A Conversation with Moses Wetang'ula

Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Moses Wetang'ula
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Republic of Kenya
Madeleine K. Albright
Chair, Albright Stonebridge Group; Former U.S. Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State

MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT: Well, welcome today to this Council on Foreign Relations meeting.

A little housekeeping here: Please completely turn off, not just put on vibrate, your cell phones and BlackBerrys and all wireless devices to -- and it's really to avoid interference with the sound system.

And I would like to remind members that this meeting is actually on the record.

I am delighted to have been asked to have this conversation with the foreign minister today. I have just returned from Nairobi and had a really fantastic time there in terms of another organization that I belong to, the National Democratic Institute, of which I am chairman of the board. And it was the first time we had a board meeting abroad. And we chose Nairobi, and we really had a great, great time. And so I was very pleased when Richard asked me to have this conversation with the foreign minister.

And so let me introduce the foreign minister.

Foreign Minister Wetang'ula is Kenya's minister of foreign affairs, a position that he has held since January 2008. He previously served as assistant minister for international affairs and has been an honorable member of the parliament since 1993.

In addition to his many years in public service, he has also distinguished, has a really distinguished legal career. He holds a Bachelor of Law, LLB, honors, from the University of Nairobi, a diploma in legal studies, and was pursuing postgraduate studies at the faculty of law at the University of Nairobi.

He has worked as a lawyer in private practice as the sole practitioner in M. Wetang'ula Advocate Chambers and Wetang'ula & Company Advocates.

While in parliament, he served as a member of the legal and constitutional affairs, foreign affairs and standing orders committees.

He is the current president of the African, Caribbean and Pacific European Union Joint Assembly Working Group on Regional Cooperation and has previously been a member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the International Bar Association and the Kenya Chapter of International Commission of Jurists.

He has provided a very capable voice for Kenya on the international stage.

So I -- now we give a very warm welcome to the foreign minister here with us today.

Thank you very, very much.

FOREIGN MINISTER MOSES WETANG'ULA: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you.

ALBRIGHT: Well, I have to say that we have some wonderful things to talk about, and I'm delighted to have you here.

WETANG'ULA: Thank you, and I feel welcome.

ALBRIGHT: Let me explain a little bit what I found so fascinating about being in Kenya, by context, and then what I thought I'd do is ask the foreign minister about giving us a better sense of what is happening in Kenya itself.

As we all know, there were very unpleasant occurrences after the last election during the period of 2007-2008. The Kenyans have voted in a -- by referendum -- a new constitution. And they are moving from a parliamentary system to a presidential system, which is really a remarkable development in terms of those of us that study political institutions.

And they have an awful lot of work to do on that.

And so Mr. Minister, I thought it would be interesting if you could tell us a little bit about what is going on during this transition period, how your government is going about making this major transition, and what it does in terms of your relationship with your citizens.

WETANG'ULA: Thank you, Madeleine.

For those of you who don't know where Kenya is, Kenya is in East Africa. It's a country of about 583,000 square kilometers, a population close to 40 million, a very vibrant population. Got our independence in 1963, and we have had a continuous, stable leadership until we had a challenge in 2007, 2008 after elections.

Since independence, we have had elections every five years. We have been through the history of our country, been very close to America. During the Cold War divide, we were on the side of the West. But we have also pursued very pragmatic foreign relations in terms of our friends in the East.

Now, after the 2007 December elections, we had a dispute as to who won. I have no difficulty in saying who won. I think the president won. But the electoral commission messed up the election. And we had very serious ethnic violence in the country.

Luckily, we stopped it within less than two or three weeks. We had in Kofi Annan and a team of friends from the continent, led by the AU. We set up a team where I was part of. And we embarked on looking at the root causes of this violence. Was the election a cause of this violence, or it was an excuse for this violence?

And we have for 20 years been struggling to improve our constitution that was written for us at independence by an American lawyer called Thurgood Marshall, supported by some other lawyers from elsewhere.

We have finally delivered a new constitution to the country, shifting from a parliamentary mixed system where we have had parliamentary presidential to purely presidential. The task now is how to implement the constitution. And I have no doubt that we'll live up to the task.

ALBRIGHT: I think that the issues for me that I found so interesting were you had had a number of questions about how the youth was integrated into the political system. And one of the issues, I gather, from having looked at what happened in 2007, 2008, was that in many ways, the youth was used by parties to fight each other.

And I found very interesting that you now have a new role for the youth. Can you -- and also, can you describe what youth means?

WETANG'ULA: We define youth in my country as 35 and below. Sixty-seven percent of our population is classified as youth. So out of 40 million, that is quite, quite huge.

We -- you correct me if I'm wrong -- Kenyans, I think, are about 67 percent. There have been, of course, difficulties of employment. Before we embraced MDGs, our youth, many of our youths were not going to school properly. And they always find themselves used as pawns in the political games in the country.

And when you had the flare up after the elections, they were on the front line with machetes, with stones, with crude weapons and so on.

