and independent. That's why it recommended a tribunal anchored in the constitution. Would an alternative that is under the existing structures be credible? Judging by the fact that most Kenyans seem to harbour doubts about even the stronger, Waki version, I can't imagine that a weaker one would be acceptable to many people. What do you think?
Second, let me answer Alexander's question about the links with the case brought by veterans of Mau Mau. I think it is absolutely right to point out that transitional justice mechanisms need to link back to history. At a time when Kenya is setting up a TJRC to look at injustices since independence, it's perhaps a good moment to look back before that, to the colonial period also. We certainly don't want to impede that debate, and we think it's important to have an open discussion, including of Mau Mau and the Emergency period. I am afraid that I'm going to duck for now the invitation to make a statement about the case itself: I don't know the details of the claims, so it is difficult to comment in any detail, and since these are before the courts, that's the right place for the discussion to happen. But a couple of general points: as I said to the representatives of the Mau Mau veterans when I met them before they left for the UK, I believe that everyone who thinks they have a justifiable claim should have access to the courts to have it heard. I have faith in the High Court in London to hear it impartially, and of course the British Government will abide by the outcome. And although I am not sure how much prospect they have of actually winning their case, I don't think it is unhelpful to shine a spotlight on what has happened in in the past, including in the Emergency period which brought a great deal of suffering to people on all sides.
And thirdly, I apologise for not answering earlier Mary Onyango's question about the health sector. Health is, indeed, essential for development. DFID is funding on average £28 million per year on health and AIDS work, particularly malaria control. The UK is a development partner in the health sector and we engage in a variety of policy and strategy consultation mechanisms. We work with civil society as well as government, and concentrate our work in areas of high vulnerability. We have funded the distribution of 14 million anti malarial bednets to date and provide around 30 million condoms per year.
Of course, there is always more to do. For another example of our work, see my blog on a military medical exercise last month.
When I started this blog three months ago, my first post asked people what they thought about the defeat in the Kenyan Parliament of legislation enabling the creation of an independent Special Tribunal to investigate and prosecute crimes committed in the post-election violence. There was a mixed response, with some people frustrated and others thinking that the defeat of that bill would accelerate the involvement of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Now here we are, with still no movement towards a tribunal, and Kofi Annan last week stressing the urgency of meeting his August deadline. I must admit I'm surprised that so many MPs I speak to seem relaxed about rejecting the recommendation of the Waki Commission, which is supported by most legal experts, the whole international community, and the ICC itself (they have said a local tribunal should be set up). It's effectively turning round to the Kenyan people and saying "we know that we've been asked to set up this tribunal in order to seek justice for the victims of the violence, and deter people from doing the same things again. But actually we'd rather not". I certainly don't agree with those who have been quoted saying that "Kenyans have forgiven" and it's time to move on - that's not what people tell me when I visit the affected areas.
I know that some people argue that they don't support a local tribunal because they want the ICC to be involved. But it's not 'either/or'. Even if the ICC starts investigations into certain crimes, there is an overwhelming case for a credible, independent special tribunal sitting locally, to investigate all the crimes that the ICC won't be able to.
If the ICC gets involved, we'll support it strongly, as we always do. But we'll carry on arguing that if the government and parliament between them shouldn't give up on this key part of the National Accord. Sure, we'll be criticised by some for arguing this way. But that won't put us off: preventing a return to out-of-control violence is too important to Kenya, to the region and to the world - the international community has a legitimate stake in these issues. Just as we won't stop calling for action on other aspects of official impunity, such as prosecution of the perpetrators of Anglo-Leasing and other grand corruption scandals. Both are faces of the same curse: impunity. And people in the UK continue to care about these issues: see a recent debate in the upper house of our Parliament
So three months on from when I first asked the question, what do Kenyans think now about this issue?
I spend quite a lot of my time wrestling with the problems of Somalia, so I found it instructive to go up to the Kenya-Somali border last week on a visit to NE Province, and hear from some of the people who are affected by cross-border movements. One aspect of this is the huge and growing refugee population Kenya is hosting (donor governments and the UN High Commission for Refugees are in discussion with the Government about how to provide decent facilities for refugees, taking account of the impact on local populations too.See the editorial in today's Standard. Another is the economic impact of money and people moving across that border, something that seems to cause concern to many people here in Nairobi and at the Coast. And the third, which particularly affects Kenya's international partners like the UK, is the security angle: the flows of small arms, illegal or 'grey' money, drugs, contraband, and people-smuggling or people-trafficking rings.
