Friday, September 24, 2010


Kenya's Foreign Minister Moses Wetang'ula is pushing hard at the United Nations this week for an end to the US policy of “benign neglect” towards Somalia.

There are signs that Kenya's diplomatic campaign for greater US involvement is having a strong impact on influential figures outside government and a limited impact on officials in the Obama administration. Kenya has a Somali Ethnic Tribe numbering more than Three Million and a further quarter a million Somali refugees in it's hands.

Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said on Wednesday that Mr Wetang'ula “has made a very powerful plea” for the international community to recognise the gravity of the threat posed to Kenya by lawlessness in Somalia. “We're very close to Kenya,” Ambassador Rice noted.
Asked in an interview with National Pubic Radio about Mr Wetang'ula's call for UN “peace enforcers,” rather than peacekeepers, to be deployed in Somalia, Ms Rice said she had spoken with the foreign minister in New York this week.

The US is trying, she said, to muster support for an increase in African Union troop levels in Somalia. But Ms Rice did not specifically endorse Mr Wetang'ula's proposal for a more aggressive military strategy in Somalia.

The minister had said on Tuesday that the United States is failing to devote adequate resources to the Somalia crisis. He suggested in a talk at the non-governmental Council on Foreign Relations in New York that the US remains traumatised by its bloody and unsuccessful intervention in Somalia in the early 1990s.
Citing a need for the US to “rejuvenate thinking” on Somalia, Mr Wetang'ula argued that what happened nearly 20 years ago “should not make us hostages to issues of history. We must move forward. We need engagement at the highest levels.”
Mr Wetang'ula indirectly chided President Obama for “skipping” a mini-summit on Somalia at the UN this week. The minister noted that Mr Obama is, however, attending a mini-summit on Sudan.
The contrasts in Mr Obama's engagement with two countries bordering Kenya is “very telling,” Mr Wetang'ula observed.
Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who took part in the discussion with Mr Wetang'ula at the think tank, said the foreign minister had made “an accurate statement about the lack of US appetite” for direct engagement in Somalia.
Mr Wetang'ula said earlier in the session that he had seen a State Department document that acknowledges “the US is guilty of benign neglect of the Somalia problem.” He said Kenya has been asking the US to help provide social services —“things that don't cost a lot of money” — as well as security for Somalia.
But Kenya's pleas have gone unheeded, Mr Wetang'ula added, because the US is “too committed in Afghanistan, too committed in Iraq.”