Under the new constitution, we now recognize the role of the youth, that we give them a role in leadership. There is a percentage of youth that will be given slots to come to parliament, to go to the senate, to participate in the devolved units and to participate in the issues of devolution of resources and how they're managed in the country.

So we're trying to induct them into the leadership process so that they don't feel the sense of exclusion that they have always felt.

Although through our history, we have actually had a lot of youths elected into positions of leadership, our current parliament has about 28 percent membership of the youth. In a parliament of 222, that's not a very small number. But those who are left out, they still continue feeling excluded. And now we have brought them into the fold.

Of course, the new constitution has a lot of things, a very vibrant and modern bill of rights, perhaps much more modern than your own. We have a devolution of authority and power, devolution of resources, elevation of women role in our society to a minimum everywhere of 30 percent in every appointive and elective positions. Where we fall short of the elected threshold, we nominate them to fill up the gap, and so on and so forth.

And I think it's going to give a new dimension to our approach to leadership in the country by recognizing not only women and the youth. We also have a special clause in the constitution to recognize old people and old people in my country about the age of 75 will be given a national stipend to look after them if they have no pension so that they can be able to have a better sunset in their lives.

ALBRIGHT: I do think that having spent some time with all of your there a couple of weeks ago, is there really is such a sense of pride for having voted in by a fair election a referendum on a constitution that is as forward-looking as anything that most people have seen in terms of inclusion.

And so the questions are basically how you get from here to there.

And so when does the constitution actually come into effect? When are the next elections? And how are you planning to work through this transition period?

WETANG'ULA: The constitution was voted for a referendum on 4th of August. It was promulgated into law on the 27th of August. So it took effect on that date. But it has a target implementation that takes a transition of up to five years.

There are certain doables immediately, like reforming the judiciary that has been a source of a lot of difficulties in the country. Within six months, we must clean up and have a brand new judiciary. Reforming the police -- we must clean up and have a brand new police force. And then, the current government, the current parliament, will transition up through the next elections in August 2012. Then we have other legislative programs that will be staggered, as I said, for a period of five years when the window will close and the new constitution comes completely into effect. Like, the devolved units will take effect by the end of the elections of 2012, and so on and so forth.

So it's a very, very "wait" agenda for the reform process in the country. Now we have a constitution. The most difficult part is how to implement it. And we must make sure that we implement it by passing correct laws that give real meaning and effect to the provisions of the constitution.

Parliament is on recess now, resuming on the 28th of this month. And between then and end of 2012, they have to pass 49 critical pieces of legislation that will give meaning to some of the immediate doables within the constitution.

And I have no doubt that the enthusiasm and the vibrance (sic) with which I have seen my colleagues in leadership, the population and everyone else exhibit, we're going to meet all these targets.

ALBRIGHT: I have to say that what was so interesting in being there, not only are they moving from a parliamentary to a presidential system but from a unicameral to a bicameral system.


ALBRIGHT: So it's just huge changes. And in their building of parliament, they're building another chamber, or redoing chambers, and redoing seating and a lot of very complicated things.

What you all will appreciate was that the group that -- I said I went over there with the National Democratic Institution, and Tom Daschle is the vice chairman, so as they were talking about the laws, he was trying to explain why filibuster was not such a great idea -- (laughter) -- and, you know, how many, and just the threat of filibuster now is a problem.

So we had an interesting talk.

One last question on domestic politics, and then you are actually the foreign minister: So can you describe -- I mean, your government is really a grand coalition.

WETANG'ULA: It is, yes.

ALBRIGHT: And maybe you could just explain how many different parties and how it's all set up.

WETANG'ULA: It is a grand coalition borne out of the negotiations following the conflict post-election 2007, 2008.

It has several segments in terms of political parties, but we have two sides to the coalition: The orange democratic movement and its partners, headed by the prime minister, and the party of national unity and its partners, headed by the president.

So in terms of our workings, we see ourselves as just two segments, the ODM group and the PNU group. But in between those, we have small other parties -- I belong to a different party from my president, but we are the same coalition on the same side, and so on and so forth.

This coalition partnership came into effect after a long, protracted negotiation where we ended up with a very huge government. We have a Cabinet of 44, divided half-half, with a president with one half, the prime minister with the other half, with some reasonable degree of portfolio balance in the terms of appointment.

And with whatever difficulties that coalition governments carry, I think we've done very well.

We have jointly delivered a new constitution that has eluded the country for 20 years. We have carried out major reforms that are ongoing within the police. We are doing a lot of resource mobilization to send to the rural areas to address issues of rural poverty where, you know, we are in a country were 80 percent of our population live in rural areas.

We have for the last five years electrified the countryside more than we ever did in the past 40 years of independence. And there are many exciting things going on, a lot of capital projects. And the coalition government is solidly together, knowing that if we do not work together, we will hang, either together or separately.

ALBRIGHT: What I found very interesting is when you go into an American classroom and there's a map on the wall, it has the Western Hemisphere in the middle and these two flaps on either side, which is supposed to designate the rest of the world. (Laughter.)

