Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ranneberger must reveal names or shut up

Sunday Nation 21 November 2010

The American Ambassador to Kenya, Mr Michael Ranneberger, has announced that four top government officials and a prominent businessman had been banned from visiting the US due to their links to drug trafficking activities.

He went ahead to announce that the American Drug Enforcement Agency would set up an office in Kenya in the coming months to help combat the international drug trade and bring the traffickers to justice, “no matter how senior or politically well-connected they are”.

No right-thinking Kenyan would have any problems with this move by a friendly government to help make our society safer from criminals who would destroy it in the quest for quick riches. However, two giant red flags are raised by this ambassador’s statement.

First, he persists in making these statements about banned “prominent Kenyans” and “senior government officials”, but has never once publicly named any of those involved.

Some time last year, Mr Ranneberger made a similar announcement in respect of some “senior government official” who was characterised as the single largest manifestation of impunity in this country.

However, he fell short of naming the individual, even though Attorney General Amos Wako came out guns blazing soon after that to declare that he was happy staying away from the US, and defending his legacy as Kenya’s foremost lawman.

Despite the assertion by the US Government that the individuals they are banning from visiting their country are really horrifying monsters unfit to lead even the village cattle dip committee, failing to name them makes the whole thing a completely useless charade.

The ordinary mwananchi lining up to vote at a General Election makes decisions based on more temporal considerations like food in the stomach and money in the pocket.

Lofty issues like integrity and moral probity are left to the chattering classes that hardly ever vote in the first place. The only way of really protecting Kenya from these sleazy characters is to name them and shame them in the court of public opinion.

Keeping their names secret only serves to embolden them to raise the bar on looting in the knowledge that their days are truly numbered.

As I argued in this column in March last year, “it is better to continue in ignorance and conjecture than to know that there are individuals who, though proved corrupt and complicit in crimes against our nation, continue to sit at the pinnacle of executive power and decide government policy”.

The second issue raised by Ranneberger’s rabble-rousing charade is really one of Kenya’s place in the community of nations. Since the bungled 2007 elections and the subsequent conflagration, Kenya has become a theatre for competing international interests.

The election of an American President with Kenyan roots tilted the balance in favour of the US, increasing their involvement in even the tritest of our affairs.

However, it must be noted that unsubstantiated public attacks on political leaders are often counter-productive. Indeed, Ranneberger’s “regime change” rhetoric, though welcome, needs to be expressed more surreptitiously and with some degree of finesse that will not alienate the very citizen it seeks to “liberate”.

As things stand today, it appears as though, at some point in the recent past, Kenya became the newest territory of the USA.

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and lecturer at Moi University’s School of Medicine

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