Remarks With Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula
Secretary of State
FOREIGN MINISTER WETANGULA: Good afternoon, gentlemen and ladies from the media. I’m happy to be here this afternoon with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who jetted in last evening to attend the AGOA Forum. After the opening of the forum, where you all were, she’s had very in-depth bilateral discussions with President Mwai Kibaki, who was accompanied by the Right Honorable Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, and a number of Kenyan ministers.
Several issues were discussed, including but not limited to the bilateral relations between Kenya and America. The two sides agreed that we are satisfied with the level of engagement between our two countries, and we shall strive to make it even better.
The Secretary of State raised issues about our engagement in Somalia to make the Horn of Africa safer. We also discussed the issue of internal reforms within Kenya, the need to have a new constitution, which the president had mentioned in his speech, the reform of the police force and other security organs, the issue of dealing with the post-election violence arising from the elections of last year but one.
We also discussed the issues of travel bans or other travel advisories between America and Kenya, where they’re renewed every other time. We raised the issue of piracy and the need for America to partner with other countries involved in the war against piracy to make the Indian Ocean shipping route safer.
President Kibaki and his team assured the Secretary of State that reforms are on course, that the war against impunity in the country is on, that the war against corruption is on, and all sanctuaries of corruption will be destroyed to make Kenya a cleaner and safer place to do business, that Kenya is committed to its role in the region as a leader, to bring normalcy to Somalia, to continue assisting the Sudan, and all other neighbors that require our assistance. And above all, President Kibaki conveyed his gratitude to the American Government led by President Obama, and the continued positive support to the country, and confirmed that Kenya will do everything possible to play its role within the community of nations.
Kenya also did raise – and the Secretary of State has assured the President and his team that she’ll look at it – the question of our benefitting from the Millennium Challenge Account, which you know Kenya is at the threshold level. We wanted it to be looked at and see if it can be raised to the comeback level. And finally, we have agreed that our relationship is historical, it’s strong, it must be made stronger, we must be open to each other, we must continue talking to each other candidly, and whenever criticism comes our way, we must take it as a positive step towards improving our relations and not as a reverse to this relationship. And we have left the meeting all happy and satisfied that that is the direction to go.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. It is a pleasure to be here with the foreign minister. I thank him for the work he has done in preparation for my meetings, and I’m very grateful for the hospitality that your country has shown me and my delegation.
The United States and Kenya share a long and deep history of friendship and cooperation. We consider Kenya a key strategic partner, a regional leader, and a nation of almost boundless potential. I have just come from a candid and wide-ranging conversation with the president, the prime minister, the vice president, and other ministers of the government where we discussed, in depth, the steps that are needed to realize that potential and to seize the opportunities that I discussed in my speech earlier.
The United States worked hard last year with Kofi Annan and the team of African Eminent Persons to support the Kenyan people to resolve the crisis that afflicted this country. Unfortunately, resolving that crisis has not yet translated into the kind of political progress that the Kenyan people deserve. Instead, the absence of strong and effective democratic institutions has permitted ongoing corruption, impunity, politically motivated violence, human rights abuses, and a lack of respect for the rule of law.
These conditions helped fuel the post-election violence, and they are continuing to hold Kenya back. The reform agenda agreed to by the coalition government and discussed in the speech that President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga gave this morning must be fully implemented not just to avoid a repeat of the previous crisis or worse, but more importantly, to set the stage for a better future, a future worthy of the dynamic people of this country, a future of economic growth, democratic development, social justice, and the opportunity for every Kenyan child to live up to his or her God-given potential. I wanted the leaders to know that we respect greatly the way that the Kenyan people pulled their country back from the brink of disaster once, and the ongoing connection between the private sector, civil society, and the government that is the key to resolving these issues.
I also want the government and the people of Kenya to know that President Obama feels a personal connection and commitment to the future of Kenya. It is, of course, a result of his own personal connection, his father’s life. But it is also because, as he said in the video this morning, he has such a great deal of affection and admiration for Kenya. He has come to this country, the first time in the late 1980s, and of course, shortly before he began running for president. We want you to know that we will stand with you. We know that democracy does not come easily. It hasn’t come easily to the United States or any country. We have our own challenges. But we have worked for more than 230 years to perfect our union, and we know we have more work to do. The election of President Obama demonstrates that progress is possible. And I can personally attest that political rivals can become productive partners in the service of the country and the people they love.
We also know that a lot of that hard work is underway. And we commend the Waki Commission’s efforts to identify steps to improve the performance and accountability of state security agencies.
