Kenya fumes over cable branding it a 'swamp of corruption'

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The Independent Online

The Kenyan government yesterday reacted with fury and shock to a damning US State Department diplomatic report released by Wikileaks, which described the country as a "swamp of flourishing corruption" run by bent officials who were banned from entering America.

A government spokesman, Alfred Mutua, branded the unflattering US characterisation of Kenya as "malicious". He said that the top American diplomatic official responsible for Africa had called the Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Monday to apologise for the content of the memos.

He said that if the reports were true the memos were "malicious and a total misrepresentation" of Kenya and its leaders. "We are surprised and shocked by these revelations," Mr Mutua said.

The Kenyan government's comments were in response to a US State Department report on Kenya obtained by Wikileaks. The bulk of the US document on Kenya has yet to be released. However a brief and damning excerpt was published by Germany's Der Spiegel magazine.

"Kenya – a swamp of flourishing corruption," is how Der Spiegel paraphrased the US report on the country. "Fifteen high ranking Kenyan officials have been banned from entering the United States. Practically every line of the report is contemptuous of the government of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga," Der Spiegel wrote.

The magazine's excerpt was picked up by Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper, which yesterday ran the front page headline: "US envoys see Kenya as a swamp of graft".

In what appeared to be a desperate attempt by American officials to limit the damage caused by the leaks, a US embassy spokesman in Nairobi insisted that State Department officials had called senior Kenyan government officials to inform them and discuss their concerns.

The Kenyan government said that Johnny Carson, the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, had called Mr Odinga to offer an apology. However it emerged yesterday that the US apology was noticeably lacking in specific details.

"The US government has indicated that it is sorry for the content of the leaked documents," Mr Mutua said, "However they have not told us what the documents say and what they are sorry for," he added.

The government of Mr Odinga is facing a series of high-level corruption allegations. Last month, the US banned four senior Kenyan government officials and a prominent Kenyan businessman from travelling to the US.

The five men are suspected of being involved in drug trafficking. Michael Ranneberger, the US Ambassador to Nairobi, has said the decision to ban them had been reached on the basis of reliable and corroborative reports.

Kenya's minister for foreign affairs resigned last month before the opening of an investigation into an alleged multi-million dollar corruption scandal involving Kenyan embassies in Africa, Europe and Asia.

The corrupt practice at the embassies was exposed by a Kenyan parliamentary committee.

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