When I was in Africa, what I found very interesting was a globe that was up in meeting with the youth, and it had Africa in the center of the world.

WETANG'ULA: That is our center, yes.

ALBRIGHT: And then I bought a wonderful box there at the market where, in order to open the box, you have to lift -- Kenya is the key --


ALBRIGHT: -- in order to get it out. (Laughter.)

So -- which I just gave to my granddaughter --


ALBRIGHT: -- so she would fully understand that symbolism.

But you live in a very difficult neighborhood, frankly, and I wonder whether you might describe a little bit what you see as the threats that you see your neighbors. How -- what kind of a role is Kenya playing within the neighborhood?

WETANG'ULA: Talking of the map, you know, in Kenya, we say and believe that if the map of Africa represented the human anatomy, then the position of Kenya is the human heart. And we really provide a lot of capacity to Africa that is commensurate with the human heart.

We have, like I said, been a fairly stable country. But we live in a very tumultuous neighborhood. We have at various points of our history had Ethiopia as a failed state. Now it is up and about. We've had Uganda in the clutches of Idi Amin, where a majority of Ugandan professionals moved to live in Kenya. We've had pressure from Sudan with the war between the north and the south that started in 1956, only ending in 2004 when they signed, 2003, when they signed the cease-fire in Kenya.

We've had the failed state of Somalia for now 20 years. There's no meaningful government in Somalia. Our only peaceful neighbor has been Tanzania. And we have had to cope with all these variously flow in of refugees, small arms, light weapons, criminal elements. But none has given us a bigger challenge than Somalia because Somalia is now under threat from extremist groups pursuing a reckless religious ideology that does not believe that people who belong to a different religion have the right to live next to them. And this really worries my country, worries our leadership that we must call upon our friends worldwide to come in and help us.

Sudan, of course, is a success story for our peacemaking process in the region. They signed a CPA; I think it was during the time of Colin Powell.


WETANG'ULA: He was with us in Nairobi when we signed. And the cease-fire they signed has held up to today.

They have met all the benchmarks within the CPA. The final critical one to us is the referendum coming on 9th of January next year. And before I came here, I visited Khartoum and Juba. I talked to the principal leaders of Sudan, and they gave us an assurance. And we'd believe them that they will hold the referendum on time and they will respect the outcome.

So that really gives us a ray of hope that the protracted difficulties that Sudan has had may come to an end with the final act within the CPA.

ALBRIGHT: And further on Somalia, I mean, do you see a terrorist threat coming out of Somalia? Do you see connections between Al-Shabab and what's going on in Yemen? Or how do you -- is that overstating what the problems are there?

WETANG'ULA: The problems of Somalia are very deep, are very far-reaching, and they need attention from many of us.

Unfortunately, since your country came into Somalia in the '90s and suffered some embarrassing scenes that were all over the world, they have shown little interest in joining the region in dealing with the issues of Somalia.

The group called Al-Shabab draw their financial support from some regimes in the Middle East, through Eritrea and some other international extremist organizations that have joined them. And we in the region have been sounding alarm bells.

For instance, a week before the bombings in Uganda, I had an interview with one of your media houses based in Nairobi and I said, "We have intelligence that mercenaries from the Somali diaspora in the U.S., in the U.K., from Afghanistan, mercenaries from Iraq, mercenaries from various parts of the Middle East, Pakistan, are coming into Somalia and that are portending a great danger to the peace and security of the region and we need to move together to stop this."

Of course, very few people listened. And within a week, they bombed Kampala, killing about 80 people, including nationals of Kenya, including two people from my constituency because my constituency borders with Uganda. And we, as a region, have learned how to do the very best we can with the little we have, to see how to help Somalia.

Of course, the Somalis themselves haven't helped. We helped them get together in the transition, offered our arrangement with institutions that they don't seem to respect.

They're quarreling throughout as if they're not having internal difficulties. Only yesterday, the prime minister resigned, leaving the president now to headhunt for another prime minister.

And my country receives an average of 6(,000) to 7,000 refugees every month, walking into Kenya. We have about half a million in the camps. And we have about in excess of a million Somalis, because we can't keep everybody in camps; we are obligated under international law to look after them, give them medical, everything. We've let some of them join the population because we have already our own very large Somali population.

So those challenges remain real. I recently saw a document written from the office of your assistant secretary of State that acknowledges that the United States is guilty of benign neglect of the Somali problem.

I hope that that self-criticism will give them a new trajectory in how to deal with the Somalia.

ALBRIGHT: And is Kenya supporting the transitional -- do you give assistance to them, or what is your relationship with them?

WETANG'ULA: Our relationship with them is first and foremost a recognition of their legitimacy, that they were born out of a long, protracted negotiation in Nairobi that took 16 months, supported by the IGAD and the AU. And the U.N. was an observer. The U.S. was part of the process.

We believe, and I think rightly so, that they are the only legitimate organization within the context of the leadership in Somalia.