But finally, we know that just as President Obama said in his speech in Ghana that the future of Africa is up to the African people, the future of Kenya is up to the Kenyan people. The United States stands ready and willing and eager to be of assistance to build on the more than 50 years of partnership and friendship we have between us. And despite the setbacks of the recent past and the difficult road ahead, President Obama and I are convinced that the leaders of this nation have the capacity to reclaim the dream of one Kenya. Now is the time to find and exercise the will, and we will be there with you as you take these steps toward that better future of one Kenya.
Thank you very much.
FOREIGN MINISTER WETANGULA: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you. Madame Secretary, my name is Jeff Koinange. I work for a TV station called K24. This question is directed at you. As soon as you landed last night, there was a statement from the U.S. Government criticizing Kenya’s latest move to appoint a TJRC, Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, in other words, opting to go their own way and not opting to go for a special local tribunal to try the perpetrators of the post-election violence.
Well, basically, the TRC has no powers to try anybody. What more pressure can your government keep applying to the Kenyan Government to make sure that those perpetrators are eventually arrested, detained, whatever, so that, as you mentioned, we don’t limp towards 2012, knowing that those folks are still out there and nothing has been done? What more can be done?
And I have a follow-up.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Do you want to ask your follow-up, and I’ll answer both.
QUESTION: Sure, okay. I’m sorry, yeah. The follow-up is a country right next door, Sudan, there’s a warmonger who has been indicted by the ICC. Nobody seems to be doing anything about it in terms of putting pressure for him to either face justice or whatever. Is it because their country has natural resources like oil, or because they’re dealing with the Chinese it’s a very sensitive situation? In other words, is it sort of a double standard? A lot of pressure being applied on the Kenya Government, no pressure being applied on Sudan, and yet very little is being done both ways.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Let me take your second question first, because I think that it is very significant that a criminal indictment was returned by the International Criminal Court against President Bashir. And that was a very significant step by the international community. The actions by the ICC sent a clear message that the behavior of Bashir and his government were outside the bounds of accepted standards and that there would no longer be impunity.
Now, just as in a criminal process, the indictment has been laid down. The United States and others have continued to support the need to eventually bring President Bashir to justice, but he’s found a lot of protectors, and mostly in this continent, where people have allowed him to travel and have not used the forces of their own judicial and law enforcement institutions to arrest him, to turn him over the ICC.
We know this sometimes takes time. If you look at some of the international tribunals, there are periods of time during which the investigation takes place, if it does get started – in this case, it did – then if an indictment is returned, there is often time before the person indicted is brought to justice.
So I actually think that what has happened in Sudan sends a very strong message. And of course, one of the reasons why the United States and other friends of Kenya are encouraging Kenya to handle this internally is so that it is not sent to the ICC. The ICC won’t act if a country is dealing with internal problems on its own.
And with respect to your first question, the ministers explained to me that there is a constitutional impediment to creating a local tribunal outside the ordinary judicial system, and that there is required to be a constitutional amendment in order to create a local tribunal, which has not passed the Kenyan parliament. I think that is regrettable because, obviously, the government has come up with this constitutional amendment, and there are reasons why it is preferable to the Truth and Justice and Reconciliation Commission because it would have the ability to actually prosecute perpetrators.
We have made our views known. As you referenced, a statement from our ambassador summarized those views. I know this is not easy. I understand how complicated this is. It’s complicated, in part, because politically how do you go about prosecuting the perpetrators without engendering more violence from those who are supportive of the positions or the affiliations of the perpetrators. So it does take a lot of political will and leadership.
And we continue to believe that a special local tribunal is in the best interest of Kenya, so as to avoid having outsiders determine the outcome here. But as you know, Kofi Annan and the people working with him have handed a sealed envelope of ten names to the ICC, which has a lot on its plate. It’s not acting immediately, of course, because I think there is still the hope that Kenya will resolve this matter on its own, and that is certainly the American hope as well.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary. If you don’t mind going a little bit outside Africa for a moment. On North Korea, the two journalists were released. From your conversations with your husband, with former President Clinton, what’s the signal that he gets and what’s the impression he gets from Kim Jong-il? Is North Korea ready to go back into the denuclearization talks? And could you also confirm, the North Koreans say that there was an apology on behalf of former President Clinton?
SECRETARY CLINTON: The last question is that’s not true, that did not occur. But let me just take a step back here and say that we have been working hard on the release of the two journalists. We have always considered that a totally separate issue from our efforts to reengage the North Koreans and have them return to the Six-Party Talks and work toward a commitment for the full, verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
I was very pleased to get the news that my husband’s plane had taken off from Pyongyang with the two young women onboard. They are on their way to California, where they will be reunited with their families.
I had a very brief conversation with my husband. We did not go into the details of some of the questions that you’re asking. There’ll be time to talk about that later. This was mostly just to communicate directly how relieved and pleased he was, and we are, with the successful completion of this mission.
