Washington faces Kenya dilemma

(By Deutsche Welle) Kenya has elected a president accused of crimes against humanity by the ICC. The US now walks a tightrope in its relations with Nairobi, a key ally in the war against Islamist militants in Somalia.

Should Uhuru Kenyatta survive a legal challenge by his defeated opponent and assume office as Kenya’s fourth president, his term will begin with a trial before the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity. Kenyatta is accused of facilitating murder, deportation, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts. His vice president, William Ruto, faces similar charges.

Washington has followed the election with concern. Nairobi is a key player in the US-backed fight against al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militants in neighboring Somalia. Kenya currently has some 4,000 troops engaged there in the fight against al-Shabab.

“Kenya has been a major ally of the United States whenever it comes to conflict in the region whether it be genocide in Rwanda or it be problems in Somalia or humanitarian relief that is required somewhere in the region,” David Shinn, former US director for East African affairs, told DW.

“You need to have Kenya on board for logistical purposes in both Mombasa and Nairobi,” Shinn said. Mombasa hosts a port critical for East African trade and Nairobi is a regional financial center.

Prior to the Kenyan election, the US State Department made a veiled threat that a Kenyatta victory would carry consequences for the relationship between Washington and Nairobi.

“We live in an interconnected world and people should be thoughtful about the impact their choices have,” said US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson.

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