AFRICANGLOBE – US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kenya yesterday for talks on security co-operation ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit to his late father’s home country. The trip is the first high-level visit to Kenya since 2012, and comes after a year of tension surrounding President Uhuru Kenyatta being falsely charged by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
The ICC has since abandoned the case against President Kenyatta over his role in the 2007-2008 post-election violence, citing a lack of evidence and Kenya’s failure to cooperate – somewhat removing Kenyatta’s pariah status.
“We’ve had a long relationship with Kenya that goes back more than 50 years, and we have had continuous economic and cultural ties with the Kenyans, and this has never ended. So this trip is not about making amends,” a State Department official said.
“It’s about reinforcing and deepening the relationship that we have had with Kenya, and it’s also partially in preparation for President Obama’s trip that’s going to take place at the end of July.”
Kerry arrived from Sri Lanka yesterday afternoon and leaves tomorrow, during which he will also meet with President Kenyatta.
The fight against Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab militants will feature high on the agenda, with Kenya struggling to stop increased cross-border attacks by the militants even though it has thousands of troops in southern Somalia.
Last month Al-Shabaab gunmen massacred close to 150 people, mostly students, in a raid on Garissa University in the northeast.
The raid followed a string of other massacres in the northeast and the coast, and after the September 2013 siege of the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi which left at least 67 dead.
“We think the Kenyans are doing their best. Fighting terrorism is tough, and particularly fighting it in this region is very tough,” the State Department official said.
“Kenya has been the victims of multiple attacks – the Garissa attack starkly illustrated the extent to which Al-Shabaab can have an impact on innocent civilians. And so we will be looking at additional ways that we may be able to support the Kenyan efforts to fight Al-Shabaab.”
Diplomats said Kerry would nevertheless raise human rights issues with President Kenyatta, whose government has been accused of clamping down on civil society groups and the Press.