So we support them. We give them our little resources. We support the police training.

This year alone, from unbudgeted sources, we have pumped into their coffers about 10 million Kenyan shillings.

How much is that in dollars? At a rate of eight shillings per dollar, this is quite substantial.

And we continue harboring in our country their leadership. Because of the chaos in Mogadishu, almost half the parliament of Somalia lives in Nairobi. Their Cabinet and their families live in Nairobi. We have allowed them to have the safe sanctuary in Nairobi for their children to go to school and for them to be able to transact with the U.N., with the EU, with everyone else who operates from Nairobi.

But what have we been asking about Somalia? We've been asking for our friends, including your country, to support the transitional federal government to have the capacity to maintain and sustain the territorial integrity of their country, to provide security, to provide social services, education, health, water and so on and so forth, things that don't cost a lot of money.

But unfortunately, our pleas have not been forthcoming because, we understand, your country is too committed in Afghanistan. Your country has been too committed in Iraq.

I saw a document from the Pentagon indicating you are spending about $3 billion a day in Afghanistan or something like that. We have been asking for just about half a billion dollars, one of, to sort out Somalia. And we believe we can because the region has the capacity to train troops for Somalia, police for Somalia.

Kenya has even trained customs officers for Somalia, trained revenue collectors for Somalia. But there we are.

ALBRIGHT: And do you see a role for the African Union troops in Somalia?

WETANG'ULA: The African Union and 4 authorized 8,100 troops. And they are playing a very good role from Uganda and Burundi.

In our last meeting of IGAD summit in Addis, we decided that even if we got the full complement of 8,100, it would not be enough. So we have set a target of 22,000 troops.

We don't want these troops to be Kenyan troops or Tanzanian troops or Ugandan troops. We want these troops to be put in a coordinated joint command of the transition of federal forces of AMISOM and of the East African AU standby force.

And Africa has -- (inaudible). We have five units where we are going to build up 15(,000) to 20,000 troops in each unit. The East African standby force has 15,000, strong unit. We want to use them to help us in Somalia so that nobody starts saying Kenya has invaded Somalia or Ethiopia is meddling in Somalia. We want it to be a jointly owned operation by the IGAD and the AU and the Somalis themselves.

ALBRIGHT: Well, I have to say that I came away -- as inspired as I was by the internal story of Kenya, I was depressed and terrified by the stories in Somalia and the dangers they pose. And I think that you make a very accurate statement in terms of a lack of U.S. appetite, especially given what happened in the '90s.

So I think this is one of the issues that is very important to be brought to the attention, which is why what you're saying, I think, has such great import.

WETANG'ULA: It is very telling, Madeleine. We have too many summits at the U.N. this time around -- one on Sudan, one on Somalia. Your president is attending one on Sudan, is skipping one on Somalia.

And I think this underscores what I'm saying, that we need to have persons like you to rejuvenate the thinking that whatever is historical between the U.S. forces and Somalia in the '90s should not make us be hostages of issues of history. We must move forward. And we need engagement at the highest level.

I addressed to the Security Council on the 15th of this month last week, and your permanent rep, after I finished, was full of praise of the refreshing issues that I gave to them to hopefully ignite their positive thinking into taking up Somalia once more as an agenda worth pursuing.

ALBRIGHT: So at this time, what I'd like to do is to invite the members to join in our conversation.

And so please wait for the microphone. And is there -- and then maybe -- is there a microphone?

Yes, can you pass it to the gentleman in front of you?

And if you could stand and state your name and affiliation, and limit yourself to one question.

QUESTIONER: Sure. My name is Todd Johnson, from Ferrari Consultancy.

Mr. Minister, thank you very much for your remarks.

I'm wondering if you could comment a bit, when you listen to prominent Kenyan civil society commentators like John Githongo and others, when they discuss the underlying fundamental sort of problems that have underlied the recent turmoil in Kenya over the past 34 years, you often hear the phrase "a culture of impunity."

And I'm wondering if you can comment what the constitution referendum and the elections that are in the years ahead, how this sort of lack of -- the leaders have not been asked to pay for involvement in past wrongs, so to speak -- and this culture of impunity that John Githongo points to, if that's being addressed by the referendum, and if that is something that is part of the political consciousness now in Kenya.

Thank you.

WETANG'ULA: Thank you for your question.

Like I did say, we have worked through a very slippery path in terms of constitution making. We had a constitution that did not go far enough in terms of addressing issues of respect for the law, impunity and many other things.

I know John Githongo very well. Sometimes I don't agree with what he says because it is not factual. But we are addressing issues in our country.

After the difficulties post-elections, we realized that we have to address our historical, contemporary and future challenges.

We did agree that we set up a truth, justice and reconciliation outfit similar to that that was in South Africa, that is -- although it's not working well because the personalities we put there are clashing instead of working. But reorganized and realigned, it's supposed to listen to Kenyans who can come forward and make confessions and seek forgiveness from the public.