As I said in a long set of remarks in Thailand about two weeks ago, the future of our relationships with the North Koreans are really up to them. They have a choice. They can continue to follow a path that is filled with provocative actions which further isolates them from the international community, which resulted in the imposition of sanctions by the Security Council and the full cooperation of the international community, including and led by China for the implementation of those sanctions under the resolution. Or they can decide to renew their discussions with the partners in the Six-Party Talks. We have always said that there would be a chance to discuss bilateral matters with the North Koreans within that regional context, and that is still the offer today. So it is up to them.
I mean, we have successfully completed a humanitarian mission that was a private mission that was undertaken by my husband, and we’re very relieved about that. But now we have to go back to the ongoing efforts to try to enlist the North Koreans in discussions that the world wants to see them participate in.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) from NTV in Kenya. Secretary Clinton, I’ve got a couple of questions for you. Firstly, you said that in your discussion about the TRJC and the local tribunal, the government did indicate to you that they are unable to pass it through parliament. Is this not, in fact, hypocrisy on the part of the Kenyan Government, because in the past year they’ve been able to pass other constitutional bills through parliament? And when it comes to local tribunals, it’s proving to be harder. Is it not, in fact, (inaudible) vested interests in government that are doing that?
Number two, are you, as the U.S. Government, considering visa bans or other sanctions against those suspected to have masterminded the post-election violence?
And finally, critics say that President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga have become cozy, relaxed, and slackened the pace of reforms, reforms you talked about with them today. What is your government actually doing to ensure that they keep their eye on the ball and that these reforms, including the constitutional reforms of the judicial and the security forces and whatever else you talked about, do actually come to pass for the benefit of Kenya?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I can only report to you what the president, the prime minister, the vice president, and the other ministers told us: that they are committed to the reform agenda that they agreed to when they entered into a coalition government; that they believe they are getting close to a constitutional draft that would answer some of the difficult questions that Kenyans are looking for, like land reform and the like; that they are proceeding with police and judicial reform despite some setbacks which they recounted to me.
We very much want to support them in moving this agenda forward, and I made that abundantly clear. I delivered a very frank statement from President Obama that he also would like to do everything we can to see this reform agenda delivered on. And I think the Kenyan Government knows that if we can be of any help, we stand ready to do so. We’ve made that offer.
I think that it’s difficult for someone who’s not in the Kenyan political process to comment on the actions of the Kenyan parliament. We have enough trouble with our own Congress in Washington, where we have a very big Democratic majority, but the President doesn’t always get what he wants to have done the first time out.
But I wanted publicly to say that to members of parliament trying to resolve this issue internally is far preferable to losing control of it and seeing it go to the International Criminal Court or out of the hands of Kenyans themselves. As hard as it is to resolve this in Kenya, I think it is better for Kenyans. So certainly, if parliamentarians are watching your news programs, it would be in the best interest of the future of Kenya for that to be taken care of within the parliament.
And finally, with respect to any actions that our government might take, those are always available and open to us. We hope that that doesn’t come to pass. We very much want to see the coalition government succeed. We want to see the reforms passed.
And finally, on the question about whether the president and the prime minister are getting along, I think that’s a good sign. I know when I accepted President Obama’s request to take this position, many people said, oh, it will never work, that there’ll be all these problems. And in fact, we are working very closely and personally together. That doesn’t mean, in this context with the president and the prime minister, that they still don’t have issues that they have to work on.
But you won’t get anything done if people don’t cooperate and if people don’t have a personal relationship. I mean, politics around the world depends upon relationships. You can’t get things done if people don’t have a level of trust between themselves in order to take some very tough decisions. And so I’m hoping that the kind of interaction that I had today with the president and the prime minister, which was very positive, very frank, very open, is indicative of continuing progress on behalf of this important agenda.
MODERATOR: Okay. The final question --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Wait, how about the foreign minister? Would you like to add anything, sir?
FOREIGN MINISTER WETANGULA: Yes. I think I should. (Inaudible) and all my Kenyan colleagues here know the level of reforms that we are undertaking. And I want to assure you that in a democracy, even if you have the majority in parliament, it is very dangerous and risky to marshal parliament to do what you want. You must let them vote with their conscience, and our parliamentarians have indicated to you and the whole country that this is their preference.
What we must do, and I think it’s important that Kenya must do, is not to lose sight of the reform of the constitution – create strong institutions that will make it difficult for the events of last year to occur again in this country. I think that, as a long-term measure, is very critical.
