NAIROBI Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has sent a protest note to U.S. leader Barack Obama over warning letters issued to 15 prominent Kenyans Washington says are blocking political reform, a statement said on Saturday.
The recipients include government ministers, members of parliament and top civil servants on both sides of Kenya's coalition government, the U.S. embassy in Nairobi said.
The letters, from U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson, warned the recipients their future relationship with Washington was directly linked to their support for reforms and opposition to violence.
"President Mwai Kibaki has written to President Barack Obama ... expressing displeasure and concern about letters written ... to some ministers, some members of parliament and some civil servants in their personal capacity on matters of Kenya's public policy," a statement from Kibaki's office said.
"The action by the U.S. government official is considered out of step with international protocols in the conduct of relations between friendly nations."
Kenyan authorities have yet to bring to justice top perpetrators of post-election violence in 2008 that killed some 1,300 people and displaced 300,000 Kenyans.
Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo admitted this week that Kenya would not meet a September 30 deadline to set up a special tribunal to try those behind the violence, raising the possibility of prosecutions by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
He told local media that he had received one of the letters.
Kenyans have for years demanded reforms in their constitution, police force and judiciary to tackle graft, impunity and rights abuses, which they say are rampant.
Corruption is a major deterrent to private sector investment in the economy. Watchdog Transparency International ranks Kenya as the most corrupt nation in all east Africa.
Graft, red tape, crime and fears about political stability are all major headaches for businesses operating in the region, executives routinely tell researchers.
(Reporting by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura; editing by Robin Pomeroy)