Number two, we've also had problems with weak institutions. And its weak institutions that breed impunity.

If leaders know what when they're taken to court on any transgression of the law, they will live there for 20 years while they are enjoying the positions of leadership, then they will not care what they do.

We now have a new constitution that addresses all those, not because John Githongo said it but because the people of Kenya wanted to have a rebirth of their nation.

And if you come to Kenya today, we're talking of the second republic of Kenya, breaking from the past, picking the good things from there and moving with them and moving to the future with a lot of promise.

I hope we'll all lift to this and give this promise to the people of Kenya.

ALBRIGHT: Yes, up here. Anne?

QUESTIONER: Hi, I'm Anne Richard from the International Rescue Committee. And thank you for hosting so many refugees in Kenya, which is a very important thing, as the secretary herself knows.

I haven't spent a lot of time in Kenya proper, but I've spent a lot of time in the Nairobi airport. And the thing that has really impressed me is how many Obama t-shirts and jewelry and --

WETANG'ULA: It's all everywhere.

QUESTIONER: -- bracelets there are.

So what were the expectations of the Kenyan people for the presidency of Barack Obama, and what are they thinking now, based on the first couple of years?

WETANG'ULA: Very difficult to say. I've been asked that question more than 10 times before. And I've been saying this: President Obama has some roots in Kenya, but President Obama is the president of the United States of America. And they shall be good to Kenya if he succeeds in America. And wish him to succeed in America. (Laughter.)

We have a very, very good relationship with the United States of America, historical, and it has endured the course of tides. We have had a lot of American investments in Kenya, although at one time they started pulling out; I understand some are coming back.

So we look forward to, of course, President Obama having roots in Kenya, to perhaps pay a little more attention to Kenya than his predecessors have done. But we want our relationship between Kenya and America not to be based on individual feelings but to be based on shared values, to be based on a shared vision, and be based on the need to make the world a better place to live in, whether it is President Obama or not.

But I can assure you, he is immensely popular in Kenya, extremely. And even I see my own sons wearing t-shirts written in Obama with his portrait, and we really quite like it. But that is what I've been telling everybody who asks me the same question, that we are in different countries and the manner in which we engage is determined by our strategic interests and our other interests.

ALBRIGHT: I must say that at one of the meetings where I was, people were saying he needed to come and visit. I think that was one of the issues, but --

WETANG'ULA: I'm sure the country would come to a standstill if he arrived -- (laughter) -- to visit. There's no doubt.

QUESTIONER: With his birth certificate? (Laughter.)


ALBRIGHT: Don't go there. (Laughter.)

WETANG'ULA: I can go there. I have no problem. He was not born in Kenya. He's not Kenyan. (Laughter.)

He's not Kenyan. Although is grandmother lives about 60 kilometers from my constituents.

ALBRIGHT: Yes, Steve?

QUESTIONER: Hi. Jeff Laurenti with the Century Foundation.

Minister Wetang'ula, you described the comprehensive peace agreement in Sudan as a success, but there's a lot of trepidation that that referendum, come January, in which it's expected that the people of southern Sudan would vote overwhelmingly for independence, could result either in a renewal of conflict if the north isn't willing to let it float away free, or a failed state, a state that doesn't really have an administrative apparatus and such to be able to take care of itself.

What do you see --

WETANG'ULA: In the north or in the south?

QUESTIONER: Well -- (laughs) -- I'm just talking about the south, but you could talk about the north as well, I guess.

Could you tell us what you think would be the prospects for an independent Juba capital state in the south, left to its own? And do you anticipate that a divorce would in fact be peaceable, no problems, or is this something that Kenya, as a bordering state, has to really worry about?

WETANG'ULA: I can assure you, my friend, I've had that doomsday feeling.

But I can also assure you that the referendum is on course. We know we have difficulties. We have the BA issue that is still unresolved. We have the demarcation of the boundary between the north and south that has been done 85 percent. We have 15 percent to go. And we have a few things disputed with census, the issue of citizenship post-referendum.

But we crafted this CPA very carefully. The life of the CPA was not determined, per se, at the referendum. We have clauses called "popular post-referendum consultations," that will go on, that will address, for example, what do you do with the largely African people who live in the Arab north? Do they remain citizens of the north, or do they relocate to the south?

The Arabs who live in the south, will they accept to live under the leadership of the Africans in the south, or will they move to the north?

All these are windows left open in the CPA for post-referendum negotiations.

I also want to assure you that I and my colleague from Ethiopia lead a very strong team from the region that has remained engaged with the leadership of the Congress Party and the SPLA in Juba.

We visit Khartoum and Juba very regularly. In fact, I was in Khartoum 10 days ago, where I met President Bashir and his team. And I was in Juba; I met President Salva Kiir and his team. And each one of them are not being convinced to obey and respect the (content ?) of the CPA; we're making them to realize that they have no option but to follow what the CPA says and what they signed to. And they also know that if they don't do that, the consequences will be quite severe for them personally and for the region and for their countries.