We're engaged with the Kenyan authorities on most of these problems. Our law enforcement teams work together on drugs and serious crime. We have been working with Kenyan fingerprinting experts to help increase the capability to combat 'nationality swapping' where people change their ID papers to claim the nationality that best suits them (a problem affecting the UK as well as East African countries). The UK Borders Agency coordinates with other governments, international organisations, airlines, and others to combat illegal migration as well as facilitating legal migration. And we're supporting some projects to help Kenyan authorities control that remote, 700km, porous border that I saw last week. But a lot more needs to be done. I'm puzzled, for example, why the Parliament has yet to pass robust Money Laundering legislation, given the general concern felt in the country about drugs money and piracy ransoms flowing into Kenya. Any comments from readers on this? Perhaps something for Kenya's excellent investigative journalists to take an interest in?
On a more positive note, I was extremely impressed by what I saw in Garissa District of the work to support orphans and vulnerable children through a social safety net system that DFID is assisting with. The local Childrens' Officers are professional and effective, and local schools and remote communities have been really transformed by this pilot project. See my recent comments on the similar work in Turkana. I hope the Government can build its Social Protection strategy to incorporate and extend this excellent work.
I've always had great respect for army medics, and it was increased on a trip I made earlier this week. I was in Baringo district, seeing at first hand some of the British Army's work, jointly with the Kenyan army and Ministry of Health, in providing immunisations and primary healthcare (including dental care) to Kenyans whom the state's medical services find difficult to reach. It's the fourteenth year they have done this annual exercise, covering some of the country's more remote areas. When we dropped in to see them they had already seen over 13,000 people, and were about half way through the exercise. Of course, initiatives like this don't resolve the underlying issues of provision of healthcare in rural areas, but I was glad to see that the Army had coordinated well with DFID's longer term programmes, for example helping to distribute anti-malarial bednets from DFID's programme.
So next time someone asks me what benefit Kenya gets from the British Army exercising here, I'll point them in the direction of some of the people I met in Baringo, as well as pointing out the economic contributions to local communities and the training the Kenyan army gets!
One of the added advantages for me of these trips to relatively remote villages is the chance to speak to local Councillors and Chiefs about the challenges they face day to day. Often their immediate needs (a pump for a manual borehole, a maternity facility in a local diapensary) are strikingly small scale, and it's great when you see CDF money being wisely used to meet those needs. Which is why it's so tragic to hear that, on some estimates, up to 50% of CDF country-wide gets dissipated through mismanagement or corruption. I'd be interested in readers' views on that.
I have just been to the National Prayer Breakfast here in Nairobi. I found it impressive, not least because the Guest Speaker, President Kagame, had some powerful words to the Kenyan leaders and people about the process of national healing and how to avoid what had happened in Rwanda. He said that failed states were a reflection of failed leadership, and pointed out that the people of Kenya could not afford to fail. He read movingly from the Old Testament story of Solomon, who asked God only for wisdom and knowledge. President Kagame suggested that it was when leaders failed to make a concerted effort to seek wisdom and knowledge that states risked failure.
I also found it encouraging that MPs from across the political divide, and the top political leadership who were present, all stressed the need for leaders and people to rise above political, religious or ethnic divisions. There were representatives from about twenty countries there this morning, many of whom have their own annual Prayer Breakfasts (the current chairs of the US and UK ones, from the US Senate and the House of Lords respectively, were present). Every country faces its challenges, and these events are important occasions for political leaders to reflect on the moral and spiritual underpinnings of our societies – whatever religious background people come from.
Meanwhile many people will have been following political developments in the UK over MPs' expenses. There have been some questions on this blog about it. Clearly the recent disclosures have raised important issues. Our Prime Minister, and other political leaders, have all said that there must be reform of the system. The Government, parties and MPs are working hard to address the concerns that have rightly been raised. I am sure that there will be more discussion of this over coming months - there has alread been some lively comment in the Kenyan press, certainly!
One of the things that strikes people who come to live in Kenya is the high level of environmental awareness, and nowhere more so than on the issue of forests. So although the current ongoing destruction of the Mau Forest is absolutely tragic (I've seen the smoke rising from it myself), on the other hand there is a huge lobby of concern, and it is encouraging to hear that the Government has made it a priority to reverse the situation, and save that vital watertower. I know that the land ownership and usage arguments are complex and sensitive, but I have been impressed that there seems to be political support across the spectrum for urgent action.
