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Annan presses Kenya to arrest instigators of violence

Government urged to take action against those who organized post-election ethnic killings.

But even among its closest allies frustration with the government’s refusal to push for justice and reform is clear. Recently the U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, declared the ambition of President Barack Obama — whose father was Kenyan — to see an end to “45 years of the culture of impunity” in Kenya.

Ranneberger announced that letters signed by Washington’s top Africa diplomat, Johnnie Carson, had been sent to 15 cabinet ministers, MPs and senior bureaucrats threatening travel bans if they continued to stand in the way of reforms.

“The future relationship of those persons with the United States is tied to their support for implementation of the reform agenda and opposition to the use of violence,” the letters stated. Ranneberger said forthcoming travel bans for some of the unnamed 15 individuals, “would likely extend to members of their family.”

This would hit them where it hurts as many of Kenya’s political elite have relatives and children living and studying in the U.S., and trans-Atlantic shopping trips are a common luxury for well-paid ministers.

The aim said Ranneberger was, “to ensure that there is never again a repeat of the unprecedented crisis Kenya suffered last year.” In the wake of last year’s violence the reforms were designed to replace the discredited electoral commission, overhaul Kenya’s judiciary, end impunity, stop human rights abuses by police and the military and halt rampant corruption. Only the smallest steps have been made in any direction.

The beleaguered police chief has been sacked (his replacement is the former commander of the General Services Unit, a feared paramilitary outfit), a temporary interim electoral body appointed and the head of the discredited anti-corruption commission has resigned (after an outcry followed his reappointment by President Kibaki).

Annan, on his four-day visit to Kenya which ended Wednesday, found that depressingly little has changed in the year since he was last here. But perhaps the very real threat of prosecutions at the ICC will be the spur that is needed to force Kenya’s politicians to make the changes the country so desperately needs.