President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) shakes hands with US president Barrack Obama in South Africa during Nelson Mandela?s memorial ceremony.
Then Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson said the US would not endorse any presidential candidate but what caused a diplomatic storm was his warning to Kenyans that ?choices have consequences.?
Presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto had both been indicted by the ICC. They were facing crimes against humanity in relation to violence in which over 1,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced. Supporters of Uhuru saw the ICC process as a Western ploy to clear the way for another presidential candidate, Raila Odinga.
East Africa?s most powerful economy and a key regional ally in the US-led war against terrorism was on the verge of electing a president accused of crimes against humanity, posing a diplomatic headache to the West.
Carson, however, declined to state the kind of ?consequences? the election of two would have had on relations with the West. He nonetheless noted that the United States is not a signatory to the court, but does support what it stands for.
In response, Kenya?s foreign ministry summoned EU envoys, worried that the remarks risked polarising the country. But diplomats declined to detail what actions their respective governments would take in the event Uhuru was elected.
The other factor which contributed to the slowing down of US-Kenya relations had to do with the issuance of travel advisories, which Kenyan officials have blamed for the decline of the tourism industry.
When Uhuru won the March 4 polls, Kenya became the second country after Sudan to have a sitting president facing trial at the ICC.
Carson had earlier stated the US had a policy of not engaging with President Bashir and other Sudanese who had been charged but not yet tried by the ICC.
However, it was clear that Western countries would be reluctant to punish the Kenyan population through measures like suspending aid.
In December last year, prosecutors at the ICC withdrew charges against President Kenyatta. The prosecutor?s office however said the Kenyan government had refused to hand over evidence vital to the case.
Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said the government would try have two other similar cases thrown out, including one involving DP Ruto.
Analysts said dropping of charges against Uhuru while the case against Ruto continued risks reopening a political rift and upsetting Kenya?s delicate ethnic balance.
In May, this year, US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Kenya after years of strained ties between the two nations. The trip to Kenya was the first high-level visit since 2012.
The visits by Kerry on May 3-4, and former US President Bill Clinton May 7, marked the rebirth of US-Kenya relations.
During his visit, however, Kerry did not meet DP Ruto as he toured the country. Ruto is still on trial at the ICC.
Kerry announced the US would provide an extra Sh4.5 billion million for the United Nations to help an overwhelmed Kenya cope with 600,000 refugees fleeing civil unrest, terrorism and violence in Somalia and South Sudan.
Kerry also met with leaders from civil society and the private sector to work on comprehensive solutions, and discuss other issues such as refugees, trade and human rights.
The Kerry visit, in particular, was the most significant in that it paved the way for President Barack Obama?s own visit on Friday to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi.
By Allan Kisia, The Standard