But today I wanted to write about the Karura Forest - much smaller than Kenya's major watertowers, but for those of us in Nairobi, an extraordinary natural asset, right on our doorsteps (someone told me it is the largest indigenous forest inside an urban area anywhere in the world). It was famously saved from encroachement/development by some extrordinarily courageous campaigning by Wangari Mathaai and her Green Belt Movement. Yet tragically, hardly anyone goes there because of its security reputation. So I was delighted to hear that the Kenya Forest Service, along with local community leaders and other stakeholders, have a plan to open it up as an educational and recreational amenity, by making it safe and secure for all. That's why I and my family will be going along to the open day celebrating the opening up of a Family Trail through the forest (Saturday 16 May, 10.00 at Old Kiambu Road entrance to the forest). My wife Alice is a great fan of the forest, pointing out that it's one of the most beautiful places around (50 foot waterfalls, sacred caves, a huge variety of plants and animals), and we're keen to help support those who have the interest of the forest at heart. I can imagine a great future for it as a place where schoolchildren come every day to learn about local history and nature; where local people can get some respite from the pressures of city life; where dead wood can be gathered for fuel for local communties; and where leisure activities bring in a sustainable income to keep the forest safe for future generations. Well done to those who are working to make this happen!
Looking back at some of the earlier strings in this blog, I see that there are some comments and questions I haven't responded to, so in the interests of two-way dialogue, here are some thoughts.
A couple of people including Benjamin commented on the importance of developed countries sustaining their pledges to the developing world during the economic down-turn. Hadassah was sceptical that would be the case. And Mucemi thought that decades of cash inflows from the West had not substantially changed the lot of Africans. Various other people pointed out that while corruption continues to reign, outside assistance won't have much effect. The first point is one that I feel I can answer with some confidence, at least as regards the UK. The recommitment to development pledges at the G20 summit in London were important, and in the case of the UK, our development spending is still programmed to increase, in real terms as well as in proportion to our GDP. Gordon Brown has been very firm in committing to this, and pushing other countries to do the same. Perhaps more importantly, the increase in IMF and World Bank funding coming out of the G20 meeting will be important to countries like Kenya.
The second point is more complicated. I'd argue that since modern development cooperation has clear targets (the Millennium Development Goals) and is no longer "tied" to bring advantage to the donor country, it does contribute massively to lifting people out of poverty, and creating more equality and opportunity in societies around the world. I don't agree with those economists who say that Africa would be better off in the long run if all development inflows were stopped right away - although we all know that more equitable trade would help the continent even more. But on the corruption point, it's certainly true that it impacts on development. In fact, if you look at a country like Kenya, judging by its population and poverty indicators, our assistance should theoretically be roughly double what it is currently. The reason why it isn't is the difficulty of delivering development programmes given the governance and corruption issues. Other partners are probably in the same situation. And I am sure (as another contributor commented on an earlier blog) that investors are scared off by this factor. So ordinary Kenyan citizens and taxpayers are hurt in more ways than one by the scourge of corruption.
One of the replies to my last blog commented that I should be writing about the situation in Kenya, rather than worrying about piracy. I agree that the situation in Kenya is of great concern. But some of the real issues aren't in the theatre of Nairobi politics, but in the economic challenges and food shortages facing the poorest. I was up in Turkana a few days ago. The malnutrition rates there are shocking (by some counts, worse than in Somalia or Darfur). Many people's income is less than Ksh1000 a month. So it was inspiring to see some of the innovative work that is being done in a new Hunger Safety Net Programme, in partnership between the Government, DFID, Oxfam, Equity Bank and other partners. The idea is simple: rather than fall back on food aid every year, help the poorest and most vulnerable families to get out of poverty and hunger for the longer term, by targeted cash transfers. Making it work is more complicated, so I was impressed to see how modern technology (electronic fingerprinting, swipe cards, and basic solar panels to power card readers where there is no electricity) is enabling outreach to some of the most remote communities. Cash transfers give people opportunities to meet basic health and education needs that cannot be met by food hand-outs, and help people avoid having to sell assets in bad years. I am convinced this programme, into which my government is putting some Ksh14 billion over the next ten years, will help countless people out of long term hunger. But it will only do it as part of a wider Social Protection strategy for the country, which I hope we can help the Government to develop.
