The Foreign Office Minister, Baroness Chalker, told a press conference in Nairobi yesterday that Britain was very concerned by the treatment of opposition parties, restrictions on the press, ethnic tension and reports of corruption.
"We want to see a step back from the political brinkmanship and a cooling of political invective," she said.
Britain has paid a first instalment of pounds 4m out of a promised pounds 15m in aid to the Kenyan central bank under a balance of payments support scheme, which helps Kenya to buy raw materials and other strategic imports. But Lady Chalker said she was not ready to authorise payment of the remaining pounds 11m due this year.
Her announcement marked a change in tone by Britain, which, alone among Kenya's key donors, has hitherto preferred to employ "quiet diplomacy" towards the government of President Daniel arap Moi. Britain is Kenya's main trading partner.
British aid to development projects in Kenya, estimated at pounds 31m in 1994, will continue. But by singling out direct payments to the central bank, Britain has targeted the Moi government.
The move came four days after a conference of donors in Paris told the Kenyan Finance Minister, Musalia Mudavadi, of concern about "the overall direction of political events".