And lastly, I see no risk whatsoever for a failed state either in the north or in the south. And in fact, my country has set up a section of our campus in Juba that is training public administrators to prepare them for taking up the mantle of leadership.

We've allowed southern Sudanese to join all our institutions, including our universities, on local terms so that they can be able to train human resources.

My country has about 35,000 primary school teachers in southern Sudan alone, where we are helping them to teach children in schools, so that they can be able to get ready to face the challenges of an independent state.

And when are you ready for independence? When independence arrives. Nobody ever prepares to have a central bank functioning, a police force functioning, an air force with rocket launchers and everything, to be independent. You become independent and you build institutions. I have no doubt that they will do so.

ALBRIGHT: You had a question, yes.

QUESTIONER: Reed Kramer from AllAfrica.com.

Returning to Somalia for a minute, I wondered what you think of the suggestion that's been made, perhaps most prominently by Ambassador Ould-Abdallah, who had just finished his tour as U.N. secretary-general's special representative for Somalia, that the international presence in Mogadishu has to be significantly increased.

He advocates the moving of some 5,000 personnel who are now basically in Nairobi working for the United Nations and NGOs on Somalia, into Mogadishu, of course with security being necessary, a green zone being needed. But he's arguing that that would help turn the momentum in a way that you were talking about, the need for additional resources. And I wondered if you had been in discussions about that.

WETANG'ULA: That was actually not his idea. It was my idea. (Laughter.)

I'm the one who has advocated for the various operators in Nairobi to move to Mogadishu and create a presence that will in turn attract support for security and other operational structures.

And in fact, we have now started off by all the IGAD countries putting together a liaison group of military officers above the rank of colonel, five from each country. We have set up a unit for them in Mogadishu. And we are hoping that they will be a catalyst for others to move.

My country has a mission to Somalia. It operates from Nairobi, but I've conditioned the ambassador and his team to visit Mogadishu every two weeks to engage the government and see what we're required to do.

So what Ould-Abdallah said, he was echoing what the region has said.


QUESTIONER: Peggy Hicks with Human Rights Watch.

I wanted to return to the question of accountability. You mentioned meeting with President al-Bashir recently. We were surprised to see his attendance at the constitutional celebration in Kenya, given Kenya's ICC membership and its obligation to arrest.

What message do you think that sent to Darfuri victims of the genocide in Sudan?

WETANG'ULA: This must be the hundredth time I'm answering that question. Everywhere I go, I'm being asked.

President Bashir has problems in Sudan. He has been indicted by the ICC. He's also a president of a sovereign state, a neighbor to Kenya and a country whose upheavals in the past has cost us so much as a country.

At one time, we had 2 million Sudanese in Kenya, putting pressure on our meager resources, challenges on our security and everything.

We are a signatory to the Rome Statute voluntarily. No one asked us to sign to it; we signed to it ourselves. We are also a critical member of the African Union and a signatory to the constitutive act of the African Union, which is a charter in the treaty that binds Africa together.

We have participated -- in fact, my country has police officers serving in Darfur, under the rubrics of the U.N.

President Bashir came to Kenya on our invitation, and we have no apologies about it, because he's a president of a neighboring country whose security, stability, reconciliation and other challenges impact directly on the security and stability of my own country.

Why would we invite him? We're inviting all our neighbors. The criteria was to invite neighbors. And he's a president of a neighboring country.

We have not in any way -- and I must emphasize this -- relaxed on our commitment to the ICC. And in fact, the ICC is helping us to resolve issues of impunity that came out of the post-election violence.

Before I came to New York for this general assembly, executing my constitutional mandate, I signed an agreement with ICC to give them privileges and immunities, including bearing arms on our soil, to carry out investigations post-election.

But we should not confuse this with the issues of Sudan.

The AU, to which we see our future, sent a panel of eminent persons, led by Thabo Mbeki and two other retired presidents, to Sudan. And they came out and told the whole of Africa that you cannot resolve the issues of Sudan by isolating either stability or security or justice or reconciliation. You must look at them as a component.

Three, the AU, at a summit level in Addis, reaffirmed in Libya and in Uganda, brought to the Security Council, in compliance with the provision of the Rome Statute, to ask them to defer the arrest warrants against President Bashir as we try to sort out these critical issues, including the CPA penultimate activity that I talked about of the referendum.

The Security Council has never come back to us.

The AU then told all African countries that we should disregard the issues of ICC in relation to President Bashir, not in general terms. And we, as a critical member of the AU, and many African countries that think like us -- and I can assure you, there are many -- will not hand President Bashir -- we're not saying he's innocent, we're not saying he's guilty; he must face the due process. But peace in our northern neighborhood is as important to us as the fight against impunity.

Peace in our region, reconciliation in the Sudan, is as important to us as the fight against impunity. And I have no doubt whatsoever that there's no contradiction in my government's thinking on dealing with President Bashir, whom I told you 10 days ago I visited at his palace in Khartoum and then went on to Juba, and fighting impunity.

