Kerry due in Kenya after years of estrangement

2015-05-03 13:21
(Image: Andrew Harnik, AP)

(Image: Andrew Harnik, AP)

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Nairobi - US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Kenya on Sunday for talks on security co-operation and ahead of US President Barack Obama's visit to his late father's home country.

The trip to the east African nation is the first high-level visit since 2012, and comes after a year of tensions surrounding Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta being charged by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

The ICC has since abandoned the case against 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.

Attacks by militants

An American State Department official said: "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.

"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 arrives from Sri Lanka later on Sunday and leaves on Tuesday, during which he will also meet Kenyatta.

The fight against Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked Shebab 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.

Al-Shabaab gunmen last month massacred close to 150 people, mostly students, in a raid on Garissa University in Kenya's northeast.

The raid followed a string of other massacres in the northeast and Muslim-majority coastal areas, and after the September 2013 siege of the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi which left at least 67 dead.

Human rights

"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 Kenyatta, whose government has been accused of clamping down on civil society groups and the press.

The top US diplomat will also meet Kenyan opposition leaders and rights activists.


Read more on:    john kerry  |  uhuru kenyatta  |  barack obama  |  kenya  |  east africa

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