The American Ambassador to Kenya, Ambassador Michael E. Ranneberger, hosted an online discussion with Kenyan citizens on topics of interest in Kenyan-U.S. relations.
I just managed to get my question in. Here is the transcript:
Webchat Moderator (Mark): Welcome to today’s webchat! We are glad you are with us. Ambassador Ranneberger will begin answering your questions at the top of the hour.
Webchat Moderator (Mark): Thank you for joining us today! The chat will begin shortly.
endy0913: anybody ,there?
Webchat Moderator (Mark): Hello, yes we are here and we will begin the discussion shortly.
Webchat Moderator (Mark): As we wait for the Ambassador to join us, please feel free to introduce yourself to our online group.
Webchat Moderator (Mark): We are taking your questions now.
Webchat Moderator (Mark): Our first question comes from Justus ole Ndutu Narok
Justus ole Ndutu Narok 2: Now that the American people have elected their first ever African-American President, are we likely to see more African-Americans being elected to this office in future?
Webchat Moderator (Mark): As we wait for the Ambassador to post his first answer, we continue to take your questions and comments.
Ambassador Ranneberger: Yes, I believe we will. The election of Barak Obama demonstrates how far the United States has traveled to build and strengthen democratic institutions. The U.S. presidential election was clearly decided on the basis of the issues, not on the basis of race. President Obama received support from a broad cross-section of American voters. His election also reflects the impact which the civil rights movement has had in transforming the United States. Democracy is, however, always a work in progress and much more remains to be accomplished.
Ambassador Ranneberger: next question
Webchat Moderator (Mark): The Ambassador is taking our next question, from Brigid Koskei.
brigid koskei 2: brigid koskei from Kenya. the political party system in America not only favors the majority but also the minoority.it also ensures that political leaders are not only in officeas a result of support from a specific race or tribe but leaders with right qualifications and those who merit those position.Does the Kenyan political party support this?if not what can be done to ensure theres a suitable and fair party system?
Webchat Moderator (Mark): As we wait for the Ambassador to post his next answer, feel free to introduce yourself to our online group by posting a comment telling us about yourself and your interests.
Ambassador Ranneberger: [Brigid] You are right about the American political party system. Political parties in the U.S. have developed over a period of more than 200 years. The parties nurture talent and enable individuals to run for office on the basis of merit. Although our political parties are well-developed, there are still a number of issues which must be addressed, including the ways in which parties and candidates finance political campaigns. In Kenya political parties are not as developed. First, there are too many parties (over 100), and many of these are tiny, personality-center “briefcase parties.” Second, corruption has a negative impact on political party development in Kenya. Third, many parties are based on ethnic affiliations rather than on issues. Development of more effective issue-focused political parties is very important to the future of democracy in Kenya. We are working to foster more effective political parties focused on issues. This is part of a broader effort to strengthen democratic institutions.
Ambassador Ranneberger: Next question please
Webchat Moderator (Mark): Ambassador Ranneberger continues to review your questions. Please be patient as he works on his answers to you. We now have a question from Omweba Shadrak Moi.
omweba shadrack- moi university 2: obama says, “…those from largest capital to smallest villages(Kogelo/Nairobi) will feel him…” Through your embassy how will you make Nairobi(Kenya) reform its institutions especially parliament hence feel Obama’s effect as he promised now that you are our big brother? Asks Omweba S.M a Political Scie Student from Moi university( Kenya.)
Ambassador Ranneberger: Even before the inauguration of President Obama, we were working to support reforms. As you know, during the post-election crisis, the U.S. intervened to press for formation of the coalition government. That government committed itself to carry out an agenda for fundamental reform. While there are many reforms, constitutional revision, establishing an independent electoral commission, and formation of the Special Tribunal to try perpetrators of post-election violence, and fighting corruption are among the most important. We have made clear to the leadership of the coalition government that the partnership between the U.S. and Kenya is based on shared democratic values and, therefore, on implementation of the reform agenda. Parliament must play its role to support implementation of the reforms. I also want to emphasize, however, that the Kenyan people have a most important role to play. Although the U.S. helped on formation of the coalition government, it was the fact that the Kenyan people spoke out and insisted on a political solution that was the most important factor in resolving the crisis. The Kenyan people did this directly, and through the media, civil society, religious groups, and the private sector. It is important that the Kenyan people now insist upon implementation of the reform agenda.
Ambassador Ranneberger: Next question, please
Webchat Moderator (Mark): Our next question comes from Aaron.
aaron cheruiyot 2: well yesterday president Obama moved from his usual hope speeches to one full of pragmatic demands both for his government and the citizens of the US. For us in kenya, after his inpiration we are faced with the enormous task of getting things rollong in our own country. where do you think is the place for us to start especially the youth?