I see no contradiction.

Lastly, we have signed to the Treaty of Rome. We have signed to the AU treaty under the constitutive act. There's no treaty that's superior to the other. The AU has asked the U.N. to do something. The U.N. has neglected to do this request.

So what do we do as Africans? I'm sure your guess is as good as mine.

ALBRIGHT: Yes, is there another question?

Can I ask you, how do you kind of see Kenya's role in the East African Community? I mean, you are the largest -- I guess not Sudan --

WETANG'ULA: We are the largest.

ALBRIGHT: And how do you see the East African Community within -- you were talking about the African Union, but how do you --

WETANG'ULA: The East African Community is a very exciting enterprise, I can tell you. It brings together, regionally, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. We've now taken in Rwanda and Burundi as equal partners. We are moving very well towards integration. We have now a common customs union, a common market. And we have a good, strong population 127 million people.

Kenya is the engine, economical, of the East African Community region. We have -- we contribute 57 percent of the GDP of the East African Community. We are looking forward to getting to political federation by 2013, all things being equal.

And because of this dynamic movement to bring our people together, now all the five East African counties, we don't require work permits. We don't require visas. We don't require resident permits. We don't require anything to move from Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and vice versa.

Because of this cohesion -- and the benefits are very visible because the economies of East Africa are doing reasonably well -- Uganda has just hit huge deposits of oil. Tanzania has huge deposits of natural gas. We have a lot of potential for tourism, safaris and so on.

We are now getting a lot of requests. Southern Sudan is telling us if they vote for self-determination, their first point of call is to come to East Africa. The Comoros in the Indian Ocean have already sent in a regional application to join the East African Community.

We have Eastern Congo, whose population is, in affinity, allied to East Africa because of the -- (inaudible). We are now arranging joint programs. We're building a rail line from the Kenyan coast into Congo, and highways and pipelines.

And we see East Africa as the engine of development, knowing that the African Union, of course, has designated that the regional economic communities like East African Community, like SADC, like ECOWAS, and so on, are the building blocks for eventual African Union.

So the stronger the regs, the brighter the future for integration in Africa.

In fact, I was told last week, a very interesting application to joint he East African Community, Trinidad and Tobago have sent in an application to join the East African Community. I don't know how they'll manage, but -- (laughter) -- that shows how attractive we are as a region.

And I see, in another five years, the East African Community region and our economic vibrancy getting to a target annual growth of 10 percent-plus and I see the future of our region is very bright. Ethiopia, with 90 million landlocked people, we're talking to them. And if they join us we will be very happy, because we'll be widening and broadening our market.

ALBRIGHT: Yes, in the back?

QUESTIONER: I want to ask: China's role in Africa being credited by some, discredited by others, but most of these people are not Africans. So would you share your thoughts on this? Thank you.

WETANG'ULA: As Kenya or as Africa? As Kenya, I can tell you we have a very strong relationship with China, like all other African countries have. And China is doing enormous capital projects in Africa.

If you come to Nairobi today, all our major highways running out of the city have (done a modeling; you saw they're all thicker ?). It's being constructed by the Chinese. They construct day and night and they complete their work ahead of schedule. We have no difficulty with them.

What we have in our country, Kenya, is we have our friends, like America, the Europeans. Germany is our number two trading partner -- (inaudible) -- our number one trading partner is Uganda. We have Tanzania as our number three trading partner. The U.K. is our number four trading partner. Then we have the newly acquired friends with prosperity, like China, like India, like Brazil. Before I came here, I was in Brazil signing, among other things, opening up Kenya to fly to Rio, which will open up a lot of business traffic.

So we do what in military terms we call "strategic positioning." We maintain territory and conquer territory. So we are dealing with the Chinese in the same way. And I can tell you what the Chinese are doing in Africa is worth emulating.

Recently, there was a fact-finding mission from the European Union, particularly sent by the German government to find out what is it that China is taking in Africa that is overrunning our traditional friends? And I told them: "Look, when the Chinese come and we tell them we want a road, they build a road. When they come and we tell them we want to build a dam, they build a dam."

What happens with the European firms? They come to Africa. You tell them, "This is the road we want to build." They start with a pre-feasibility, a feasibility, a post-feasibility, an evaluation, a re-evaluation. By the time you start building the road, it's five years gone. And the population we represent, when you tell them you're going to build a road, they want to see a road. You cannot go back and tell them a pre-feasibility is being done, a re-evaluation is being done. They will not understand that. And that's why China is beating everybody.

I think our traditional friends -- those of you who are captains of private enterprise, I think you need to change the whole profile on how you do business in Africa, because you will be overrun. And Africa, as you know, is the continent of the future and you should not be left out of this.


QUESTIONER: Hi, Tammy Holtman from AllAfrica.com. I was speaking last night with some executives of Delta Airlines who were expressing their extreme frustration --

WETANG'ULA: I'm even more frustrated --

QUESTIONER: -- that only 14 hours before the departure of their direct flight to Nairobi they were told, for security reasons, to cancel it. And they're not optimistic about getting approval any time soon. And I know you've expressed confidence that you have security issues in your region as it regards Kenya under control.

