US Support For Former Kenyan Gov't Criticized

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:12 PM EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - The United States strongly condemned human rights abuses committed during the administration of recently departed Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi but took no action against a country that had become a key ally in the war on terror, rights campaigners charged this week.

European nations had been more active than the Americans in their criticism of the Moi government's violations, Human Rights Watch said in an annual report.

"Despite a stinging State Department report cataloguing widespread human rights abuses, and the Bush administration's concerns over poor governance, the U.S. maintained strong support for Kenya, its strategic ally in East Africa," it said.

A public affairs official at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi disputed the charge, saying the U.S. had been consistent in monitoring and airing concerns over rights abuses in Kenya.

The embassy made available a copy of an annual report on the state of human rights in Kenya. It catalogues abuses but does not offer specific recommendations or condemnation.

Moi ruled since 1978 and was widely seen as a dictator determined not to allow democracy to take root in Kenya.

He had a tense relationship with foreign envoys, and during the recent and previous election campaigns, Moi accused the U.S. Embassy, along with other diplomatic missions, of taking sides with his political opponents.

But Human Rights Watch noted that U.S. aid - particularly military aid - to Kenya increased in 2002, even while other key development partners reduced or eliminated theirs.

Britain withheld half of aid earmarked for Kenya after the government failed to pass anti- corruption legislation, and Belgium ended aid, citing mismanagement, while the Netherlands also scaled back its assistance.

The Human Rights Watch report, which said corruption and lawlessness eroded Kenya's social and economic fabric, was completed before the Dec. 27 elections, which ushered
in a new government widely seen as more democratic and reform-minded.

The administration of President Mwai Kibaki has already prepared legislation aimed at fighting corruption in the public and the private sector.

Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Kiraitu Murungi said the judiciary - described by a 2002 review commission as "incompetent and lethargic" - will be reformed, and the government was keen to see that human rights abuses were tackled.

The country's police force, accused of perpetrating human rights abuses, is to be retrained and re-equipped.

In the war on terrorism launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S., Kenya became an increasingly important regional ally of the West.

It granted permission to Britain and Germany to fly reconnaissance missions along the Indian Ocean coast in search of al Qaeda terrorists suspected to be in the region.

Kenyan forces also held joint military exercises with 3,000 U.S. troops along the coast.

Al Qaeda bomb attacks on the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in August 1998 killed more than 200 people.

Late last year, terrorists struck again in Kenya, bombing an Israeli-owned hotel and unsuccessfully targeting an Israeli airliner with missiles.

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