US should apply more pressure on Kenya, ex-envoys say

Former ambassador to Kenya Johnnie Carson. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Former ambassador to Kenya Johnnie Carson. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Trump administration should privately pressure the Kenyan government to respect democratic norms and obey the rule of law and the country’s Constitution, two former Washington envoys to Nairobi said on Tuesday.

Johnnie Carson and Mark Bellamy suggested that the US can exert considerable leverage over the government headed by Uhuru Kenyatta because “Kenya needs the relationship more than the US.”

The former ambassadors offered their joint recommendations in a commentary appearing in African Arguments, an online journal published by the London-based Royal African Society.

“Publicly shaming the Kenyatta government or threatening sanctions is not the answer,” Mr Carson and Mr Bellamy wrote.

“However, the US must make it crystal clear privately that there are limits to what the US can tolerate if it is to maintain its close relationship and that continuing to amass executive power unconstitutionally and flout the rule of law seriously tests those limits.”

The Washington Post had recently suggested in an editorial that the Trump administration should threaten to impose sanctions on Kenya’s leaders if the government’s crackdown on dissidents continues.

The two ex-ambassadors said it is “difficult to fathom” why Mr Kenyatta’s government has responded with “fury” to Raila Odinga’s challenge to the president’s legitimacy.

“The harsh reality for Nasa is that it has no legal basis and few realistic options for continuing to dispute Kenyatta’s legitimacy,” Mr Bellamy and Mr Carson asserted.