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Volume 711: debated on Wednesday 10 June 2009


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to promote political stability in Kenya.

My Lords, the UK continues to make strong representations to the Kenyan Government and parliamentarians to push for key reforms that are critical to Kenya’s future stability. We are also working closely with Kofi Annan and other international partners, as well as with Kenyan civil society, on these issues. The Prime Minister wrote to President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga on 9 April this year to relay our concerns about the situation in Kenya and to encourage them to intensify their efforts to deliver these reforms urgently.  Officials at our high commission in Nairobi continue to do the same.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, although I had it in writing a month ago. I recognise that we are doing a lot for good governance and human rights in Kenya, but the Kenyan people deserve much more than that. They want the perpetrators of the crimes during the post-election violence—that is, the killers of more than 1,000 people—brought to justice in an international court, perhaps in Arusha. Will the Government put their weight behind that idea and behind the thorough investigation of the half-corrupt police service of Kenya, which is responsible for hundreds of those deaths?

My Lords, the noble Earl has identified accurately the deplorable situation in Kenya, where it is quite clear that the police have been responsible for a considerable number of deaths. As he knows, a report from the Waki Commission in 2008, which was subsequently backed up by the UN special rapporteur Professor Philip Alston, showed that these issues need to be examined closely, the perpetrators brought to justice and the police service reformed. The noble Earl will appreciate that the UK Government are firmly convinced of the necessity for action in this area, but it is for the Kenyan authorities to take this action.

My Lords, I was in Africa in the 1950s, and the problems mentioned by the noble Earl were apparent then. The imperial Government failed to solve them. Why does the noble Earl, or the Minister, think we can do anything now? The whole problem of tribal resentment was apparent then. Only if you reorganised the frontiers that emerged in the 19th century could you resolve it. Is it worth us even thinking that we can do anything?

My Lords, the noble Lord and the House will appreciate the fact that Kenya has moved on a great deal from the 1950s. It has some obvious things going for it, such as the economy and certain aspects of Kenyan life, but the noble Lord is right to identify the fact that the bonds of civil society, which guarantee justice and fair treatment by the authorities, particularly by their chief agents the police, leave a great deal to be desired. That is why these atrocities occur and why the British Government are indicating, together with world opinion, that we expect the Kenyans to carry out the necessary reforms. That is the obligation on Kenyan parliamentarians and government.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the Kenyan Government at the moment are performing a splendid service to the international community by bringing almost 60 captured pirates to judicial account? Is he, however, also aware that if this becomes a much greater number, they are straining the judicial system of Kenya to almost unbearable limits? Can Her Majesty’s Government assure us that they are not only helping Kenya at the present time in this respect but are also looking at other countries to bear the brunt of bringing to justice pirates off the Somalian coast?

My Lords, the House will share my noble friend’s ambition that those responsibilities should be fairly shared, and we pay tribute to the work that has taken place in Kenya to somewhat reduce the international piracy that happens predominantly off the Somalian coast. My noble friend will recognise the difficulties of co-ordinated action on that; however, the Kenyans have been working to preserve stability on the high seas.

My Lords, the Minister will be well aware that one continuing problem in Kenya is endemic corruption. Is he aware that, last month, the speaker of their Parliament ordered one of their committees to inquire into the Anglo Leasing scandal, which has gone unresolved for six years? Can the Minister encourage the Serious Fraud Office in this country to make available to that committee the findings of its investigations?

My Lords, that is a precise suggestion, which I shall certainly take back to the department on that matter. The noble Lord has identified what is obviously the case; the reason why there are such acute problems in Kenyan civil society is a level of corruption that permeates almost every aspect of Kenyan life. It inevitably renders those without resources vulnerable, but gives those with resources the ability to distort both the economy and justice in Kenya to their own advantage. However, I will take the noble Lord’s suggestion back.