Letter to President Obama: Help Prevent Deadly Conflict in KenyaPDF Version
May 14, 2012
Dear President Obama:
Congratulations and thank you for your recent speech announcing the creation of a new interagency Atrocities Prevention Board to help prevent situations of mass violence. The Friends Committee on National Legislation has long advocated for improved U.S. capacities to help avert violent crises before they erupt, and we look forward to continuing our engagement as the Atrocities Prevention Board begins its early work.
I write to share my concern about Kenya’s next national elections and the potential for renewed violence. We urge your Administration and the Atrocities Prevention Board to make violence prevention in Kenya a priority this year. I just returned from a trip to Kenya last week, during which I attended a large international gathering of Quakers and traveled to the Rift Valley to witness peacebuilding work led by Kenyan Friends’ communities. I am both inspired by grassroots efforts to build long-term peace in Kenya and troubled that the risk of renewed violence remains high.
Though the true capacity to prevent a return to deadly conflict lies with those in Kenya, there is much that the U.S. can do to ensure its policies complement – and do not undermine – Kenyans’ work toward peace. Over the upcoming year, we urge you to use the Atrocities Prevention Board (APB) and other tools of violence prevention to help prevent a return to the devastating crisis of 2007 and 2008.
- Establish a comprehensive, early strategy for supporting the peaceful prevention of deadly conflict in Kenya, which emphasizes coordination with key Kenyan and international actors and clearly guides all U.S. policy (including military engagement and assistance). As an interagency body dedicated to averting violence before it begins, the APB is well-placed to ensure that U.S. policy toward Kenya is preventive, conflict-sensitive and complementary of other international efforts. With less than a year before the Kenyan election, an interagency strategy that includes strong buy-in and participation from all parts of the U.S. government engaged in Kenya is needed as soon as possible.
We are encouraged to hear that the new Conflict Stabilization Operations Bureau in the State Department has begun working on a prevention strategy for Kenya, and we urge the APB to support these efforts and ensure an effective, civilian-led strategy is developed and adopted at the interagency level. In addition, we urge you to work pro-actively to coordinate such a strategy with the efforts of other key international actors, including the United Nations, the African Union and the Panel of Eminent African Personalities.
- Improve monitoring and oversight of current U.S. security assistance to Kenya, to ensure that it neither enables further human rights violations nor contributes to instability. The increasingly militarized approach to U.S.-East Africa policy undermines long-term peace and stability and can threaten immediate efforts to prevent violence around Kenya’s upcoming elections. Our apprehension has increased as a result of U.S. statements in support of the Kenyan military intervention in Somalia, which not only exacerbated humanitarian insecurity in the region but also led to increasing political and social tensions within Kenya.
Security sector reform is necessary to help prevent a return to the atrocities of 2007, and Kenyan security forces – including, in particular, police and counterterrorism units – have and continue to commit abuses with impunity. U.S. security assistance provides both training and equipment to Kenya’s forces, and far too few steps have been taken to ensure U.S. assistance does not contribute to further human rights violations. To this end, we urge better monitoring as well as increased emphasis on the comprehensive justice reform that could serve to improve civilian protection capacity and security force accountability in Kenya.
Finally, we remain concerned that the overemphasis on military and anti-terrorism funding, at the expense of violence prevention and reconciliation programming, suggests that short-term U.S. counterterrorism initiatives take precedence over long-term peace in Kenya and East Africa. We were particularly alarmed to learn that an estimate of U.S. military assistance to Kenya from the National Defense University was as high as $300 million per year – a number that far exceeds violence prevention and peacebuilding assistance. Moreover, this military aid continues to lack transparency, monitoring and sufficient oversight, with some sources suggesting that the Defense Department does not track the amount of assistance provided to Kenya and East Africa. Given these and other concerns – including that of the small arms proliferation already threatening the region – we fear that such an approach will and may currently be deeply harmful.
- Support greater assistance for locally-led violence prevention initiatives and long-term peacebuilding. The Administration's FY 2013 State and Foreign Operations request included few mentions of conflict mitigation and reconciliation efforts in Kenya. As the next national elections approach, it is essential to help support those Kenyans working to build peace and address the roots of violence in their areas. This assistance has the power to transform local communities that have experienced violent conflict and is the most effective investment the U.S. can make.
The U.S. must also continue to develop and invest in greater civilian capacities that serve specifically as tools of violence prevention, such as the Complex Crises Fund (CCF) and the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. The CCF has been used to fund important peacebuilding initiatives in Kenya in the past, and we hope that it might serve to respond to any unforeseen needs in anticipation of the next Kenyan election. We appreciate your Administration's inclusion of funding for these important programs in your FY13 request, and we urge you to make protecting these investments, along with other funding for diplomacy, development and international cooperation, a high priority as the budget process moves forward in Congress.
- Use your powerful voice as a clarion call to help prevent and mitigate potential violence in Kenya. When violence erupted in late 2007, the U.S. Administration played an important role in support of the African Union-led mediation team that helped bring an end to the atrocities. We urge you and the APB to determine how your connection to Kenya may be used as part of diplomatic engagement, both in contingency situations as mentioned above or in response to specific concerns that arise before Kenya’s polls take place. My own experience in Kenya revealed a deep respect and affection for you, and your personal support of peace and violence prevention could have a significant impact.
As home to the largest number of Quakers in the world, Kenya has particular significance for our community. However, it is also a critical ally for the United States and a regional leader in Africa. In the upcoming year, the U.S. has the potential to play a positive role in supporting peace in Kenya – rather than fueling further instability. Again, we look forward to continued engagement with your Administration on this issue, and thank you for the steps you have taken thus far to improve U.S. civilian capacities to peacefully prevent deadly conflict.
Friends Committee on National Legislation
cc: Secretary Hillary Clinton, Department of State
Secretary Leon Panetta, Department of Defense
Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator
Major General Scott Gration, Ambassador to Kenya
Maria Otero, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights
Rick Barton, Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operations
Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations
Donald Steinberg, USAID Deputy Administrator
Earl Gast, USAID Assistant Administrator for Africa
Nancy Lindborg, USAID Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance
General Carter Ham, AFRICOM Commander
Alexander Vershbow, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
Amanda Dory, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs
Samantha Power, Senior Director of Multilateral Affairs National Security Council
Senator John Kerry, Foreign Relations Committee Chair
Senator Dick Lugar, Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member
Senator Chris Coons, Subcommittee on African Affairs Chair
Senator Johnny Isakson, Subcommittee on African Affairs Ranking Member
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Foreign Affairs Committee Chair
Representative Howard Berman, Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member
Representative Chris Smith, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights Chair
Representative Karen Bass, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights Ranking Member
Senator Patrick Leahy, Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Chair
Senator Lindsey Graham, Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Ranking Member
Representative Kay Granger, Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Chair
Representative Nita Lowey, Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Ranking Member