Secondly, on the question of persons that bear the greatest responsibility for the problems of last year, the route to The Hague has never been closed. It is always there. The envelope is there, and we don’t need to give any concern for the ICC to act. But I’ve always said, and I think the Secretary of State has reiterated, that it’s neater, it’s better, it’s in the interest of this country for us to resolve most of our issues locally than to seek international support. And I do think that the avenue for prosecution, even through the current criminal system – criminal justice system, is not closed. If adequate reforms are made that meet the confidence of the public, I think people can still be prosecuted locally.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And I would just add it would be a very welcome sign to see prosecution through the regular court system. That would be an appropriate response.
FOREIGN MINISTER WETANGULA: Absolutely.
MODERATOR: The final question, Washington Post, Mary Beth Sheridan.
QUESTION: Thank you. This is a question for Secretary Clinton. What do you make of the fact that nobody accused in this violence has been punished in a year and a half – Kenya has a very long culture of never punishing any top officials – and that the very ministers who are suspected of instigating the violence are the ones that killed the possibility of the independent tribunal? How can you have any faith in them on this issue? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think we’ve made it very clear that we are waiting, we are disappointed that action hasn’t taken place yet. Our Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson, who served as an ambassador here and has a great deal of regard for Kenya, has spoken out. Our ambassador has spoken out. I mean, we’ve been very clear in our disappointment that action has not been taken. And of course, it is far preferable that it be done in the regular course of business that prosecutors, judges, law enforcement officials step up to their responsibilities and remove the question of impunity.
We in the United States sometimes go to having special tribunals, special prosecutors for certain politically connected wrongdoing, and so we know that trying to create another entity may be appropriate. But if it can’t get created, then you’ve got to go back to the system you have. And a truth and justice and reconciliation commission without any ability to bring people to justice is not going to satisfy many of the deepest concerns that are expressed by the Kenyan people.
And I’m not understating, or I don’t mean to underestimate, the difficulty of doing this, of creating some kind of pathway for holding people accountable. But in today’s world, where information is communicated instantaneously, people are no longer going to put up with that. You can find information out so easily by people Twittering and otherwise communicating that governments have to be more transparent and governments have to be more accountable. And I used that phrase that I very much like in my speech that sunlight is the best disinfectant; bring it out and try to resolve it. Now does that mean everybody has to be prosecuted right away? Well, there probably has to be some process put in place, but there needs to be a beginning. And I think that’s what we are looking for, and that’s what we’re hoping to see from the current government.
FOREIGN MINISTER WETANGULA: Thank you. Finally, let me say something about the issue Jeff Koinage raised on the Sudan. First of all, I don’t think it is true that America is harsher to Kenya than it is to Sudan. But on the issue of the indictment of President Bashir, the African Union took a position, and the position is very clear and we have articulated it many times. One, the AU does not and has not and will not say that President Bashir is innocent, because we have no capacity to say that. He has been investigated, he has been indicted.
What the AU asked the Security Council to do was that within the context of Article 16 of the Statute of Rome, the Security Council could suspend the warrant for a year because there was visible progress in Sudan, that there was internal discussions, there were talks going on in Qatar, and we wanted to see whether that texture can bring relative calm and peace in the country, because we do know that peace, security, stability and all these factors must be looked at within the same context. And nobody will stand in the way of President Bashir being arrested and prosecuted, but for now, the AU’s position is that let’s see what internal mechanisms can be done. I don’t think the AU is asking for too much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Somalia? Well, we had a very long discussion about Somalia.
FOREIGN MINISTER WETANGULA: Yes, it took the centerpiece of the discussions.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. And we very much appreciate Kenya’s efforts working on its own and with the international community. We recognize the border problems that Kenya has with its long border with Somalia. We certainly offered whatever help and assistance we could provide to Kenya to deal with the border, the refugee flow, which Kenya is trying to absorb 6,000 refugees and --
FOREIGN MINISTER WETANGULA: Ten thousand a month.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Ten thousand a month. So Kenya’s bearing a big burden for the instability and violence within Somalia. The United States is supporting the Transitional Federal Government. I’ll be meeting with Sheikh Sharif tomorrow to discuss what else the international community can do to try to support his efforts to stabilize Somalia, to create a functioning government. But we know we’re facing a very difficult conflict, and we also know that the presence of al-Shabaab and terrorist elements within Somalia poses a threat. It poses a threat to Kenya, poses a threat to the stability of Africa and beyond. So this is an area where we’re going to work even more closely together.
And on another area, piracy, I would just say that Kenya, again, is absorbing a lot of the burden from the international community. Kenya offered to receive the pirates, to hold the pirates. They need more help in doing that. The United States is leading an international contact group on piracy. We want to provide more assistance to Kenya, which is offering this very important service.
So we talked a lot about the work that Kenya is doing within the regional and global security context, which is absolutely invaluable.
FOREIGN MINISTER WETANGULA: Thank you very much, Secretary of State, and have a good afternoon.
# # #