October 26, 2009 / 12:31 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. slaps travel ban on senior Kenyan official

NAIROBI (Reuters) - The United States has banned a senior Kenyan government official from visiting the country and may slap similar travel bans on three more people, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson said on Monday.

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson addresses a news conference in Kenya's capital Nairobi May 12, 2009. REUTERS/Natasha Elkington

Carson sent letters to 15 prominent Kenyans in September, threatening them with travel bans for blocking political reforms agreed after last year’s post-election violence that killed at least 1,300 people.

The move sparked a bitter diplomatic row with President Mwai Kibaki sending a protest note to U.S. President Barack Obama.

The spat was cited as a factor weighing on the Kenyan shilling because it risked hitting the monetary support Kenya receives from its development partners.

“The U.S. government has taken the decision to revoke the visa of a senior Kenyan government official who has been obstructive in the fight against corruption,” said Carson.

He declined to name the person, telling reporters just that he was a senior government official “of influence.”

“We are considering similar action with three other government officials,” Carson told reporters in Nairobi.

Kenya’s government spokesman had no immediate comment.

Graft is a major deterrent to private sector investment in the economy. Watchdog Transparency International ranks Kenya as the most corrupt nation in east Africa.

Corruption, red tape, crime and fears about political stability are all major headaches for businesses operating in the region, business surveys routinely show.

SIMILAR ACTION

The U.S. government said in September the 15 letters had been sent to government ministers, members of parliament and senior officials on both sides of the coalition government.

International donors fear that unless there is progress on political reform and the main perpetrators of the post-election fighting face justice there could be a repeat of the violence at the next presidential election due in 2012.

Crisis mediator and former U.N. chief Kofi Annan said earlier this month that while there had been some progress on reform, time was running out to make tangible changes before the electoral cycle kicked off in a year to 18 months.

Annan also said a handful of “big men” behind the violence would probably end up before the International Criminal Court, with a local tribunal prosecuting others.

“We will not do business as usual with those who do not support reforms ... those who support violence,” said Carson.

Editing by David Clarke

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