Topical debates — Kenya

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 1:50 pm on 17th January 2008.

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Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson Liberal Democrat, East Dunbartonshire 1:50 pm, 17th January 2008

I welcome the right hon. Lady's intervention. There is a huge amount of anecdotal evidence from media reports. One television channel showed an official leaving the count saying, "I can't do this anymore, because of what I am being asked to do." We have been told what the chair of the electoral commission said about making the announcement of results under duress. We need forensic examination, as far as is possible, to determine the scale of the deception, but I do not think it is in doubt that the actual election result was not the one declared.

We have known for some time that Mr. Kibaki has failed to tackle corruption as he pledged to do when he took power in 2002. That is just one in a long line of broken promises, such as the pledge to create the new constitution that Kenya so badly needs. Most seriously, more than a year ago Kibaki stacked the electoral commission with his own appointments and failed to consult Opposition parties. Surely that should have been the canary in the mine—a clear warning of what was to come. The crisis was predictable; in fact, it was predicted. I refer to the comments of my noble Friend Lord Steel of Aikwood in the other place on 31 January 2007:

"Does the Minister therefore agree with the outgoing chairman of the commission, who is quoted in the Kenyan press as saying that if it is constituted in a way that people are not happy with, they will not trust the result?"

The situation in Kenya shows how true that was. The Minister, Lord Triesman, responded in part by calling the lack of consultation

"a weakness which we will continue to bring to the attention of the Kenyan Government."—[ Hansard, House of Lords, 31 January 2007; Vol. 689, c. 227.]

On 7 January this year, my hon. Friend Mr. Davey asked the Foreign Secretary what representations had been made to the Kenyan Government, but received no answer. I ask the Minister again now: what exactly did the Government do? What representations were made, and what actions did they take, at what levels, when Kibaki's rigging of the electoral commission pointed to forthcoming electoral chaos in Kenya?

I welcome the Government's clear statement that they do not recognise Kibaki as the Kenyan President. We must ensure that there is no doubt, either in Britain or the international community, that the December elections are not seen as legitimate. The international community must be united in its rejection of Kibaki as Kenyan President.

I understand that the UK Government have already put in place travel bans against certain members of the Kibaki Government. There is another lever that we can use: surely we could wield influence through the extension of such bans to all those who are blocking the political process, including, if necessary, Kibaki himself. I should be interested to know whether the Minister has considered that, and whether we have considered whether there are other members of the Government and the political class in Kenya to whom travel bans could be extended. We should work closely with our EU neighbours to widen the impact of such personal sanctions.

Of course, when applying sanctions, we have to be careful that they are targeted against corrupt members of the Government, and those blocking the democratic process. They should not harm poor Kenyans, who are already victims in the crisis. The free education and HIV health programmes must be safeguarded.

Elections are due in Angola, Malawi and Ghana in the next 18 months. There is a great danger that failing to deal rigorously with electoral corruption in Kenya will make similar problems more likely in those other African states. The political solution to the crisis in Kenya must involve fresh presidential elections.

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