What are you trying to do or what can you do? And how much hope do you have for persuading external parties, who could help you re-increase your tourism again, for example, that you have enough security to guarantee the safety of flights into Kenya?

WETANG'ULA: We get a lot of tourists from the United States. I think they're number three in arrivals after Germans and Italians. This has been against the tide of annual renewal of travel advisories by the government of the United States to Americans coming to Kenya, which has been carried on for the last about 10, 15 years. I have shouted myself hoarse until I've given up, because every time you say, "Please leave today," you're stranding them. Every time you say -- they're stranding them.

But back to Delta, the story of Delta was a very, very painful one to us as a government. We negotiated. Delta wanted to come to Kenya. Kenya didn't ask Delta to come to Kenya. Delta wanted to come to Kenya. They came to Kenya. They sent a reconnaissance mission. They looked at our airports and they told us, "We noticed the following concerns; can you do the following, A, B, C, D?" We did it. They came back and said, "We are satisfied; let's do the checklist." They ticked off everything and said we are fine. We set the date for the inaugural flight. We even sent our minister for transport. When he was airborne, coming to Atlanta to take off with Delta, we saw on the Web (sic) of the State Department that Delta would not come to Nairobi, not even the courtesy of telling us as a friend that there are these concerns, because we had worked on the security together.

And I pointed out that that is not our first deal with each other. And I'm sure you agree with me. And number two, I said Delta was not going to be the first international airline to come to Kenya. We have Lufthansa. We have reputable airlines --

ALBRIGHT: I arrived on BA.

WETANG'ULA: Yes, you -- (inaudible). BA comes to Kenya 12 times a week. We have KLM. We have Emirates that flies into Nairobi 13 times a week. We have Turkish Airlines that opened up a route to Nairobi. China is queuing to fly into Nairobi, South African Airlines -- many, many airlines come to Kenya and they have not had any security challenges of whatever reason.

So perhaps the reason that you are -- led to the cancellation in a manner that I don't agree with were commercial airline security, because of security -- security for Delta cannot be any different from the security for BA or the others.

ALBRIGHT: Well, can I just ask one last question, which I can't frame delicately? We are here for the U.N. General Assembly and you've made a number of kind of passing comments about the U.N. How do you see the U.N. functioning in your region at the moment? Is it up to the hopes that we've all had for the U.N.? Is there some more action with the regional communities now?

WETANG'ULA: The U.N. is very visible in the East African Region, in Kenya in particular. It is also very visible all over Africa. And I think they do a good job. I have said this about the U.N.: Whatever the imperfections that we can detect, whatever the failings we can notice, I think it remains one core organization that has held the world together. And Africa will remain a critical component and player in the U.N. activities.

We have unit, we have habitat. We are very proud that the secretary -general just upgraded the status of Nairobi to Category B, so he's about to appoint a director general of UNON, meaning the security situation in Kenya is good. The working conditions are good. The facilities we provide are good. And Nairobi is now going to be at par with Geneva, with Vienna and other U.N. establishments elsewhere.

What we have collectively as Africa, and this is not a Kenyan agenda, is to pursue the reforms of the U.N., particularly the decision-making critical organ of the Security Council. And I'm sure you agree with me the texture of the Security Council today does not reflect the realities of today's geopolitics. The Security Council, with its P- 5, was a club of the victorious powers of 1945, minus China that came in later courtesy of the African lobby.

Today, one cannot explain, for example, why India cannot be in the Security Council with all the privileges that the P-5 have carried. You cannot explain why Brazil is out and France is in. You cannot explain why Japan is out and someone else is in. So Africa has a general thinking that for the U.N. that has done so much -- of course, through some very serious difficulties sometimes, it's own members sort of guard it and do things the wrong way.

But it remains a pivotal body that holds the world together. That's why everyone brought troops to New York every year. The president of Iran is here, despite the difficulties Iran has with your country. The president of Zimbabwe is here, despite the difficulties your country has with Zimbabwe and so on. So we want to see that there is some totem pole around which the international leadership dances to solve problems. And the U.N. remains such an important totem pole.

We want to see if the reform process that is on course can be seen to an end. Of course, status quos are very difficult to dismantle and I'm sure we fully appreciate and agree the brick walls that we run into every time we talk about reforming the Security Council. But we will continue speaking -- in my community we say that (hyena throw the stone ?) after asking it several times and getting no response and even if you don't answer, you have heard me. (Laughter.)

So we will continue, you know, saying what we can say about the reforms of the U.N. And I have no doubt that everybody who is democratic in thinking, democratic in attitudes and in approach to issues will see the need for an equitable Security Council that is the engine of holding the world peace and security together.

ALBRIGHT: Well, thank you very, very much for answering the questions so brilliantly. (Applause.)

WETANG'ULA: Thank you.







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