When you go and see programmes like this on the ground, it's easier to be hopeful that answers can be found to some of Kenya's biggest challenges. But they all depend on a government that is able to deliver, so I am with those who want to see less of partisan politics, and more focus on how leaders can pull together for the good of the country.
Somali pirates have been much in the news recently - not just here in the region, but across the international press. People are rightly concerned about the threat to trade, not least into Mombasa, and a lot of people have welcomed the robust action taken recently by the US and France. But of course this is just the tip of the iceberg: there are a lot more piracy incidents going on than hit the press, and likewise a continuous and intensive international effort to tackle them. I agree with those who say that the problem won't be sorted finally until there is greater law & order and economic development on land. The UK is a strong supporter of the peace process to reconcile the parties in Somalia and bring more stability and growth to the country.
But in the meantime, many nations, including ours, are engaged in tackling the piracy threat at sea. And it is impressive to see the responsible leadership role Kenya has taken, in being willing to take pirate suspects into detention and try them through the courts. Now other regional countries should join that effort, so that there's a proper sharing of the burden between naval powers patrolling the waters, and regional states who stand to gain most from effective anti-piracy operations.
A great example of international cooperation to tackle international threats. So I'm saddened to see some of the misinformation in the press about Kenya being a "dumping ground" or putting itself at more risk by joining this international effort: a bigger threat would come from not tackling piracy.
I see my colleague John Duncan has been blogging about this from the point of view of the international arms trade - I commend his blog.
During my trip to London last week, colleagues in the Foreign Office were focused on plans for the G20 summit to reach agreement on dealing with the current global financial crisis. Our Africa Minister, Lord Malloch Brown, was continuing to work closely with the Prime Minister (Gordon Brown) to help ensure that the commitments being discussed for the Summit reflected needs identified by African leaders when they met the Prime Minister in London on 16 March.
For me, living in Kenya but coming from the UK, it's striking how much more concern there is in Europe than here about the economic crisis. And yet although the crisis started in Western financial institutions, African countries stand to be hit just as badly by the global downturn.
Now that the Summit has finished, I'm wondering what Kenyans think of the outcomes? Do you think they will help Africa? I am proud that the UK has been leading the way to press for developed countries to honour their commitments to the developing world, but there are also things that all governments will need to do if the world economy is going to be kept on track for recovery. What more do you think needs to be done?
One of the participants at the Geneva conference this week was Ory Okelloh, who I gather was invited specifically because of her Kenyan Pundit blog, showing that the importance of online discussions and commentaries was recognised by the organisers. I'm sure we'll see more of this sort of interaction, which can only be a good thing. Ory's suggestion to me when we met at the conference was 'the more interaction the better'. So I've looked back and tried to answer some more of the questions and comments in response to my first few blog entries. As I said at the start, I'm not going to be able to respond to each and every comment, but where there are common themes I will try to do so.
- Why didn't Britain encourage a repeat election in Jan 2008?
This is quite an easy one to answer. We judged that at that time, with killings and violence taking place, a re-run of the election would have been certain to lead to much more bloodshed. I think that many people agreed with us - certainly that was the view of Kofi Annan as key mediator, as he made very clear at this week's conference.
- Denying visas should be a last resort, because it will be unpopular
That is something I agree with. We only do it as a last resort. And there are very few countries where we do it. But given that no senior figures have ever (repeat ever) been successfully prosecuted for corruption in this country, we feel we have to take this step simply to challenge impunity. I agree entirely that it is a difficult and sensitive policy to implement, and we need to be very careful that we are fair and impartial in our actions. If you think we are not being, post a comment.
- What efforts is Britain taking to ensure that the war on terrorism doesn't hurt innocent Muslims?
We don't use the term 'war on terror'. Our counter-terrorism efforts are best described in the 'CONTEST' strategy document, a new version of which was launched last week. If you have a look at that, you will see that our work in this area goes to great lengths to avoid associating terrorism with any one religion. We seek to prevent terrorism and to pursue terrorists - and one of the biggest supports in that work is of course the hostility that communities feel towards those individuals who seek to commit murder and mayhem. But any action that is perceived as targeting Muslims, rather than terrorists, is extremely counter-productive and something that we go to great lengths to avoid.
- What is Britain's engagement in the health sector?
I am going to duck that by passing on the link for DFID in Kenya, as that will be more effective than me trying to summarise it (from a very non-expert point of view)
- Foreign aid has good intentions but fails?
