Keep off Kenyan elections, EAC tells foreigners

East Africa Community member states Saturday waded into the controversy sparked by the US and European Union’s warning of possible sanctions if Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto win the March 4 General Election.

In a statement released after the 11th meeting of the Sectoral Council on Foreign Policy Coordination in Dar es Salaam, ministers from Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda asked the international community to keep off the elections and allow Kenyans to elect leaders of their choice.

“We call upon all well wishers to refrain from unduly interfering with the election process in Kenya and underscore the need to respect the will and decision of the people of Kenya to elect leaders of their choice,” said Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa, his Tanzania counterpart Bernard Membe and the Security Ministers of Rwanda and Burundi, Sheikh Harerimana Mussa Fazil and Gabriel Nizigama respectively.

“The priority placed in a successful, peaceful, free and fair election is a shared vision with the people of Kenya for a prosperous, stable and united country. The EAC partner states stand together with the Republic of Kenya for the attainment of that aspiration,” they added in a statement also signed by Kenya’s assistant Security Minister Moses Ole Sakuda.

The statement comes in the wake of a growing list of Western countries uncomfortable with the candidatures of Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto in the elections.

The top US diplomat for African Affairs Johnnie Carson sparked the controversy two weeks ago when he sent a veiled message that the election of the Jubilee flagbearer as president could be received negatively by the United States.

However, US Assistant Secretary of State Mr Carson did not specifically say that the US-Kenya relations would suffer if the Jubilee team won the presidential election.

He also refrained from mentioning the two leaders who are facing charges of crimes against humanity at The Hague.

Mr Carson’s caution, also echoed by the UK came just two days after a video message on Kenya by President Barack Obama was welcomed by Mr Kenyatta and MR Ruto as an indication that the US government had no objections to their taking power.

France soon joined the US and Britain in the debate on the likely outcome of the elections when its envoy said Paris backed the European Union stand on the consequences of the Jubilee coalition forming the next government.

Speaking in Kisumu, French ambassador to Kenya Etienne de Poncins said: “Our position is that we only have essential contact with somebody who is indicted by the ICC; it is a well-known position, same as that of the British.”

While stating that Kenyans had the right to choose their leaders, Mr Poncins maintained that France would adhere to the Rome Statute.

“Our policy is to limit contact only to the essentials,” he said.

The Danish ambassador Geert Andersen also waded into the controversy, asking Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto to cooperate with the ICC even if they win election on March 4.

Mr Andersen said Denmark will only review its diplomatic relations with Kenya if the suspects refuse to work with the ICC. However, the EU countries will maintain their present ‘no contact’ policy with ICC indictees.

Head of Civil Service Francis Kimemia, however, said Kenya would seek clarification from the US on the “contradictions” regarding future engagements.

The statement by Mr Carson, a former US ambassador to Kenya, followed President Obama’s declaration that Washington was not supporting any candidate and would respect the verdict of Kenyans in next month’s elections.

Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto had rushed to laud the US position, which their camp interpreted as backtracking on a presumed threat to impose sanctions if the two were elected.

However, the veteran diplomat warned five times in response to questions referring to Mr Kenyatta that “choices have consequences”. He declined to elaborate.

Mr Carson suggested that the choices Kenyans make in the election will have repercussions internationally.

He, however, said that the US would not force Kenyans to elect certain candidates in office.

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