Ambassador Ranneberger: I believe that the inauguration of President Obama will inspire young people in Kenya to be more active in political life. Despite the fact that there are now many younger Kenyans in Parliament, I do not regard them as really the voice of the young people of Kenya. It seems to be that genuine youth leadership has not really emerged yet. The young people of Kenya has the advantage of being relatively well-education. I believe that young people should become more active in forming and participating in civil society organizations, and in speaking out peacefully through the media. Young people should be asking their Members of Parliament and the coalition leadership hard questions about why the reform process has not moved more quickly and about why more is not being done against corruption. Young people should take advantage of new technology, like the internet, to communicate, and to promote activism. Young people can also insist on the reform of political parties so that young people can participate more transparently. We will support these efforts.
Ambassador Ranneberger: Next question, please
Webchat Moderator (Mark): Our next question comes from Jeremiah
Jeremiah – Kenya: Dear Mr Ambassador – I have read your bio about your career with the State department. With the new administration are you going to stay on in Kenya or will you be moving to another position?
Ambassador Ranneberger: It is always up to a new President to determine whether an Ambassador remains in his position. We serve at the pleasure of the President. As a career, professional diplomat, I am non-partisan and strongly committed to advancing the policies of the United States regardless of who is President.
Ambassador Ranneberger: Next question, please
Webchat Moderator (Mark): Our next question comes from Tuikeny
Tuikeny from Nairobi: Bearing in mind that Obama’s ancestral home is kenya, does the America’s Embassy have any plan to encourage, support and boost tourism through initiatives like cultural activities in Kogelo and its neighbourhood?
Ambassador Ranneberger: In the wake of the post-election crisis, the Embassy has been working to boost American tourism to Kenya. We have no specific plans to become involved with Obama’s ancestral home. How that is handled is strictly up to the Obama family members in Kenya. It will be important to respect their privacy and their decisions regarding to what extent they might or might not want to become involved with tourism promotion.
Ambassador Ranneberger: Next
Webchat Moderator (Mark): Our next question comes from Daudi.
Daudi: Good afternoon Ambassador. There is no mention of Africa on the White House Foreign Policy agenda page: http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/foreign_policy/ indicating that perhaps Africa is not a priority for the new Obama administration. Can you share any information you have on the Obama’s administration foreign policy agenda for Africa?
Ambassador Ranneberger: During the political campaign, Obama and his team made clear the importance they attach to U.S. policy in Africa. There has been strong bi-partisan support from Democrats and Republicans for programs like the PEPFAR anti-HIV/AIDS program, for promotion of democracy, for resolution of conflicts, for education, and for other programs as well. I am sure that the new Administration will give appropriate attention and priority to African issues. The U.S. greatly values its partnership and friendship with Kenya and with other countries on the continent. We will continue to support these and remain engaged with the people of Africa to promote their well-being.
Ambassador Ranneberger: Next, please.
Webchat Moderator (Mark): Our next question comes from Kemene.
Kamene Mutua – Machakos, Kenya: You were instrumental in encouraging power sharing at the begining of last year at the height of post-election violence. What is your take on the coalition government so far?
Webchat Moderator (Mark): As we wait for the Ambassador,
Webchat Moderator (Mark): please visit America.gov’s Transition website for full coverage of yesterday’s activities in Washington, D.C. http://uspolitics.america.gov/uspolitics/elections/index.html
Ambassador Ranneberger: Thank you for your kind words. I believe that establishment of the coalition government was the best option to end the post-election crisis. I have talked extensively with President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga, and they have assured me of their commitment to carry out the reform agenda. I believe that they will do this. We will insist upon this, but the clear message they are hearing from the Kenyan people will also help push the reform agenda forward. At the same time, this will not be an easy process. There are vested interests on both sides who do not want to see the reform agenda fully implemented. It is important that the Kenyan people continue to make clear to the President and Prime Minister the importance of moving forward quickly to implement the reforms (particularly establishment of an independent electoral commission, establishment of the Special Tribunal to try perpetrators of post-election violence, and constitutional reform) and the urgent need to end corruption.
Ambassador Ranneberger: The vested interests want reform that will be merely window dressing. President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga need the support of the Kenyan people to carry out real reforms that will begin a process of fundamental change. Largely because of the faith I have in the Kenyan people, I remain positive about the coalition government, and am optimistic that Kenya will move ahead to strengthen democratic institutions.
Ambassador Ranneberger: Okay I think we will take the last question, Thanks for joining in.
Webchat Moderator (Mark): Our final question comes from Nekesa.
Nekesa: Good Afternoon Mr. Ambassador. As I’m sure you’re well aware the USA under 20 team has qualified for the Junior World RugbyTrophy to be held in Kenya this year http://www.irb.com/jwrt/index.html Do you plan to attend this tournament?
Ambassador Ranneberger: Nekesa: Unfortunately, I don’t know much about Rugby, but I am excited by the prospect that a U.S. team may participate in the tournament here. Kenya is well-known for its athletes, yet another dimension of this great country.
Ambassador Ranneberger: Thanks everyone.
Webchat Moderator (Mark): Thanks for joining everyone. We hope you will understand that the Ambassador tried to address as many of your questions as possible during the 60-minutes alloted for today’s webchat.
Webchat Moderator (Mark): I will open up a comment pod in which you may leave your thoughts and feelings in the wake of yesterday’s historic innauguration.
Webchat Moderator (Mark): The Q/A portion of today’s webchat is now closed.