See answer above. But I've seen that there is a lively debate on this subject in other Kenyan blogs, and it is something I would like to return to when space and time permits - watch this space. And keep the questions and comments coming.
Today I am writing from Geneva, where Kofi Annan is hosting a conference to learn lessons from the Kenya crisis a year ago, and the National Accord that brought it to an end. It’s a serious occasion, with a lot of the people who were involved in the negotiations, including from the ‘Serena team’, and representatives from civil society, media and the international community who all played a role a year ago. Many speakers today have highlighted the concern of Kenyans about the stalling of crucial reforms, and people’s anger about the lack of action to deal with corruption. Kofi Annan summed up a lot of people’s feelings when he said that ‘the time to act is now – signing an agreement is the easy part’. Hopefully tomorrow’s sessions will get into more detail about implementation, including on the fundamental issues of constitutional reform, and a tribunal to seek justice for crimes committed in the post-election violence. No-one here is under any illusion about the scale of the challenges facing Kenya. I hope this conference will play a part in uniting all players (government, civil society, the international community) in a sense of direction and urgency.
As one of the responses to my last blog perceptively noticed, I am back in London this week for the annual gathering of all British Ambassadors and High Commissioners. A lot of what we have been discussing is about the impact of the global economic crisis on the developing world, including the points raised by others on this blog: remittances, development assistance, migration. These are difficult issues, and I have been struck by the fact that even among the best commentators and analysts, no-one at the moment is confident enough to predict exactly how the economic downturn will unfold over the course of this year. But all attention here is on the G20 Summit here next week. This is a crucial moment in the international response to the crisis. I won't try to summarise here the way this is shaping up. But let me point out that the British Government, from the Prime Minister down, has been insistent that this summit has to address, among other things, the urgent need for responses to take account of developing nations and of the poor and vulnerable who are being affected by the crisis.
I should comment briefly on the remarks by the person signing themselves as 'Militant'; although I don't suppose that I am likely to change those views, judging by the way they are written. It doesn't really make sense to argue that countries like mine want to keep the developing world poor - we want countries that are stable, peaceful, more equal and better governed. Those countries will be better partners for us, as I commented last week: whether on trade and investment or on dealing with serious threats we face in common. And just to comment on the remark about the suffering people of Darfur - who really cares more for those people: the international community that has been pouring in millions of pounds/dollars/euros in humanitarian assistance, both from governments and from charitable giving, and putting massive political efforts into supporting the peace process? Or the government in Khartoum, which recently banned international NGOs from operating there, directly increasing the suffering of the people?
I am delighted that there has been so much response to this new blog. I wish there was space to come back on every point, and will try to address as many as I can over the coming weeks. But here are a couple of quick responses for now.
1. Hassan talks about where UK strategic interests stop and concerns about Kenya start. I think that's only an issue when those two collide. Most of the time, they don't. What do we want to see in Kenya? We'd like the country to be more prosperous and stable, fairer, and with less poverty. That means less corruption, better governance. Because all of those things will make Kenya a better partner for Britain across the board - whether it's trade and investment, dealing with regional crises, dealing with transnational problems like crime and terrorism, or meeting the Millenium Development Goals. So if you think about it, what we want lines up pretty well with what wananchi want to see.
2. A lot of the comments people have posted are about impunity in one way or another. My point about justice for the post election violence was not meant to be critical of the ICC - the UK has been a strong supporter of the ICC ever since it was first set up. And if it investigates crimes in Kenya, we'll back that fully. My point was just that if Kenya turns its back on the opportunity to set up the sort of tribunal recommended by the Waki Commission (with international judges, international prosecutors and investigators, etc) then it will be missing out on probably the best chance to hold people accountable for their crimes. That outside input into the tribunal would be necessary to remove the fears people have that it would be manipulated. But it would also help re-build confidence that justice can be done here, not just in the Hague. That's what Kofi Annan, the Waki Commission, and a lot of ordinary Kenyans feel too. But this has to be a decision for Kenyans to take. More broadly, we're doing what we can to help Kenya tackle impunity on issues like corruption. One way we do this is to exclude from our country senior individuals who have been strongly linked with corruption cases, even if they have not been successfully prosecuted. I saw that my colleague Michael Ranneberger's announcement yesterday of such a visa ban got a lot of attention. Most people I meet say this sort of action is effective and welcome and that we should do more of it (we already do it quite a lot). What do you think?