Ambassador Sherman, who arrived on Thursday evening, is scheduled to meet senior Government officials in Nairobi to stress US interest in peaceful and transparent elections and continued implementation of the Constitution.

US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman

Addressing a news conference at Nairobi’s Serena Hotel, the Under Secretary expressed support for the ongoing reforms that she said would build investor confidence, social development and prosperity.

“The matter on the election date is purely a Kenyan decision to make. They (Kenyans) should remain committed to the Constitution to avoid a return to the violence that was witnessed in the last General Election,” said the US official when fielding questions from journalists.

The delay in making a decision on the date of election has caused anxiety among Kenyans. Prime Minister Raila Odinga added to the confusion when he told Parliament last month that the decision was ‘too huge’ to be left in the hands of the two principals. Early in the year a Constitutional Court ruled that Kenya must go to the polls in March 2013 or alternatively, December 2012 if President Kibaki and the PM agree, in writing, to dissolve the Grand Coalition Government.

The move by the court left everybody speculating over when the election will be held and resulted in tension among citizens, panic among foreign investors and wrangles in the Coalition Government. Yesterday, the visiting US official said it was important that the country makes a decision on the poll date to end speculation.

Challenges recognised

Ambassador Sherman who was accompanied by Ambassador Scott Gration, the US envoy to Kenya, said President Barrack Obama’s administration recognises the challenges Kenya faces due to the conflict in Somalia.

“We support the inclusion of the Kenyan soldiers in the African Union Mission in Somalia forces and we are talking to other partners on the way to improve it,” Sherman said.

The objective of Sherman’s visit was to reinforce the constructive partnership with Kenya’s vibrant democracy and underscore joint efforts to foster economic prosperity.

She had earlier held a breakfast meeting with women leaders moving the political process in Kenya. Before the visit to Kenya, Sherman was in Nigeria, Angola, Malawi and Zambia.

The timing of her trip to Kenya comes shortly after an international conference on the conflict in Somalia that was held in London.

The Under Secretary is scheduled to meet with Somali leaders in Nairobi to reinforce the urgency for Somali’s transitional federal government to lay foundation of good governance. Gration said America would ensure that the next polls will be peaceful, free and fair. “We will continue to support and strengthen the democratic process in Kenya. America and other partners will finance the forthcoming General Election,” said Gration.

Sherman, who later met with Speaker Kenneth Marende, said supporting Kenya to strengthen its democratic institutions remains the US Government’s top priority.

She said Kenya still remains a key ally of the US and would continue to help advance constitutional and electoral reforms.

“We have been supporting and we will continue to support the oversight and legislative role of Parliament,” said Sherman after paying a courtesy call on the Speaker.

By Steve Mkawale, The Standard

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